By Jon. M. Shane and Shannon Magnuson, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City
The shipping industry cannot rely on the navies and traditional law enforcement to protect them from pirate attacks and to hold pirates accountable…
Patrolling the open waters is different from patrolling on land, crime is easier to perpetrate, harder to detect and harder to prevent. When pirates attack, an armed confrontation is likely, and violence occurs rather frequently (almost 37% in this study). The effectiveness of traditional law enforcement and prosecution efforts are limited in an international context, particularly when dealing with failed states. The limitations of traditional law enforcement are reflected in the dramatic increases in yearly piracy incidents. Even when traditional law enforcement operations are successful, the prosecution is beset by numerous delays and legal obstacles and incarceration is never guaranteed, all of which may attenuate the deterrent effect of arrest and prosecution. However, a recent study in Justice Quarterly argues that pirate attacks are not inevitable. Merchant marines and their vessels can protect themselves by taking measures that alter the transit environment. Situational crime prevention theory provides the framework for proactively deterring offending, in this case maritime piracy.
Situational Analysis – A Partial Solution?
Situational crime prevention (SCP) is a form of “opportunity theory,” It is a micro-level theory that accounts for the interaction between the victim, the offender and the environment. The basic premise is that a strong, visible defense will deter or delay a crime and does not necessarily rely on the criminal justice system to detect and prosecute offenders, or control crime.
Situational crime prevention consists of three principles: 1) directing crime control measures at highly specific forms of crime; 2) managing, designing, or manipulating the immediate environment in as systematic and permanent a way as possible; and 3) increasing the perceived risk or effort to commit a crime, or reducing the rewards or removing the excuses for committing a crime. The theory has been empirically validated across a wide variety of crime and disorder conditions including gun violence, retail theft, shoplifting, suicide, vandalism, car theft and wildlife poaching. SCP groups situational techniques under five conceptual categories that describe the intent and approach of the intervention: 1) increasing the effort to commit the crime; 2) increasing the risk to offenders; 3) reducing the rewards produced by committing the crime; 4) reducing provocations that instigate crime; and 5) removing the excuses for committing the crime.
When pirates decide to attack a vessel, they may underestimate various situational factors that may increase their risk of apprehension, increase the effort to be successful, or reduce the anticipated rewards of an attack. Part of this calculation is that pirates’ decisions are never perfect, and that they rely on information that structures their choices and constrains their decisions that may result in flawed outcomes (i.e., apprehension, injury, death, insufficient operational resources). SCP is a crime prevention approach that helps disrupt or alter the opportunity structure, which results in fewer successful attacks.
To read the entire article, please click here.