Headlines: September 6th, 2010

Senior academics are warning today that some new approaches to tackling crime are leading to people who are most vulnerable in the current economic climate being tightly controlled. In the latest issue of ‘Criminal Justice Matters’ they raise concerns over what they call ‘minority report’ crime fighting approaches.

A special themed section, edited by David Wall of Durham University, looks at how ‘pre crime’ methods ‘are increasingly and disturbingly becoming part of the crime prevention landscape’. Professor Wall highlights what he sees as a tendency towards social sorting and the reversal of the burden of proof.

Based on evidence presented in the magazine, he says the ‘pre-crime’ idea distorts the scientific belief that social science methods are used to analyse crime situations to develop rules that will help predict risk factors and which then inform crime prevention strategies. Rebecca Roberts of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, who is also Managing Editor of ‘cjm’ said: “Governmental focus on what is often described as early intervention may amount to little more than those most vulnerable to the economic downturn finding themselves more tightly monitored and controlled.”

A third academic, Professor Lucia Zedner of Oxford University, says in her article that while prevention makes good sense measures that act coercively against individuals need to be subject to rigorous and principled restraint.