1. There has been little criminological interest in wildlife crime – the discipline has been unduly focused on what a recent president of the American Society of Criminology has called “adolescent limited criminology”.
2. Most criminological theories seek to explain why some people become criminally-inclined. These theories focus on the psychological make-up or social and family backgrounds of offenders.
3. These theories neglect offender decision making and how situational variables help determine this process.
4. A new school of criminology, called Environmental Criminology or Crime Science, has developed a range of theories that seek to explain the interaction between a motivated offender and crime opportunities.
5. One of these approaches is situational crime prevention, which guides the research on wildlife crimes at the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice in a unique program of work.
6. In contrast to most other crime prevention approaches, which seek to prevent the strengthening or development of criminal dispositions, situational crime prevention seeks only to reduce opportunities for crime. Several well-supported assumptions underpin this approach:
a) People are situated decision makers. They decide to commit crimes in order to bring themselves some benefit –
not just financial but also for a whole range of other motives -- sexual pleasure, revenge, prestige, dominance,
b) Their decisions can be influenced by changing the situational context in which these decisions are made – not
just the immediate context but the broader opportunity structure of the social and physical arrangements of society
that makes the crime possible.
c) The opportunity structure can be usefully studied only by focusing on very specific kinds of crime – for example
poaching would be too broad, even tiger poaching would be too broad, but poaching tigers from Indian tiger reserves
would probably be sufficiently crime-specific.
d) To understand the opportunity structure for any specific kind of crime, an analysis must be undertaken of the
modus operandi – how the crime is committed, step-by-step, and the facilitating conditions at each step in the process.
e) This analysis will reveal a series of pinch points where preventive effort might be focused. This preventive effort
can take one of five main forms:
i. increase the difficulties of crime
ii. increase the risks of crime
iii. reduce the rewards of crime
iv. remove provocations and temptations and
v. remove excuses for crime
To date, 25 different ways of achieving these objectives have been identified. Please click the following for the 25 techniques of situational crime prevention.
7. Situational prevention has accumulated a record of many dozens of evaluated successes with many different kinds of crime (see www.popcenter.org for a list of 248 studies), but only recently has it been applied to wildlife crimes. At Rutgers, we have undertaken studies of elephant poaching, tiger poaching, parrot poaching, illegal commercial fishing and ranger patrols. Much of this work has used available, as well as data collected from the field and most of it has been published or is In Press. Please click on the following link for more information on these studies: Publications.
Photo: Ron Clarke