Crime Facilitators

Crime Facilitators

Crime Facilitators exist

It is also known from research that certain conditions in the immediate environment facilitate crime and disorder – drugs, alcohol, guns and other weapons are obvious examples. The removal, or control, of these crime facilitators makes sense (on firearms, see for example Wintemute, 2000) and should contribute to the reduction of crime.
Drugs are, of course, illegal in themselves, but the addicts’ need to buy drugs also allegedly fuels the property crime rate. Violence may be precipitated through the pharmacological effects of the substances taken, and through efforts to control the illegal market (Johnson et 01, 2000). The extent to which this is so is difficult to determine. There is much talk of drug- related crime, and the arrestee drug-abuse monitoring program (ADAM program) in the United States and its counterparts in other iurisdictions (the International ADAM program) clearly demonstrates the extent to which arrestees have taken drugs of various kinds. There are some significant differences between countries, not only in the rate at which arrestees take drugs but also in the type of drugs taken. Taylor and Bennett (1999) have shown, for example, that use of opiates, amphetamines and methadone was significantly lower in the US than in England, and that cocaine use, use of any drug and multiple drug use were significantly higher. There can also be significant differences within countries. White and Gorman (2000) report substantial variations in types of drugs and in patterns of change in types of drugs taken over a 20 year period across 17 cities in the United States.

The relationship between drugs and crime is contested. It may be quite complex, and seems to vary by place (White and Gorman, 2000). A high rate of drug consumption in the arrestee population does not, of course, prove that the offending was carried out because of the drug abuse. It may be the crime that leads to the drug use. Crime and drug consumption may be associated because they are both produced by some common third factor. Drugtaking and crime may reinforce one another. There is some now rather old research from the UK (Parker and Newcombe, 1987), which shows that a significant increase in domestic burglary was indeed fuelled by new drug users coming into the frame and needing cash to maintain their addiction. The research also showed, however, that there were a number of addicted offenders whose interest in drugs post-dated their offending behavior, and for whom drugs and crime were arguably not causally related. So targeting drug abuse will certainly address the problem of drug crime, but may not reduce other property or violent crime as much as might be assumed, depending upon the extent to which the need for drugs is the only driver of crime in the local area.

The possession of a gun may also be an offence in its own right, in that certain people, notably known offenders in the US and now any UK citizen, may not legally possess a handgun. But guns are obvious facilitators of both property and violent crime and their control should reduce offending. Again this is not a universally supported view. The National Rifle Association in the United States, for example, does not agree that guns are crime facilitators and should therefore be controlled. There is, however, a growing body of evidence to support the control or removal of handguns (for the US, see Wintemute, 2000). A recent study by Knuttson and Strype (2000) compared gun-related incidents in Sweden (where the police are armed) with Norway (where they are not). They compared a number of aspects of gun-related incidents in both countries, including the impact of the regulations and policy, the number of police injuries and the number of times shots were fired by the police. They showed that there were more adverse incidenk (i.e. suspects being injured or killed, the firing of guns by the police, or officers being injured) in Sweden than in Norway.

Alcohol is similar to drugs and guns in that it is an offence in most iurisdictions to be drunk in public and to drive while drinking, and there are age restrictions on access to alcohol. But alcohol is also implicated in offending, particularly domestic violence (Morley and Mullender, 1994), where it arguably acts as a disinhibitor, and is centrally involved in the typical disorder associated with the weekend recreation of young people when they spill out onto the streets as bars and public houses close.

Accurate and evidencebased problem specification is, of course, only the first step toward a solution. Whether or not crime is reduced depends on the strength of the tactics applied to the problem. Effectiveness is thus dependent upon the measures introduced to change the pattern. [1]



1. Tilley, N., & Laycock, G. (2002). Working out what to do: Evidence-based crime reduction. Crime Reduction Research Series paper 11, London: HMSO. ISBN 1-84082-792-0



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