Criminology: A Very Short Introduction | Tim Newburn | Talks at Google

[MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] TIM NEWBURN: Thank you, Chris And thank you, everyone, for coming We were just talking beforehand– it’s a big ask giving up three hours of your working day [LAUGHTER] No, it’s a big ask giving up an hour of your working day to come and hear a stranger talk about a subject that you may only have just a marginal interest in, so thank you Thank you for the invitation, Chris, and for hosting It’s lovely to be here So I’m going to talk about this little book As Chris said, you’ve obviously had several talks by people doing books in this series, and I kind of imagine that some of them will start by saying, well, it’s a very short book– a very short introduction to a subject And the challenge– it’s like that old thing, you know– I’d have written you a shorter letter if I’d had more time Actually, trying to capture things in a small number of words is extremely difficult And by way of illustrating– I brought along a visual aid to illustrate at least one of the challenges for me So I teach criminology at the LSE I teach undergraduates and post-graduates I cover, one way or another, kind of the range– not everything, but broad range of topics under this heading of criminology, this thing that we do And a few years ago, I wrote a textbook So I wrote a textbook for undergraduates The intention was to try to write a book that would make some money It wasn’t an intellectual enterprise I’ve written other things, which maybe had some kind of scholarly interest, but the textbook, fundamentally– I mean, there were other reasons But at the time, I was trying to make a bit of money So I wrote the textbook, and this is it So that’s it [LAUGHTER] This is the third edition, so it’s made a few quid 1,143 pages I did a quick word count on the documents when I first sent it in, and it came in at 505,000 words So it’s expanded a bit since then So writing this thing was an interesting challenge They’re supposed to be somewhere between 30,000, 35,000 words or something So it’s like a really long essay or some such So what I’ve tried to do in the book is ask a series of questions Has anyone here studied any criminology? Oh, god To what level? AUDIENCE: A degree– well, I did a law degree TIM NEWBURN: A law degree, but in criminology? AUDIENCE: Law criminology TIM NEWBURN: Law criminology OK Sorry? AUDIENCE: Criminal psychology TIM NEWBURN: Criminal psychology OK So I’m about to get desperately exposed, probably I was kind of hoping that everyone would say, oh, no, I never heard of it, really Sounded interesting OK But what I thought I’d do within this book was to try to cover a few of the topics within criminology that I thought a general audience– so in the main, people who either knew relatively little or nothing about criminology– might be interested in It might give them a kind of taster, particularly if they wanted to follow it a little bit further So as you can see on the slide, these are the chapter headings in the book It says kind of things like– so what’s crime? A lot of lawyers in the audience, I think, so we maybe have a quick conversation about that Who commits it? How do we measure it? What’s happening to it? Bit of a giveaway in the next one– understanding the crime drop How do we control it, and how do we prevent it? So I’m going to– in my– however long I’ve got– another 30 minutes or so– scoot through I’m going to pick up on a few of those questions Obviously, I can’t talk about the whole book, but I’ll try and give you a flavor of four or five of those questions So I’ll start with what’s criminology– the main one, I suppose So everyone would be familiar with this You’re in a taxi or a party and someone asks you what you do, and you say, well, whatever you say And I, taking a deep breath and sometimes a sigh, say, I’m a criminologist To which the kind of actually quite pleasing and standard response is oh, gosh, that’s interesting That must be fascinating Now, the reason, unfortunately, and the spoiler, that people say that is that they’ve, of course, got an entire misconception of what criminology is and what criminologists do And then, of course, I bore them rigid, and they realize it’s not nearly as exciting as they thought that it was And the misconceptions are legion,

so all sorts of reasons, all sorts of things that people think criminology is or might be and criminologists do Certainly, for students, a lot of the time– criminology is burgeoning in universities now, hence people being able to punt textbooks One of the reasons I think that students have been interested in criminology is the CSI– crime scene investigation time things, the sort of forensics and stuff They kind of imagine we’re sitting in smart Google style offices with all the latest kind of technologies, tracking serial killers and solving crimes and various other things Now, there are probably one or two people who style themselves as criminologists who are involved vaguely in that kind of thing– slightly more realistically than CSI– but most of us are not doing anything nearly so exciting, actually Most of us are teachers Most of us are working in universities for some of you who are familiar with it, teaching that thing called criminology Now, it’s not really a definable thing, I think So I think the first thing I’d say about criminology is unlike– pick your subject– economics, social science, sociology, political science, psychology– criminology is not discipline, I don’t think It’s not a master discipline Criminology with something which rests on other disciplines So those people who are practitioners are all of those things– are lawyers, sociologists, historians, political scientists, psychologists, and all the rest And criminology is a kind of amalgam It’s the– excuse me– bastard child of a variety of 20th century disciplines But its focus, I think, is this thing at the bottom here So there’s a picture of a famous– probably the most famous– 20th century criminologist, a guy called Edwin Seville He’s an American who worked most of his career in Chicago, at the famous Chicago School of sociology and criminology who defines criminology as essentially these three things– the study of the making of laws, the breaking of laws, and society’s reaction to the breaking of laws So what do we criminalize? Which things do we treat as criminal? And why? And how that changes? We’ll come back to that momentarily What is it? How do we understand deviance, the breaking of those rules, laws, and so forth? And how do we respond to those forms of deviance, and why? And how do our social responses to those things differ? So that, I think, broadly speaking, still serves– even though it’s 80, 90 years old now– as a definition, still broadly serves as a pretty good indicator of what criminology is So as promised, let’s start with something that should be pretty straightforward, and certainly straightforward for an audience here So the question for us is– what’s crime? Over to you What is crime? Anybody And no right answer, of course, to this But what– AUDIENCE: Breaking the law TIM NEWBURN: Breaking the law Breaking the criminal law Breaking the law? Yeah, breaking the law AUDIENCE: I mean, theoretically it’s breaking the criminal law, but how do you deal with different legislations across countries? So [INAUDIBLE] from a British point of view, but, I mean– TIM NEWBURN: So it’s comparatively contingent Things that we do here we may not do elsewhere Yeah So it’s the breaking of laws But if I’m an academic who’s interested in that, and I’m simply– am I simply interested in the breaking of laws within a particular jurisdiction? Well, probably not What do we mean by the breaking of laws? Does someone actually have to be caught breaking the law for me to be interested in that as a criminologist, or is it forms of behavior that in principle could be criminalized? Or what about those things which don’t reach a criminal threshold? What about that acronym that became so famous on the new labor government– ASBO– anti-social behavior order, not criminal offenses– causing harassment, alarm, and distress– so sub criminal, but entirely the sort of thing that was dealt with by criminal justice system in a variety of ways Crimes for us, I think, in all sorts of ways– and just deal with this very briefly– a highly problematic thing, not least because, as pointed out, it’s culturally relative The way in which we deal with theft, or rape

outside or inside marriage, or murder, or a whole variety of other offenses, will vary extraordinarily, potentially, from country to country, but also historically So what are we allowed to do, and what’s criminalized at certain points in time, as we know, changes So first, just very quickly– two examples Something that’s criminal now that wasn’t 100 years ago in this jurisdiction? AUDIENCE: Cybercrime TIM NEWBURN: Cybercrime because it didn’t exist How about something that existed? AUDIENCE: Smoking inside TIM NEWBURN: Smoking indoors I love that one That’s a cracking one Tobacco So we’ve criminalized various– so now the regulation of tobacco consumption is really, really tight All sorts of ways in which you now can’t do this, and this is very, very new So what about the reverse, OK? Things that we now can do that we couldn’t AUDIENCE: Having an affair [INAUDIBLE] marriage Was that breaking the law? TIM NEWBURN: Probably wasn’t criminalized, was it? But we’re close, I think AUDIENCE: Gay marriage TIM NEWBURN: Gay marriage Very good one So a variety of things to do with sexual relationships, to do with women’s reproductive health We could go on and on and on So when we’re thinking about these things, we need to be critically aware, both of historical change and cultural relativities But then criminalization– so let’s just think about it a little bit more, and I might come back to this briefly at the end, depending on time The creation of criminals So I think in a lot of popular discourse, and a lot of public conversation about crime– political conversation about crime– we will use the word “criminals,” and we will– or I hope I won’t Some people will use the word “criminals” as if there’s something essential about the person A criminal is a type of person separate from someone who’s not a criminal So if we go all the way back to the 19th century, for those who are familiar with it, kind of the phrenologists who studied, you know, the shape of the skull and the size of the forehead– all a bit unfortunate for me– but physical characteristics which were thought to be associated with criminality– just, as it were, the kind of historical precursors of those who now think that there are a variety of other biological or psychological or mixed socio-biological characteristics which somehow distinguish the criminal from the non-criminal So are criminals a class apart? So it’s just a question to think about So have you, have I, or anyone in your immediate family done any of the following? And as I say, don’t need to put hands in the air I mean, obviously feel free if you wish, but probably best not Have you or anyone in your immediate family, including me, smoked cannabis, driven a car with excess alcohol in the bloodstream, stolen something from a shop, or downloaded music or some other material for free when it should have been paid for? Right So would anyone like to put their hand up and say that they think that neither they nor anyone in their immediate family has ever done any of those things? Don’t worry You don’t have to But congratulations if there is someone because I reckon you’re in a tiny minority, OK, tiny Just very quickly– studies of lifetime usage of cannabis If we do a survey, representative sample of adults in the country, what proportion will say that they have ever smoked cannabis, do you think? AUDIENCE: 50% TIM NEWBURN: Yeah, probably somewhere between 35% and 50%, so one in three, one in two, somewhere, depending on where we do it or how we ask the questions Driven a car with excess alcohol in the bloodstream? Well, we don’t really know, but it’s– sorry? AUDIENCE: 20% TIM NEWBURN: Yeah, I’m not quite sure, but I reckon you’re not– AUDIENCE: Probably won’t admit that TIM NEWBURN: Well, a lot of people won’t necessarily know that they’ve done it as well, which is the other thing So if you go to jurisdictions where there’s very low blood alcohol levels permitted, awful lot of people who will be caught with excess alcohol are caught with it because they drank the night before, not on the day And it’s, as it were, a genuine mistake, but they’re breaking the law and so forth So the numbers are actually probably pretty high if we’re taking that as a lifetime thing Stolen something from a shop Again, self report studies– really variable Estimates vary from 20% to 50% We’ll probably take it somewhere as being in that range Downloaded music material for free when

they should have paid for it Well, we don’t know There was a well-known Australian study of a few download sites which discovered hundreds of thousands of people downloading, illegally, material in– I can’t even remember what it was– a three or four day window If you extrapolate from it and do it very carefully, it means, probably– frankly, it means most of us are breaking that law OK So the idea, somehow, the criminals– this is a simple thing I want to establish– are somehow separate, are somehow different, is nonsensical, yeah? We all break the law, if that’s going to be the thing that determines our discussion here So let’s just park it, and we’ll maybe come back to one or two of these things But this begs the question– because most of the things that I’ve been talking about here, we’ve been talking about here– are maybe not that serious Some people would think they were terribly serious– probably drinking and driving is pretty serious Some people will think drugs are serious But what about really serious offenses? What about homicide or serious violence and so forth? Does the same thing apply? Are there distinguishing features? Can we see things in the constitutions that make up the psychologies of people who are involved in the most serious forms of offending which distinguish them? Well, in some cases, there’s psychopathy and so forth which may play some role in very serious offending But most of the time, really, what we’re talking about even there, even in the most serious offending, is what we’d call risk factors, which is there are certain characteristics in people’s physical and psychological makeup, but also in their social environment, which increase the likelihood that they may become involved in various forms of serious offending, but usually only when those risk factors are found in multiple form And even then, that’s a kind of an increase in probability It’s not predictive, effectively So we have to be terribly careful So what is crime, and who are criminals is, I think, as it were, subject matter which is intrinsically complex And if I would want to get, as it were, one simple message across from that, it’s that anyone who tries to therefore persuade you that our responses as a society to crime and to people who break the law are simple things, that there are somehow simple solutions to this thing, are obviously misleading you, and obviously haven’t understood the complexity of the world that they’re trying to deal with I might just go back slightly Criminals are class apart and criminalization– that second bullet point– the creation of criminals Who do we find? Has anyone spent any time– I don’t mean as a defendant– as an observer or something, or as a lawyer, even, in a Magistrates’ Court or the lower courts of any country? Been to witness? What sort of people do you see? Who are the defendants? What type of people, if you were just broadly characterizing them? AUDIENCE: They’re not very well-off AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] TIM NEWBURN: Poor, yeah They’re poor Absolutely Our courts, especially our lower courts, which is where the bulk of the business gets done, is full of relatively poor, disenfranchised people They’re the people who are involved in these forms of crime which make up the bulk of the business of our criminal courts It’s important to remember because that’s what our justice system is doing Our justice system is broadly focused on a certain part of the population Frankly, not us, [INAUDIBLE] has it Yeah? Most of us, most of the time, are probably going about our lives relatively inured against– relatively insured against– interaction with the justice system It may happen to you, but nothing like the likelihood that it would happen to you if you were poor, if you were homeless, or unemployed, or whatever else So just very quickly, what rarely finds itself in our justice system? Corruption, state crimes, the crimes of the wealthy and the powerful, large scale frauds– much small scale fraud, actually– money laundering, tax related offenses, health and safety related offenses, deaths and injury at work, the crimes of employers,

and so forth Again, just a corrective to some of the assumptions, I think, about the ways in which crime and justice is often talked about, yeah? The justice system focuses on the poor It does not focus upon the powerful and the wealthy So crime What is crime? That’s what’s crime What are criminologists kind of interested in? Well, there’s this– some beginning to it So what’s happening to crime? It’s been in the news just recently What is happening to crime in England and Wales? Does anyone know what the pattern of crime is in England and Wales in recent times? Pick your own– pick your period AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] going down TIM NEWBURN: It’s going down? How long has it been going down for? Take a guess AUDIENCE: The current government were in power TIM NEWBURN: Sorry? [LAUGHTER] Since the current government were in power All right, OK So since 2015 OK AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] TIM NEWBURN: Sorry? Well, that’s what all politicians will probably tell you But yeah But then the other corrective would be this is not to do with politics Politics doesn’t control levels of crime Controls much about the levels of responses to crime, but we’ll come back to that momentarily So not since 2015, a little bit longer than that actually [INAUDIBLE] another guess? I’ll be [INAUDIBLE] AUDIENCE: 2011? TIM NEWBURN: 2011 Little bit earlier AUDIENCE: 2008 TIM NEWBURN: A little bit earlier Come on, be confident AUDIENCE: 1930 TIM NEWBURN: 1930 [LAUGHS] Very good OK, so enough Right Mid-1990s So this is England and Wales What’s happening to crime? So far as we know, and I’m going to– all sorts of caveats here I’ll come back to it So far as we know, crime rose pretty steadily from somewhere in the late 1950s through to about the mid-1990s, and then it started to decline And according to the main measures that we have, it’s been in decline for the last 20 years And not just in decline, but in steep decline So if you look at the general trends there on the left and the right, you can see the peaks, and you can see just how steep the decline seems to be So the question is, how do we know? Well, two measures of crime The first is what we’ve called police recorded crime statistics It’s basically the data collected by law enforcement agencies– the police in England and Wales, the police departments, the FBI in the US, and so forth So they collect things Then, according to administrative rules, they divide them up into different kinds of categories– the kinds of things that you then find as criminal offenses in the courts– and the measure over time gives us a sense, on the left here, of what’s happening to reported crime trends Now, there’s a whole heap of problems with reported crime statistics The most obvious ones are the very simple ones, of course, is all that is recorded there is stuff that comes to the attention of the police How much crime comes to the attention of the police? Way less than half So huge amount of stuff is never being recorded Then, even if it comes to the attention of police, will they record it as crime? Well, not necessarily They’re supposed to, and they’re supposed to do it in standardized ways, but for a variety of reasons, some perfectly understandable, some less forgivable, they don’t And so it’s pretty iffy So therefore, in this country, from around the 1980s, we used another measure We decided that we’d use a standard social scientific technique to try to measure crime So we do a survey, basically– a household survey We take a representative in [INAUDIBLE] sample of the population, and ask them questions about what they’ve experienced in the last 12 months Have they been victims of a whole range of crime? Plus a bunch of other questions It’s originally called the British Crime Survey, now called the Crime Survey for England and Wales It’s the measure on the right hand side there, hence only starting in 1981 But it’s broadly considered to be our most accurate measure of crime And that’s kind of what it shows Now, there’s a whole bunch of problems with the British Crime Survey, or the Crime Survey for England and Wales As well I won’t go into loads of detail I’ll come back to one at the end of what I’ve got to say this afternoon, but as I’ve said, it’s a survey of households So it doesn’t include anybody who’s not living in a standardized household It doesn’t include people who are homeless, doesn’t include students, doesn’t include prisoners, and so on and so forth And until very recently, the interviews were only with people aged 16 and above,

so it didn’t include young people who have very high levels of victimization But broadly speaking, that’s what’s happening to crime There’s America, looks very similar pattern Peaks slightly earlier than England and Wales, but it’s the same broad pattern These are FBI reports, so the kind of police recorded crime type thing That’s Canada Just the top line is all one needs to look at It’s the same general trend– peaks in the early 1990s, in decline ever since So this is not something specific to England and Wales This has been watched across Western liberal democracy A broad rise in crime through to somewhere around the late ’80s, early ’90s, and then a drop, and what appears to be a sustained drop in crime So why? Why is crime falling? Now, I’d better do this quite quickly But how many? Six quick reasons, possibly So one’s economics Is economic change driving– well– the rise and the fall in crime? The answer, I think, is no It may be having an effect, but it’s not clear, I think, how much of an effect, or what the effect relationship, as it were, is So we’ve had one of the most significant economic downturns in the last decade or so, a period in which crime has been going down If there were going to be a relationship, you would expect it to be the other way around That is, you would expect, I think, the disappointing and negative economic circumstances would lead to increases in crime And to the extent I think that we have reliable information about these things, there is something of a relationship between economic recessions and rises and falls in property crime– not violent crime, necessarily, again, I think for reasons that one can imagine But the bulk of research about the nature of the relationship between the economic fortunes of societies and crime levels is, I think, at best mixed– shows no clear and consistent relationships There’s probably slightly better evidence about the nature of social inequality, or the relationship between social inequality and crime, but again, I think that’s also quite general and certainly not enough to explain the things that I think we’re seeing in terms of really significant increases and declines in crime So what, then, about the politicians’ favorite thing– punishment? The assumption in a lot of political discourse is if crime is out of control, we’re just not taking it seriously enough, and we must get tougher That was the political message of the 1990s across the political spectrum in this country and, indeed, in the US, for example, as well So more punishment equals less crime, and superficially it might look like it This is, I think, in some ways, one of the most terrifying kind of basic bar charts you can produce in terms of recent trends in crime and punishment This is the federal and state prison population and incarceration rate– you can ignore the incarceration rate if you’d like for the time being– in the United States, 1950 to 2013 And basically, what you see is the numbers of people in prison was relatively stable in the 1950s, 1960s– really up until the late 1970s– and then it exploded and rose and rose and rose at an extraordinary rate to the point at which the incarcerated population of the United States reached 2.3 million people 2.3 million people So something the equivalent of– I’m going to forget which American cities now– but the populations of something like two or three sort of medium sized American cities incarcerated at any point in time But, of course, differentially imposed Who’s incarcerated? Well, who’s incarcerated of course reflects who comes before the courts– the poor, minorities– African Americans in particular In specific geographical areas– so you’ve got suburbs of American cities– you’ve

got neighborhoods in American cities where somewhere between one and two, one in three, young African-American men aged between 20 and 35 are in prison, just terrifying figures So you’ve got this huge increase in punishment roughly at a time, or just preceding the point at which, crime starts to fall So looks pretty good for politicians, I think But actually, just start to do some fairly basic things, and the relationship between changes in the uses of just imprisonment, in this case, is the most serious form of punishment, really, that we have Some states obviously still have the death penalty but only use it in small numbers The relationship between rises and falls in imprisonment and rises and falls in crime is just hugely inconsistent Just across the bar chart here, you’ve got states which show dramatic increases in the use of imprisonment, but actually very small rises in crime, and the reverse No consistent relationship at all between patterns of punishment and crime, which is not to say punishment has no effect, but if we try– or as people have tried– to estimate its impact, frankly, in terms of the American crime decline in recent time, the best estimate suggests the imprisonment boom– what some people would call mass incarceration in the United States– the greatest possible extent that it influenced the crime decline was maybe 10% to 15% So the remainder is being affected by other things– possibly the economy in part– but it must be a variety of other factors One possibility, and a famous one in the US, is the suggestion is that policing made a big difference Now, the reason that this got so much play in the US is largely because of the so-called New York miracle From the early 1990s onwards, serious crime in New York City declined, and declined hugely So some bare figures there– these are what the Americans call index crimes These are the main crimes that go to make up law enforcement statistics And you can see that across homicide, burglary, larceny, forcible rape– the declines in less than a decade in recorded crime are between a third and 3/4 across all categories of crime Or if you reverse it, as I’ve done there for homicide, and take from 2007– the homicide level in 2007 in New York City was 18% of the 1990 level So by any measure, something extraordinary happened Now, the smiling face, some will recognize, is Rudolph W. Giuliani, two-time mayor of New York City, and subsequently– well, let’s not go there He hired a man called Bill Bratton as his first commissioner of police for a couple years Bratton then went onto the private sector, then to LA, and then back to New York City Between them, two media savvy people, essentially they stole the story that the crime decline– the New York miracle– was the result of policing Yeah, crime is down, blame the police was their tag line, OK? Is it true? Well, actually, I think the same thing that I’ve concluded, essentially, about the economy and about punishment, probably applies to policing, which is, yeah, I think it makes a contribution, but it explains only a small part of the picture So slightly complicated multicolored bar chart Don’t really need to pay too much attention Essentially, what you’ve got there is those main index crimes again– homicide, rape, robbery, assault, et cetera, et cetera And the colorful lines are what’s happened to each of those crimes in the 10 main American cities So basically, crime has been going down, as we saw, across the US All its big urban centers have experienced really significant declines in crime But the black line in all of these is New York City And you can see that in almost all cases, the decline in New York City is bigger– bigger than LA and Chicago, Houston, wherever else Now, one interesting study, I think, which analyzed in great detail what happened in New York City said, well, look, actually

the crime decline that we’ve seen in US cities can’t be put at the door of the police What the police did differed from urban center to urban center, so it’s hard to use it, I think, as a sort of simple explanation for what we’ve witnessed But maybe, and there’s evidence to suggest this is possible, that, as it were, the crime dividend in New York City– the extra decline that they witnessed– was largely a product of policing The particular strategies that the New York Police Department operated in the 1980s and beyond may well have contributed to this somewhat greater decline in crime that New York experienced compared with its major urban peers What would those things be? Well, very simply, essentially, policing has two major strategies One is to do with numbers, which is a matter of controversy in this country, and this city in particular at the moment Numbers increased dramatically, much more in New York City than in other American cities But also, and something I’ll come into momentarily, depending on time, it also got a little smarter in the way it did policing It concentrated, it focused its resources on those places where crime was concentrated, and on those things which were likely to have the greatest impact And so maybe policing Security and prevention is the fourth possibility So there’s now something within criminology called the security hypothesis, which essentially says the real way in which we got smarter from around about the 1980s onwards was in terms of crime prevention was rather than thinking about post hoc things, like punishment– crime gets dialed in, flash the blue lights, pick up the perpetrator, stick them through a court, and then imprison them, and imagine we’ve solved a problem– frankly, is not the way What we need to be thinking is proactively Where are the problems? What’s the sources of those problems? And can we do something about them? Now, there’s something called routine activities theory Those who’ve studied criminology may have come across this It’s essentially a rational choice theory It treats us all as rational actors, for good or ill, and kind of says, look, in the main, when people do stuff– bad stuff– they do it because they’re making a calculation They’re making a calculation that this is in some way, however partial their rationality, this is in some way worthwhile So routine activities theory divides, as it were, what it calls the chemistry of crime into three things Some nice little scientific sheen to it there It says there’ll be three things– a motivated offender– so someone who wants to steal something or do some other thing– a suitable target– something they want to steal or some train they want to graffiti– and an absence of capable guardians– so an insufficient kind of variety of folk out there who will stop them from doing it And basically, it says look, if you change any of those things, you’re likely to make crime more difficult. And if you do that, actually, it will reduce So the three– well, there are more than three, but three central things that you can do One is you can increase the effort that’s involved in crime Whole variety of ways– so there’s a picture of alley gates there– very simple thing But British terraced houses have back alleys where bins used to be kept People now, as a kind of fairly standard thing, have started putting up gates with locks to stop people being able to wander up and down We have a variety of techniques which– locks become more sophisticated We have lights that go on We have all sorts of things to try to make places or people more secure, which doesn’t stop someone from breaking into a house, for example, but might make them think twice It makes it slightly more difficult Or we can increase the perceived risks The most obvious one being we can make people feel they’re being watched, which is a favorite one in this country because we are the world capital of– AUDIENCE: CCTV TIM NEWBURN: Absolutely Does it work well? Evidence is mixed, but we don’t have to press ourselves further But nonetheless, we can do a variety of things to try to increase the perceived risks– change the kind of mentality Or we can reduce the anticipated reward So there’s a picture there of a train

covered in colorful graffiti Back to New York City There was a huge problem in New York City subway in the ’80s and the ’90s– one of the problems– trains covered in graffiti Now, part of the strategy of the transit police and the NYPD was to try to do something about it, alongside all the other things they were trying to do How do you reduce graffiti on the subway? Actually, it turned out to be relatively simple They cleaned the trains, and they cleaned them regularly So as soon as graffiti appeared, they took the trains into the yard, cleaned them down, washed them down, and put them back into service Over time, and actually relatively quickly, it had the impact of– not stopping– but massively reducing the graffiti problem, the reason being motivation Why does the tagger want to put graffiti on a train? Well, partly it might be quite fun, the process They’re artists after all But no, fundamentally it’s about being seen It’s the tag It’s the public visibility So if you get rid of that, if you get rid of the pay off, the argument was, actually, you’ll reduce the problem, yeah? Now, how am I doing for time? Couple of minutes So the security hypothesis We have become really smart at doing a variety of things in relation to crime So an obvious one here is cars So when I was a kid, which was, obviously, as you can tell looking at me, some time ago now– I’ll say it more now more strongly– I knew some people who were interested in stealing cars Stealing cars was really easy to do It was really easy to do because cars had almost no security facilities So there was a particular make, and I forget it now, but there was a Ford, and it was either a Cortina or an Escort, or something like that, which– certainly the urban myth had it, and even if it wasn’t true, it wasn’t a million miles away– there were only about a dozen keys in existence which would open every single one in the country There were no such thing as a unique key for the car Essentially, manufacturers had got away for years, decades, with not having, or not bothering, to think about the crime implications of the business that they were running One of the things that we’ve done in the last 30 years, or manufacturers have done, sometimes under pressure from governments, is to massively change now the ways in which cars are configured, making car theft extremely difficult to do, the consequence being a plummet in car crime– a huge influence– a huge drop– itself being a volume crime, which has contributed very significantly to the crime drop And the arguments and the security hypothesis is that actually, if you stop car crime, you make young people in particular who might get involved in other forms of crime much less mobile And actually, you then stop other forms of crime as well So just reading across, the arguments of the security hypothesis is that essentially, we’ve become, across a range of things, much, much smarter at prevention, and that, arguably, is the single greatest contributor to the crime drop of the last 20 years So a couple of final things and I’ll stop There is one problem with crime prevention ideas One major one is called displacement, which is that sense of well, if you make crime more difficult to do around Victoria Station, well, maybe people will go to Waterloo, or St James’ Park, or Embankment, or the next one along If you make crime more difficult in one state or one part of the state, maybe people will simply go elsewhere And so to a degree, there is evidence to suggest that some of the time that is true, but not always And quickly, there is a really famous story called the British gas suicide story, which sounds all very depressing, but it’s very illuminating And essentially, it’s a simple picture here which shows the decline in suicide in the 1960s and through the 1970s, largely as a result of changing domestic gas supplies Up until the 1960s, domestic gas supplies were toxic Carbon monoxide in the domestic gas

supplies– an awful lot of people, very sadly, opened their ovens, put their heads in, and killed themselves The domestic gas supplies were changed, making them no longer toxic, with the effect that that form of suicide, that method by which people ended their lives, of course, declined almost to nothing What was interesting about it though, for the purposes here, is that it didn’t result in any great number of people finding alternative means of killing themselves So actually, there was no displacement It was a preventative effort, and a long standing one Now, I’m running out of time, so I won’t do it, but there is some evidence which goes in a slightly different direction in relation to catalytic converters in cars, which again has had the same impact of stopping that, largely, as a means of ending one’s life, but in that particular case, it does seem to have a displacement effect Three final points and I’ll stop Thank you for your patience So there’s two final slightly left field theories, which you’ve probably heard about, which I’ll just say a brief word about about the crime drop One comes from the book “Freakonomics.” Famous economist and a journalist who wrote a hugely bestselling book, he says enviously, about a variety of applications of economic ideas to real world problems, and one of them is the crime decline And their arguments in the book is that in the United States, the changes relating to the constitutional position of the termination of pregnancy, so the Roe vs. Wade decision that was taken by the Supreme Court in the early 1970s, had an impact on crime Broadly speaking, a very controversial argument is that from 1973 onwards, legalized abortion was generally freely available Those people who were most likely to take advantage of this new possibility were those women who were predominantly in the social groups, in categories who would be at greatest risk, as it were, of having children who would go on later in life, for all the risk factors I was mentioning earlier, to become involved in crime Now, actually, they terminate their pregnancies, don’t have those children There’s a cohort of young people who would have been more criminal who now weren’t, and hey, presto, actually, the point at which they would have started offending, in any number, is round about the point at which crime starts to decline So about 16 years or so, 17 years or so, after Roe vs. Wade Sounds very neat– actually not necessarily that plausible First of all– well, two reasons Firstly, that actually the evidence doesn’t suggest, or doesn’t support terribly strongly, the idea that, frankly, those were the women who mostly took advantage of the new legal situation But secondly, and I think even more damningly, it doesn’t apply anywhere else So in England and Wales, abortion was legalized seven years before it was the case in the United States Crime began to drop probably about three to four years later So the lag makes no sense in terms of the hypothesis And then, finally, lead in petrol Lead in petrol is a fascinating one Why might this have an impact? Because lead in petrol is very closely associated with a variety of behavioral disorders in young people– impulsiveness, aggressiveness, and a whole variety of other things But we removed it, or it’s declined massively, and it links very much in the same kinds of ways the previous arguments in relation to termination of pregnancy with a slightly lagged delay in the drop in crime And the great thing about the lead in petrol argument is that it would also help you explain the rise in crime as well as the fall because of the increasing use of motor vehicles in the post-war period Now, there’s an ongoing academic debate about this, and, again, all I’ll say is I think the evidence is extremely mixed on this subject Probably not something we shouldn’t at all discount, but again, and unlike many of the things that I’ve already discussed, probably treat it as being no more than one contributory element in the things that we need to be thinking about when considering this complex issue of the crime decline So my final sentence, then, will be

that’s, I think, how we might explain it– by thinking about all those things and probably more things besides, but with a but, which is, actually, is it really declining? Ah Now, the parallel here– so a few years ago, the LSE, like so many universities, is– well, like Google, actually– expanding its campus in all sorts of ways We like nothing better than a new building, shows the university’s being successful Pay the staff more, I say, but anyway– [LAUGHTER] No, on Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a few years back, we opened a new building And the queen, bless her, came along to open it, and the director, the vice chancellor, of the LSE was there, and two or three senior academics, a couple of whom were economists And in her very low key way, in this opening as she walked through to unveil the plaque or whatever, in her very low key way, she turned to one of these economists and said, I’m interested to know why you didn’t spot that there was going to be a financial crash Was a kind of stunned silence in the room, and lots of activity in later years to try, then, to explain exactly what had been going on But anyway, this octogenarian had embarrassed the assembled economists of the LSE So I say this partly because, of course, criminologists are prey to exactly the same things If we went back to the 1960s, criminologists, generally I think, were of the view that fairly soon, this increasing crime trend that was going on would stop And as we became more prosperous and social democratic, it would peak and then it would start to drop But oh, no Completely the reverse happened It rocketed through the ’60s, through the ’70s, through the ’80s, to the point at which criminologists collectively said to themselves, you know, it’s never really going to stop, is it? It’s just going to go on and on and on I mean, it may slow, but then it started to drop– and drop, seemingly, hugely So we’re just as bad it seems– probably because some of us are economists– no– just as bad at spotting trends But the thing with the drop here, I think, is it’s just possible that we’re measuring the wrong things now– that crime has changed We briefly touched on it at the beginning The big thing here, and I’m standing in the right place, I guess, is the internet Young people’s behaviors have changed, and much crime has changed Now, there’s an awful, awful lot of fraud, for example, but a whole variety of other ICT, internet-based forms of criminal or related activities I think are now done out of the sight of the criminal justice agencies that have traditionally been responsible for intervening in these things So the Crime Survey for England and Wales, just to try to play catch up with a little bit of this, is now starting to try to measure things like internet-based crime and fraud and so forth And just doing that, and nothing more, doubles the level of crime that it’s measuring So if crime is going down, it’s going down much less than we thought And at the very least, I think, probably we need to think very carefully about whether it’s going down at all I have overstayed my welcome, so I should stop Thank you very much indeed [APPLAUSE] SPEAKER: Tim, thank you Brilliant talk We’ve got time for, definitely, a few questions if there are some AUDIENCE: Would society be better if all drugs were legalized? [LAUGHTER] TIM NEWBURN: That’s a great question Take a drink while I think about that [LAUGHTER] Well, I’m not sure about legalized I suspect we might be a lot better off if they were decriminalized It’s probably going to be the same thing, isn’t it? I mean, clearly the war on drugs has failed, and the collateral consequences of the war on drugs are extraordinary So we live in a time where some radical rethinking of how we deal with illicit substances is required There are some signs that we’re beginning to do some of that, but I don’t think that we’ve come close to thinking through, as it were, what the most appropriate forms of regulation

are– more particularly, what the role of the state should be in that regulatory process But certainly it’s the best example, in some ways, of the failure of the conceit to imagine that the solution to crime is criminal justice The solutions to crime to the extent that they exist lie elsewhere The issues with illicit substances, I think, are to be found in public health rather than criminal justice, which is only a partial answer to your question, though, whether society will be better off AUDIENCE: I may be a little bit biased here, but you mentioned that crime may not have fallen and it may have gone on to kind of tech platforms and that sort of thing Bearing in mind it was around the mid ’90s when crime started falling, is there a possibility that technology actually was a major factor in the drop in crime in terms of ability for police to share information, ability for individuals to protect themselves with things like CCTV, alarm systems in cars, that type of thing? TIM NEWBURN: Yeah I mean, it’s absolutely possible that technology– I mean, technology is undoubtedly important in the sharing of intelligence, in knowing what’s going on, in managing risk It’s also potentially, I think– one of the things that I briefly mentioned, routine activities theory earlier on, one of the things that is interested in is the ways in which we organize our everyday lives Now, I think that the technological changes of the last– whatever– 25 years or so– have probably had quite a dramatic impact on the ways in– well, they’ve undoubtedly have had a dramatic impact on the ways in which young people spend their time, organize their lives Some of that may be negative, but some of that actually may be very positive That is, they– or it may be mixed, which is to say, I think that in some ways, one of the consequences of technological change will be to lead young people to spend their time in activities which keep them away from some of the criminal opportunities that previously might have been more significant in their lives So absolutely I think it can be both AUDIENCE: You said that maybe crime isn’t falling as fast as we think How do you explain the current situation with the increase in knife crime in London? Specifically, in the last sort of six months I feel like it’s become a lot more prevalent, or maybe that’s just sensationalism, or is there a more deeper sort of social reasoning why this has sort of increased? TIM NEWBURN: Well, your question’s a great one, but also the phrasing, which you recognized, I think, gives something away because you said I feel The reality with crime trends, I think, is we always have to look in the medium or long term if we can So the short term changes are often very misleading, I think One of the reasons that we feel knife crime is increasing is because of how much it’s being talked about And on one level, of course, that’s very positive because it might indicate that people are taking something that is serious, seriously But if you look at the long-term trends, or the medium-term trends– so the last few years in London– actually, knife crime’s relatively stable I would say there have been some recent increases, but none of that’s to suggest we shouldn’t take it seriously I think there are, then, two things I mean, one question would be a political one Why the fuss now? Why knife crime becoming so newsworthy? Well, variety of reasons, but you couldn’t discount the fact that there’s a big– with a small p– political campaign around police financing and numbers at the moment for a variety of reasons And that would have to be taken into account, I think But the other thing that’s going on there is that I think at least some people would argue that if what seems to be a short-term increase turns out to be a more sustained long-term or medium-term increase in knife crime, then that potentially tells us something about the nature of the lives of young males, often young black men, in some of the worst parts,

poorest parts of our cities, and what’s been happening in their lives over the last half decade or more SPEAKER: Great Tim, thank you so much for coming in TIM NEWBURN: Pleasure [APPLAUSE]