Community safety is about much more than just crime

Researcher Trevor Hancock published an article in Timescolonist.com concerning a study on the safety of communities, in which he considers that this safety often focuses on the issue of crime or violence, but for him safety is much more than that.

However, he also believes that there is a very different understanding of safety in Europe compared to North America.

In Europe, the Safe Communities movement was largely centred around preventing accidents, what in public safety we call ‘unintentional injuries’. But in North America the focus of the work on safe communities has been primarily on crime and violence prevention, part of what we call ‘intentional injuries’.

From a public safety perspective, unintentional injuries are by far the biggest problem. A report by the Injury Prevention Committee notes that injuries are the leading cause of death for people between 1 and 44 years of age and the fourth leading cause of death for all ages.

Hancock identifies three priorities for injury prevention: elderly falls, transportation-related injuries, and suicide and self-injury. However, even within the assault category, the priority should not be random violence perpetrated against strangers, but family violence and sexual violence.

A 2021 Statistics Canada report noted that one-quarter of victims of police-reported violence are victimized by a family member, while two-thirds of all victims of family violence are women and girls.

In addition, such violence, as well as sexual violence, is very scarcely reported. 80% of spousal violence was not reported to police. Aside from that, community safety is not just about violence, or even crime in general, but about feeling safe.

For example, assault – particularly random violence – is considered far more frightening (and more newsworthy) than the far more numerous cases of falls and traffic accidents, which too often seem to be accepted as part of the fabric of everyday life or the price we pay for mobility.

This tells us that perception and emotion are important when it comes to security, not just data.

People may feel unsafe for all sorts of reasons, often having little to do with criminal activity or police powers.

Indigenous people, people of colour, LGBTQ people and others may feel unsafe because of discriminatory attitudes, comments or behaviours that are not criminal. And, of course, dark streets and parks make many of us feel unsafe, while people are worried and perhaps frightened by those acting strangely or living on the street.

So, if we really want a safer community, we need to have quite a broad perspective on what makes our community unsafe for people, and not get sucked into an understanding of safety that is too narrowly defined as a matter of crime, violence, and law and order.

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Report on the proposed strategic review of policing in England and Wales

The first half of 2022 saw the launch of the report A New Model of Protection, which contains the final paper of the strategic review of policing in England and Wales. The report is based on the desire to redesign public safety for the 21st century.

The paper is set in the early days of the creation of policing in England, characterised by the development of a policing model in which the work of officers did not depend primarily on the use of power, but rather on confidence and cooperation with society. Unfortunately, 200 years later, they recognise that there is a crisis of public confidence in police institutions.

The report finds that the percentage of people who think the police do a good or excellent job has been declining in recent years. And that lack of confidence in the police is most pronounced in London, related in part to recent cases of police misconduct. However, this report reveals that there are also much deeper, long-standing causes why this model of policing no longer seems able to meet society’s expectations.

However, it is not only society that has lost its confidence, many police officers have also done so, as despite working hard and having a desire to serve the citizen, they too often feel inadequate. Another cause would be the impact of austerity between 2010 and 2017. The number of police officers decreased from 143,000 to around 123,000, which resulted in citizens complaining that they did not see uniformed police officers on the streets and therefore felt less safe.

In this regard, frustration in the police also arises from the fact that they only collect theft reports superficially in order to give free rein to insurance companies, but there is no investigation behind them. All this is occurring in a time of profound changes due to globalisation and the evolution of technology. 40% of all reported crimes are frauds, and most of them cyber.

The report highlights that crime in the digital age is being tackled with an analogue policing approach. The police have also become a public service of last resort, picking up on the previous failures of other social services, such as missing persons calls, most of which come from young people in care.

To address some of these issues, the paper proposes, among others:

  • A radical shift towards a more systemic preventive approach. It proposes the creation of a Crime Prevention Agency, with strong regulatory powers, especially for businesses.
  • Significantly improve the capacity to tackle cross-border crime and organised crime. It proposes the creation of a National Crime Agency.
  • Strengthen local and neighbourhood policing. This would be the best way to restore society’s confidence in the police.
  • Provide police officers with better tools to perform their job and encourage the entry of qualified people with specialised skills through salary supplements.

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Personal Firearms Storage in the United States

Both public health and gun rights advocates absolutely agree that gun owners should store their firearms in a way that prevents unauthorised persons from gaining access to them.

Correct storage can help avoid unintentional firearm deaths and injuries among minors. Moreover, a strong theoretical case can also be made for preventing suicide by restricting access to lethal weapons.

The rand.org website has published a study on protection around firearms containing recent estimates, patterns and effectiveness of interventions.

Numerous studies have produced results in line with these theories, and public health organizations, such as the World Health Organization, generally agree on this.

Storing firearms under lock and key and unloaded is necessary to limit access to these lethal weapons. For these reasons, public health policy campaigns have been created and implemented to promote the safe storage of firearms owned by individuals.

This study analyses what is meant by safe storage of firearms and provides estimates of the storage practices of U.S. gun owners from representative surveys at the national and state level. This is complemented by research on selected populations with data from 2010, which includes populations of interest because of current events and at risk of harm, such as persons who purchased a firearm during the COVID-19 pandemic, households with minors, persons with mental health conditions or at risk of suicide, and military or veteran populations.

The report describes how Americans typically store their firearms and the rationale for storage practices. It also reviews research on the effectiveness of interventions that seek to change firearm storage practices. These interventions are qualified as clinical, community-based, and public policy interventions.

The study concludes that multiple groups of interested parties recommend that firearms be kept locked up and unloaded, and that ammunition be stored separately. Most empirical evidence to date indicates that approximately half of gun owners keep their firearms locked up, and one-third keep them locked up and unloaded. The greatest influence on storage practices among those who do not store their firearms as recommended are perceptions of risk and protection. Those with more guns and those with only handguns are less likely to store guns as recommended, while households with minors are more likely to store guns as recommended.

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The state and trends of terrorism in the European Union

Recently published by Europol, the European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2022 (TE-SAT) provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date intelligence study on terrorism in the European Union.

The Europol TE-SAT 2022 report is based on quantitative data provided to Europol by EU Member States on terrorist attacks, arrests and court rulings issued for terrorist offences. Europol’s partners also provided qualitative information and valuable insights that enrich the report’s conclusions.

The findings of TE-SAT 2022 confirm that terrorism still represents a real and present danger to the European Union:

In 2021, 15 completed, foiled, or failed terrorist attacks were recorded in the European Union. The four completed attacks included three jihadist terrorist attacks and one far-left terrorist attack.

EU law enforcement authorities arrested 388 suspects for terrorism-related offences in 2021. Of these, more than two-thirds (260) were carried out following investigations into jihadist terrorism offences in Austria, France, and Spain.

Court proceedings concluded in 2021 resulted in 423 convictions for terrorism offences.

Lone actors continue to be the main perpetrators of terrorist and violent extremist attacks in Europe. However, planned attacks involving several actors were also interrupted during 2021. Individuals who carry out attacks alone have been associated primarily with jihadist terrorism, right-wing terrorism, and violent extremism.

In 2021, terrorists used weapons that are relatively easy to obtain and do not require high skills for assembly or use. Weapons used in attacks in the EU in 2021 included bladed weapons, vehicles (in impact attacks), and improvised incendiary devices.

Furthermore, the terrorist propaganda spread online in 2021 continued to reflect COVID-19 related topics. Increased time spent online due to pandemic restrictions, among other reasons, is a risk factor in vulnerable individuals’ potential route to extremism.

Violent anti-COVID-19 and anti-government extremism, which is not affiliated with traditional terrorist and violent extremist activities, emerged in some Member States and non-EU countries. These manifestations of violent extremism took the form of open threats, hate messages spread on the web and, in some cases, the use of violence.

Geopolitical developments in key regions outside the EU influence terrorist narratives and propaganda spread in Member States. The current terrorist threat to Member States appears not to have been directly affected by the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. However, it increased global attention to religiously motivated insurgencies and thus provided jihadists affiliated with both Al Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) terrorist group with opportunities to promote their arguments.

TE-SAT delves into the following types of terrorism: jihadist terrorism, right-wing terrorism, left-wing and anarchist terrorism, ethnonationalist and separatist terrorism, and other types of terrorism.

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The threat of environmental crime in the European Union

Environmental crime generates millions of euros of dirty money every year in the European Union alone, but it remains extremely difficult for law enforcement to connect cases to organised crime activities. Legal discrepancies among countries, low risk of detection and marginal penalties make environmental crime a very attractive business for criminal entrepreneurs.

However, something is changing: crimes against the environment are attracting more and more attention as climate change has become a crucial matter in the agenda of policy makers.

Europol’s new threat assessment, Environmental Crime in the Age of Climate Change, offers the most comprehensive intelligence study yet on this criminal phenomenon in the EU.

Law enforcement investigations across the EU show that there is an organised crime component behind most environmental crime schemes, which are often led by legal companies. Europol has also seen a significant increase in the number of cross-border cases.

Environmental crime covers a range of activities that infringe environmental legislation and cause significant damage or risk to the environment, human health or both. The main risks include the following:

• Most of the individuals involved in environmental crime are opportunistic legal business owners/operators who decide to increase their chances of profit by establishing a criminal enterprise.

• To launder the illicit proceeds, criminals mainly use the same legal businesses in which they operate (i.e. waste management businesses, retail stores, fishing companies, etc.). Document fraud, abuse of discrepancies in legislation and widespread corruption are the pillars of the environmental crime infrastructure.

• EU criminal networks are increasingly targeting Central and Eastern Europe to traffic illicit waste produced in Western Europe. Outside the EU, European traffickers mainly target South-East Asia as a destination for illicit plastic waste and end-of-life ships, and Africa for waste of electric and electronic equipment.

• The EU functions as a hub for global wildlife trafficking. It is the main destination for trafficked wildlife, but it is also a point of origin for endemic fauna trafficked to other continents.

• The waste related to the production of synthetic drugs and synthetic drug precursors is one of the main sources of environmental damage linked to organised crime in the EU.

The Europol report delves into the main typologies of environmental crime investigated in the EU, namely: waste and pollution offences; wildlife trafficking; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; forestry offences and the illegal pet trade. Special attention is given to climate change, which functions as a push and pull factor for organised crime. The growing scarcity of natural resources is likely to trigger organised crime interests in terms of profits in the immediate future.

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Firearm-Related Violent Crime on the Rise in Canada

A study conducted by researcher Mary Allen, of the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, shows that firearm-related violence rates have increased in recent years.

In 2020, violent crimes accounted for approximately one in five crimes brought to the attention of the police.

Firearm-related crimes typically account for less than 3% of violent crimes reported to the police in Canada. However, this type of crime has a significant emotional and physical impact on victims, families and communities.

In 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 8,344 crimes involving a firearm were reported to the police. This equates to 29 per 100,000 population, a rate similar to that of 2019. However, this was not the case in all jurisdictions, as firearm-related crime rates increased in some areas and decreased in others.

Between 2019 and 2020, there were notable increases in firearm-related violent crime rates in rural areas, such as in southern British Columbia (+34%), northern Ontario (+32%), Alberta (+32% in the North and +31% in the South), Northwest Territories (+23%) and Nova Scotia (+22%).

This study examines firearm-related crime in the two six-year periods before and after 2015, when a significant increase was recorded.

In 2020, police reported a total of 743 homicide victims in Canada, with a rate of 1.95 per 100,000 population. For 277 of these victims, a firearm was used to commit the homicide (a rate of 0.73 per 100,000 population).

After a gradual decline between the years 2009 and 2013, the rate of firearm-related homicides has increased since 2013, with only one decrease in 2018.

As a result, the proportion of homicides by firearm increased from 26% of all homicides in 2013 to 37% in 2020.

Handguns were the most popular weapon in the majority of firearm-related crimes between 2009 and 2020 (59%).

On the one hand, firearm-related crime rates were higher in rural areas than in urban centres in most provinces, and significantly higher in northern rural regions. On the other hand, firearm-related crimes generally accounted for a higher proportion of violent crime in urban areas.

Consequently, people living in some rural areas may be at greater risk of firearm crime, but crimes that occur in urban areas are more likely to involve a firearm.

In 2020, the accused charged with firearm-related offences was frequently unknown to the victim (for 55% of male victims and 41% of female victims). However, this was driven by urban firearm-related crime.

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Homicides in Scotland Drop to Lowest Level Since 2013

Police Scotland’s Quarter 4 performance report for the 2021-2022 period shows that 10 fewer homicides were recorded than during the 2020-2021 period. Fewer attempted murders were also recorded in the comparison of the same two periods.

The data also showed an increase in fraud (+18.6%), but a decrease in domestic abuse offences (-1.7%). However, domestic abuse offences have increased by 3.7% compared to the five-year mean.

Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said the figures released were noticeable because the past year had been an exceptional period for the police and the effects of the pandemic on crime were still being felt.

As reported by Policing Insight, an 11.2% overall increase in violent crime was reported in parallel with a significant decrease during the 2020-2021 period (-10%), due to the restrictions in place at that time. The mean for the last five years (2.1%) provides more information on violent crime. The police force considers that a reduction in the number of homicides is welcome, but that there is still a long way to go in the fight against violence, including working with other partners to prevent crime.

Police Scotland is continuing to fight domestic abuse and specialist officers have been deployed across the country to tackle this type of crime. The comprehensive review they have commissioned of the police response to public protection will allow them to continue to adapt and respond to changing demand and vulnerabilities in this respect.

On the other hand, an increase in fraud has once again been recorded in this quarter, reaffirming that online policing is increasingly becoming a key part of frontline policing. Work on disrupting criminal activities and protecting the public is ongoing, with £6.46 million of fraud prevented through the implementation of the Banking Protocol alone.

The Quarter 4 performance report also details the results of Police Scotland’s Your Police survey, conducted between January and March 2022. With more than 14,000 citizen responses received, the survey brought valuable information on public opinion.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said that interaction with citizens is fundamental to ensuring police legitimacy and key to enabling effective community policing. The public felt that things were being done well in terms of providing a consistent service and welcomed greater visibility and presence in areas that so require it.

In this regard, she expressed that the feedback they receive should be used to implement the policing approach, including the Annual Police Plan for the 2022-2023 period. She concluded by encouraging the public to participate in the surveys in order to influence police strategy.

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Investigative report on police killings in the U.S.

This paper, authored by researchers Meagan Cahill, Melissa M. Labriola and Jirka Taylor of RAND Corporation, summarises what is currently known about police-induced deaths in the United States and identifies existing evidence on different ways to prevent these killings.

There is a relatively large body of research on these topics, but these studies often suffer from methodological shortcomings, largely stemming from the scarcity of available data. The authors present this paper focused on developing a research agenda, or roadmap, to reduce these deaths at the hands of U.S. police.

The report, based on an extensive literature review as well as interviews with police experts, contains a series of recommendations for areas where research efforts can be most effective to help inform policy making and decision making aimed at reducing police-induced deaths.

The authors identify six focus areas: foundational issues (such as racial inequalities, police culture, and police unions), data and reports, training, policy, technology, and consequences for police officers. In addition, it is worth mentioning that the authors use the terms “police killings,” “police violence,” and “police shootings” to describe this type of police behaviour, whether unlawful or not. The authors identify specific instances of these behaviours as misconduct, illegality, negligence or excess when these descriptions are applied.

The authors close the paper with a series of research priorities including the following:

  • Incorporate a racial lens into studies on reducing police violence and police-induced deaths.
  • Carry out research on aspects of law enforcement that teach and reinforce traditional police culture and norms and on how reform efforts might overcome resistance stemming from culture and norms.
  • Carry out research on the role of unions in preventing accountability in different agency policies and in shaping the outcomes of cases involving deaths at the hands of police officers.
  • Explore additional data sources and data that could provide a more reliable representation of a police violence incident, including nonfatal incidents: situational factors surrounding incidents and the use of technology before, during, and after an incident.
  • Improve the collection of data on the consequences for officers following a death at the hands of the police.
  • Move away from self-reported data on body-worn camera use by reviewing images and incorporating alternative data sources for incident reviews.
  • Develop a consensus on what training should be implemented in all agencies.
  • Identify the mechanisms by which specific policies reduce violence at the hands of the police, identifying which combination of policies is most effective in reducing police violence.
  • Carry out research on the overall effects of using other technologies on lethal force.
  • Study the role of prosecutors in shaping the outcomes of cases involving deaths at the hands of police.

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U.S. Gun Homicides Reach a 25-Year High in 2020

The increase in homicide rates was largely driven by firearm-related murders, which increased by 35% between 2019 and 2020. The rate of gun-related homicides in the United States reached its highest level in over 25 years in 2020. Experts have yet to come up with an explanation.

As reported in May in an article by The New York Times, the number of gun deaths reached the highest ever recorded in the United States during 2020, the first year of the pandemic (figures from the Center for Injury Control and Prevention). More than 45,000 Americans died in firearm-related incidents while the pandemic was spreading across the United States.

However, more than half of these deaths were suicides, and this number did not increase substantially from 2019 to 2020. Thus, the overall increase in gun deaths was 15% in 2020.

Christopher Herrmann, a professor from the department of law and science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, says he is not surprised by these data. Nevertheless, he is concerned about what it might portend next summer, a period when there are typically more gun homicides. He adds that most major U.S. cities experience a 30% increase in shootings and homicides in the summer.

One possible explanation could be the stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes including disruption to services and education, social isolation, housing instability, and difficulty meeting daily expenses could have played a prominent role.

The increase also corresponded to the acceleration of firearms sales as the pandemic spread and confinements became the norm. Americans began buying guns in 2020 and continued throughout 2021, when in a single week the FBI recorded a record 1.2 million background checks.

The main reason people give for buying a gun is self-protection. However, research published in the 1990s established that simply having a gun in the house increases the risk of gun homicide by a factor of three and the risk of suicide by a factor of five.

But gun homicide has many roots. Federal investigators also cited disruptions in routine healthcare; protests over police use of lethal force; an increase in domestic violence; unequal access to healthcare; and long-standing systemic racism, which has contributed to poor housing conditions, limited educational opportunities and high poverty rates.

Law enforcement officials and criminologists pointed not only to the pandemic, but also to the divisive 2020 presidential election, as gun purchases tend to increase at times of profound political polarization.

Afrikan Americans were disproportionately affected by gun violence in 2020. Firearm homicide rates increased by 39.5% among Afrikan Amerikans from 2019 to 2020, reaching a total of 11,904. The victims were mostly young males.

Afrikan American males between the ages of 15 and 34 were more than 20 times more likely to die by gunshot than white males of the same age. The number of Afrikan American women killed by guns also increased by nearly 50% in 2020, in comparison to 2019.

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Europol: Analysis of the EU Drug Markets in 2022

Europe’s role in international drug production and trade is changing, according to a new report published by Europol and the EU Drugs Agency (EMCDDA).

In an in-depth look into the cocaine and methamphetamine markets, several law enforcement agencies highlight the increase in production activities in Europe. Collaboration between criminal groups around the world is also creating new security threats and expanding the market.

New research highlights the trends throughout the supply chain, from production and trafficking to distribution and use. They describe a large and growing cocaine market and a smaller but increasing methamphetamine market in the EU. In addition, they identify an increased threat posed by innovation in production processes and chemical precursors, and a growing range of products that may put consumers at risk.

Europe is a major producer of synthetic drugs for both domestic and foreign markets. It is also becoming an increasingly active transshipment point for drugs coming from and destined for other regions of the world. For both cocaine and methamphetamine, there is proof that Latin American and European criminal groups are working together on production, trafficking and distribution.

The report shows that the European cocaine market is expanding, driven by unprecedented levels of trafficking and leading to high availability. Extreme levels of cocaine production in South America have resulted in record amounts seized in Europe.

Cocaine is the second most consumed illicit drug in the EU after cannabis, with an estimated retail market value of €10.5 billion in 2020.

Violence and corruption, long observed in traditional drug-producing countries, are increasing in the EU. The reports reveal that in some EU member states (Belgium, Spain, France and the Netherlands), competition between drug suppliers has intensified, leading to a rise in violent confrontations. The expansion of the EU cocaine market has brought an increase in homicides, kidnappings and intimidation, with violence spreading to people outside the drug market.

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