Crime does not occur randomly or uniformly in time or space, or society. Crimes do not happen randomly or uniformly across all hotels the same way. Arguing for uniformity was once popular, but now seems indefensible. However, we do know about hotspots and coldspots; there are high repeat offenders and high repeat victims. In fact, the two groups are frequently linked. While the numbers will continue to be debated depending on the definition and the population being tested, David Farrington once said, “a very small proportion of people actually commit most of the known crimes.”
The argument for the complete randomness of targets and victims is no longer plausible. For example, bar fights occur with greater frequency on weekend nights rather than on weekday afternoons, shoplifting occurs during a restricted set of hours in the day and more in some stores than others, theft in occupied hotel rooms generally happens during the daytime, and break-ins into vehicles in the garage can happen almost around the clock.
Theft is most likely to occur when security measures are inadequate, and the design of the hotel is inviting for criminals. No or poor CCTV coverage, poor lighting in the hotel garage or carpark, barriers to access residential floors, hidden spots, and no bollards for safety reasons to prevent a vehicle-borne attack are the signals criminals receive. While a sophisticated design concept becomes less attractive for criminals, opportunists will still try to take advantage of a busy environment. While some criminals love the challenges, others just cannot gauge the difficulties they face.
The key to success is to consider criminal behaviour and have knowledge of their daily routines. For example, criminals in specific environments commit crimes only at night and are therefore no risk during the day (know the enemy). Understanding crime requires concepts and models that can be used to account for the patterned non-uniformity and non-randomness that characterises real crime events.
Crime patterns are analysed in terms of their socio-demographic, temporal and spatial qualities, and may be represented visually using graphs, tables, and maps. Using these findings, crime analysts provide tactical advice to police and criminal investigations, deployment of resources, planning, evaluation, and crime prevention.
Crime hotspots are areas on a map that have high crime intensity. They are developed for researchers and analysts to examine geographic areas in relation to crime.
Many crime prevention initiatives and police operations are area-based. Resources are targeted to a particular area in an attempt to deal with the crime problem in that region. Crime mapping offers a useful tool to help monitor if the initiative or operation has been successful by analysing the before and after picture of the area’s crime levels. The design of your security should be developed accordingly, depending on your location on the crime map. As far as the design is concerned, as more security layers you have, the better, and hotspots also require more layers than coldspots.
There is a high chance of how to predict a hotspot at specific locations by considering the convergence of eight key elements:
1. The residential and activity locations for predisposed offender populations
2. The residential and activity locations of vulnerable populations
3. The spatial and temporal distribution of different forms of security and guardianship
4. The broader residential and activity structure of the city
5. The mix of activity types and land uses
6. The modes of transport and structure of the transport network
7. The actual transportation flows of people through the city’s infrastructure.
8. As well as the timescape we are living in.
Understanding crime patterns through geographic profiling
Geographic profiling is something similar but not exactly the same. It is an investigative methodology that uses the location of a connected series of crimes to determine the most probable area of offender residence. The technique is being used to explore high volume crimes such as robbery and distraction burglary when several offences are known to be a linked series where the same offender has committed all the series.
Criminal psychology and hotel design
Criminal patterns are often multi-dimensional and criminal behaviour is mostly purposive. Therefore, the criminal psychology behind the planning of a crime prevention strategy in the design needs to be considered as well.
What do criminals fear most?
In general, it is the light and the danger to be discovered. The design aspect plays an essential role, and it is an influential factor that bothers the criminal.
When trying to make sense of human behaviour, we seem to use a relatively simple theory of action. People have needs and desires, and beliefs about how these can be fulfilled, guided by them to achieve these goals. This relationship between desire, beliefs, and actions impacts behaviour – it is usually of a purposive character.
When it comes to crime, we often lose sight of the instrumental nature of the action. Sometimes we hear about large-scale criminal activities in the media that may rightly reflect our horror and outrage; the emotions they arouse do little to help us understand and prevent criminal behaviour. Hence, it is more important to understand the driving factors and take a proactive approach to what is to come.
Given the character, scale and complexity of modern day organised crime, much energy is being invested internationally in prevention. ”Target hardening’ – such as ensuring financial institutions are more robust, regulatory practices are in place, industries such as the security sector are less vulnerable, and the public more informed – is cost-effective and in the interest of your guests and stakeholders.
On what level are your preventative measures? If your security architecture is not strong enough to withstand expected threats, the paradox makes your organisation more vulnerable. One explanation is that other industries have more defence mechanisms in place than what has been best practice in the hospitality industry — another reason why knowledge about the enemy (understanding crime patterns) becomes more critical.
Keep in mind that while we are trying to invent better defence tactics, psychological skills are used on both sides. Sophisticated criminals think about deception, study routines, or just wait for the favourable opportunity, while we are trying to figure out what they really have in mind and who or what is their next potential target. On this particular subject, I will write about it another time.