DyDAn Homeland Security and DIMACS Computational and Mathematical Epidemiology Joint Seminar

Title: Crime's Ecosystem

Speaker: Marcus Felson, Rutgers University

Date: May 21, 2007 12:00 - 1:30 pm

Location: DIMACS Center, CoRE Bldg, Room 431, Rutgers University, Busch Campus, Piscataway, NJ


Many fundamental concepts of ecology apply quite directly to criminal actions as they carve their niches within a larger ecosystem. That system includes legal activities, marginal activities, and other illegal activities, as well as environmental conditions and features of the urban system. Analyzing crime within an ecosystem is not metaphorical. Nor does it rely on concepts that are vague or excessively indirect. Indeed, crime can be studied in quite tangible and scientific terms. Moreover, these terms help us frame and carry out very specific and effective crime reduction efforts - especially situational prevention and problem-oriented policing. Many specific symbioses apply to crime, Parasitic offenders draw a little at a time from victims. One offender draws parasitically from another offender. Scientific terms such as commensalism and mutualism, and special symbioses such as phoresis, epizoism, and inquilism apply quite well to criminal action as it fits within a larger system of activities. These interdependencies also provide means for disrupting crime very quickly, often with little or no displacement to other settings. Standard defense and offense mechanisms described by life scientists apply to crime. Many of the basic foraging laws apply to offenders seeking targets and police seeking offenders. Of course, one still needs to know the crime subject very well to do a good job applying larger life science principles to it, and making crime reduction work.

see: DIMACS Computational and Mathematical Epidemiology Seminar Series 2006 - 2007