What is Crime Science?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Crime science is a study of criminal activity that focuses on reducing levels of crime. This distinguishes it from criminology, which studies crime evidence to determine how, when, and by whom a crime was committed. The practice of crime science, despite its name, is not always a solely scientific pursuit and many involve a blend of methods and sources. Crime science is still a very new area of study and profession, and remains a far smaller field than traditional criminology.

Crime scenes must be evaluated in order to catch the perpetrator.
Crime scenes must be evaluated in order to catch the perpetrator.

The factors involved in reducing crime resemble a many-headed hydra. Economic issues, politics, accessibility, psychology, and opportunity are all factors that can lead people to crime. Crime science tends to focus on measuring and obtaining data about all the possible reasons and ways crime is committed, then working out means of reducing crime through the systematic targeting of each issue.

Crime science involves carefully documenting and analyzing bits of evidence.
Crime science involves carefully documenting and analyzing bits of evidence.

One of the main principles of crime science is that crime is often preventable. If all crimes were committed by inherently violent psychopaths, it would be extremely difficult to find means of stopping crime, short of locking all potential psychopaths up. In fact most crime is committed by regular people motivated by unusual circumstances. By focusing on changing the circumstances, crime scientists attempt to prevent crime from having the opportunity to occur.

There are now several universities and institutes that offer degrees or courses in crime study. The science is more widely known in the United Kingdom, where the first crime science institute, the University of Central London Jill Dando Institutes was established in 2001. Several other UK-based colleges and institutes now offer degree and certification programs that specialize in the field.

Crime scientists often work as risk management or security analysts. One of the major factors in eliminating the potential for crime is eliminating the risk for crime through well-managed, comprehensive security systems. In addition to working with businesses to devise full security management programs, crime scientists may also be involved in the development of tools and products that improve security capabilities.

Another major pursuit of workers in this field is the production of crime maps. These maps show patterns of crime by type and date and may be useful to both law enforcement and the general public. Crime scientists may also work on mapping analysis, or finding the reasons behind a pattern of high crime in an area and working on solutions that will help reduce the problem.

Crime science covers areas such as crime prevention.
Crime science covers areas such as crime prevention.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


I completely support any science and method aimed at preventing crime.

Aside from harming the public and themselves, criminals are a burden on the state. So many funds are spent catching them, then trying them and finally prosecuting and keeping them in jail. If we could prevent crime even a little bit, that means more state money is left to spend on other public services like health care and education.

I didn't know much about crime science before but I'm definitely in support of it after reading this article.


I've heard that crime science is being used increasingly for cyber crimes and other crimes that involve sensitive information.

This is a great development because cyber crime is increasing as we use the internet for all sort of activity- shopping, money transfers and so forth. It's also hard to keep up with criminals that work cyber systems, they are good at what they do. That's why we need to utilize as many aspects of criminology and crime science as possible.

I hope that more and more security agencies use crime science for criminal investigation of cyber crimes. It can help them with researching and locating criminals and their activity.


I think that one of the main concerns of crime science is to decrease the opportunities available for people to commit crime.

But in order to do this, first one has to look at different patterns in crime and they do this by looking at society at many different levels- whether it is looking for patterns among individuals, groups or organizations.

I think that crime science is an alternative to classical criminology where the concern is about creating deterrents for criminals. Crime science doesn't create deterrents in the sense of increasing and establishing more systemic punishment.

It wants to eliminate the opportunities to commit crime altogether. So people might still want to commit crime, but they never find the chance or right circumstances for it.

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