Crime Trends Analyzed by Strategic Crime Analysis

Strategic crime analysis and tactical crime analysis differ in that tactical crime analysis looks at current crime patterns, whereas strategic crime analysis examines long-term trends or chronic problems in crime and disorder. Examining those long-term trends generally takes longer and requires the analyst to collect his or her own data instead of relying exclusively on police reports.

In Chapter 12, you learned about crime patterns, but now it is time to learn about trends. A crime pattern is not a crime trend. In general, crime trends are long-term increases and decreases in crime, or simply changes in the characteristics of a crime over a period of time. Crime trends can occur over months, years, decades, or even centuries, but are rarely discussed in terms shorter than a month or longer than a decade. Sometimes, they can be traced to a single cause (e.g., a new shopping mall or a shortage of heroin), but at other times they have numerous obscure and indirect social, environmental, economic, or political causes.

Positive crime trends represent increases in crime, while negative crime trends represent decreases in crime. Neutral crime trends have to do with a consistent volume of crime, although there may be shifts in the characteristics of crime from time to time.

Another term that is important to define is problems, which is to be distinguished from trends. A crime problem usually refers to multiple crime or disorder incidents with common causal factors. Some experts have suggested that trends can be viewed as the symptoms, while problems should be perceived as the underlying causes. Problems occur over the long term and keep returning each year or are committed by multiple offenders.

Crime trend information can be useful in alerting the police to increases and decreases in levels of activity. However, since crime trend analysis does not examine shared similarities between specific crime incidents, a crime trend is not a crime pattern. A crime pattern is not a chronic problem. The most all-encompassing definition of a crime problem comes from Ron Clarke and John Eck, who define a problem as “a recurring set of related harmful events in a community that members of the public expect the police to address” (Clarke and Eck, 2005, p. 40).

By analyzing trends and chronic problems, strategic crime analysts hope to contribute to new ways of dealing with ongoing crime problems.

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