The role of modern technology in rural situational crime prevention: a review of the literature

Crime prevention based on modern technologies, such as cameras, alarms and lighting sensors, are often not associated with rural areas, which are frequently stereotyped bucolic, crime-free places (Weisheit & Donnermeyer, 2000).The application of technology for situational crime prevention (SCP) has been urban-centric, mostly focused on crime and safety problems in urban centres and overlooking rural challenges. However, recent literature has shown signs of the expansion of technology as a preventive measure against property7 and wildlife crimes in rural areas (Barclay, Donnermeyer, Doyle & Talary, 2001; Mears et al., 2007; Anderson & McCall, 2005; Chidziwisano & Wyche, 2018).

In the attempt to reduce crime opportunities and the rewards of committing a crime as conceptualised by Clarke (1995), cameras, alarms, lighting sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV, henceforth, drones) — just to name a few — are examples of an increasing set of technologies that are finding a place in crime prevention in many rural landscapes across the world.

This chapter presents a literature review on the use of technologies as SCP initiatives in rural areas, based on a review of reports published after the year 2000, focusing on studies that present evidence for technologies’ impact on crime (property7 and wildlife crimes) in rural contexts. A focus will also be on security cameras (henceforth CCTV), alarms, security lights, sensors and drones. Throughout this study, these will be referred to as modern technologies, whilst the use of locks, fences, gates and so on, and marking of properties and rearing of protective animals such as dogs and geese, as traditional measures of SCP. Accordingly, opportunities and challenges associated with the use of modern technologies in rural contexts are identified. This enables the spotlighting of areas of pressing research and allows for consideration of policy implications.

Research has shown that rural areas have endemic characteristics which sprout specific crime opportunities (Weisheit & Donnermeyer, 2000; Wells & Weisheit, 2004; Ceccato, 2016). Therefore, the contribution of this chapter is timely and important because the acceptance, effects, opportunities and challenges of technologies as SCP mechanisms may' differ from rural to urban areas.

The chapter is structured into five parts. The section that follows justifies why this is an important topic by providing the theoretical background for thechapter: the situational nature of crimes in rural areas and the use of technology. The chapter then discusses the method employed for the search of the literature overview; presents the results of the literature searched; and then examines the trends, challenges and opportunities of the use of selected technologies as reported in literature, before concluding.

The nature and situational conditions of crime in rural areas

Although rural areas experience typical crimes such as robbery, theft, vandalism and violence, the nature and context of some crimes are endemic to rural settings (Ceccato, 2016). Crimes such as farm theft (for example, theft of livestock, machinery, fuel), land conflicts, trespassing, poaching and fly-tipping (rubbish dumping) are not common in cities and metropolitan areas but are prevalent in rural areas (Anderson & McCall, 2005; Lemieux & Clarke, 2009; Ceccato & Ceccato, 2017; Shinde, 2017). However, alike in urban areas, property crimes such as burglary, larceny, theft, trespassing and vandalism — especially on farm sites — are the most prevalent types of rural offences (Weisheit & Donnermeyer, 2000; Ceccato & Dolmen, 2011).

Crimes in rural areas are affected by situational factors which may not be present in urban areas, thus creating distinctive crime opportunities and challenges. The most obvious factors are remoteness, small and/or low populations and fewer police. For example,Weisheit (1993) found that the growing and production of commercial marijuana in the United States are mostly rural operations that take advantage of remoteness to reduce the risk of being detected. Moreover, the geography of rural areas in terms of physical distance and isolation also determines the quality of surveillance and police response time (Weisheit & Donnermeyer, 2000).

Private land properties are also more distant from one another in rural areas, thus making surveillance and guardianship more difficult (Weisheit & Donnermeyer, 2000; see also Barclay et al., 2001; Ceccato & Dolmen, 2011). Barclay et al. (2001) reported that the highest incidences of farm crime victimisation, especially livestock theft and trespassing in New South Wales, Australia, are concentrated in isolated and inland areas. One way to overcome issues of isolation is to employ modern technologies to surmount the geographical hurdles faced by law enforcement in rural areas. The use of technologies such as CCTV can increase surveillance of properties, especially on large farms. Similarly, alarms, security lighting and sensing technologies can also contribute to the deterrence of criminal activities.

Remoteness also creates opportunities for environmental and wildlife crimes such as illegal hunting, fishing or dumping of wastes (Anderson & McCall, 2005). Based on police-recorded crime, Ceccato and Uittenbogaard (2013) found that serious environmental crimes are more prevalent in accessible rural areas and outskirts of urban areas in Sweden, while more general wildlife crimes occur in rural areas but may not be detected and recorded. The concentration of wildlife crimes in remote rural areas is even more obvious for poaching activities, since remoteness and isolation are crucial criminogenic elements for this type of offence (Waldez, Adario, Marioni, Rossoni & Erickson, 2013; Hossain et al., 2016). The use of drones and trackers can detect illegal activities and record activities over both time and space.

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