Applying Situational Crime Prevention to Mass Violence

January 20, 2020

Dr. Steve Chermak, Brent Klein (Doctoral student), and Dr. Joshua Freilich (John Jay – CUNY) recently co-authored an article in Criminology & Public Policy titled “Investigating the Applicability of Situational Crime Prevention to the Public Mass Violence Context.” The article argues that Situational Crime Prevention (SCP) strategies could be applied to prevent mass violence and to mitigate the harms these types of crime causes. Situational crime prevention (SCP) perspectives highlight individual decision-making and account for the dynamic nature of criminal participation (e.g., the decision to begin offending may differ from the subsequent choice of which venue to attack). SCP posits that for a crime to occur, there must be the opportunity to commit the offense. Opportunities vary across situations, and successful interventions are often able to reduce or remove the availability of crime opportunities. Environments also differ in whether they create provocations that situationally increase an individual’s motivation to offend.

While Situational Crime Prevention concepts have been applied to various street crimes – such as robbery and assault – research applying SCP to larger, less common crimes like mass shootings has scarcely been conducted. Doctoral student Brent Klein notes: “Going into this paper, we were surprised about how the research is both a-theoretical and largely non-empirical. Until recently, strikingly little of this scholarship has been data-driven.” Out of an interest in furthering their understanding of events that have significant social and policy relevance (e.g., terrorist attacks, school shootings, and bias crimes), the researchers began working on the article and studying the theoretical application of SCP concepts to such crimes.

The authors say that the goal of their article is to encourage discussion on the issue and nature of mass violence and begin to think of ways that Situational Crime Prevention concepts can be applied to understand the harm caused by mass violence. Going forward, they hope that this paper sparks new theoretically-driven research into the reduction of mass violence. Ultimately, the authors hope that stakeholders (such as politicians, law enforcement, business owners, and other community leaders) think about these issues while formulating policies and responses to mass shootings.

To read the full article, click here