Criminology Blog Series – Identifying the Problem

When we approach food fraud prevention through a criminology lens, there are often simple and direct countermeasures to apply. Everyone knows what food fraud is, right? But what are the characteristics from a criminology perspective? This Criminology Blog Series provides insights.

My PhD dissertation research was on anti-counterfeit strategy and risk assessment. When considering the root cause of intellectual property rights counterfeiting infringement, it was natural to focus on the specific root cause that was the human adversary.

Over the years, we conducted a lot of research and published many articles in the Criminology literature. The criminology topic was so important to food fraud prevention that it expanded to three chapters in the Food Fraud Prevention textbook.

The Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers report includes “sixty small steps” to understand and reduce the prevalence of a specific type of crime. In this Criminology Blog Series, we will be reviewing several of the most applicable steps. We will also explain the application to food fraud prevention. The excerpt below is the summary published in the Food Fraud Prevention textbook.

Here, we will review Step 15, which is “Know what kind of problem you have.”

Excerpt from the Food Fraud Prevention textbook:

Review of “Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps”

One of the most influential and practical guides to crime prevention is “Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps” (Clarke and Eck 2005). This is an influential work since it is written by Ronald V. Clarke and John E. Eck who are two of the criminology science thought leaders, and it was published by the respected and widely adopted Problem-Oriented Policing Center (POP or POP Center). The POP is supported and reinforced by the US Department of Justice-funded Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

Know what kind of problem you have (#15):

Because local police have to deal with a wide range of problems, we have developed a classification for these problems. This classification scheme can help you precisely define the problem. It helps separate superficially similar problems that are really [actually different and] distinct. It also allows you to compare your problem to similar problems that have already been addressed, and it helps identify important features for examination. […] The classification scheme is based on two criteria:

  • Classification Scheme:
  • The environments within which problems arise
  • The behaviors of the participants

Also, regarding the environment—or the place of the crime—there are 11 distinct types:

Distinctions for the Place of the Crime (highlighted items especially apply to food fraud):

  1. Residential: Locations where people dwell.
  2. Recreational: Places where people go to have a good time.
  3. Offices: Locations of white-collar work where there is little face-to-face interaction between the workers and the general public.
  4. Retail: Places for walk-in or drive-up customer traffic involving monetary transactions.
  5. Industrial: Locations for processing of goods.
  6. Agricultural: Locations for growing crops and raising animals.
  7. Education: Places of learning or study.
  8. Human services: Places where people go when something is wrong.
  9. Public ways: Routes connecting all other environments.
  10. Transport: Locations for the mass movement of people.
  11. Open/transitional: Areas without consistent or regular designated uses.

Regarding the behavior, there are six types:

Distinctions for Behavior of the Crime:

  1. Predatory: The offender is clearly distinct from the victim, and the victim objects to the offender’s actions.
  2. Consensual: The parties involved knowingly and willingly interact.
  3. Conflicts: Violent interactions involving roughly coequal people who have some pre-existing relationship
  4. Incivilities: Offenders are distinguishable from victims, but the victims are spread over a number of individuals, and the harms are not serious.
  5. Endangerment: The offender and the victim are the same person, or the offender had no intent to harm the victim.
  6. Misuse of police: A category reserved for unwarranted demands on the police service.

These classifications help to further understand and define the nature of the problem so that optimal countermeasures or control systems can be selected.

While the “Distinctions for the Place of the Crime” and “Distinctions for Behavior of the Crime” may seem very simple, by reviewing the literature, we can make sure to not miss any gaps. Also, by using the criminology terminology, we can more clearly communicate to the law enforcement and investigation resources.

Takeaway Points:

  • There are extensive research and support resources for crime prevention activities.
  • It is helpful to use criminology terminology when interacting – and trying to get resources applied – with the law enforcement and investigation resources.
  • While the food fraud “distinct behavior of the crime” is simply “predatory,” the problem is compounded by the varied “distinctions for the place of the crime.”
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