Crime and wickedness

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

I’m disappointed by this new report on Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime as reported here by the beeb.

The report notes that although there’s pretty good evidence that crime is falling the public fear that it is rising. Among the ideas floated to deal with this problem are devices to make punishment more visible such as putting those on community service orders into orange jumpsuits or sending round leaflets advertising their convictions.

There seems to be no real sense of the complexity of this issue. The report reads like so many documents I see flying round organisations, with chunks of data interspersed with questionable argument and the odd provocative anecdote.

Have they thought for a moment about this puzzling, apparently inverse, relationship between crime and the fear of crime? Have they considered the fact that more obvious punishment may well only make the perception that there’s a lot of crime increase?

I fear we’re also seeing pandering here to the questionable notion that shame is going to be an effective way to deter crime. Have the authors of this report thought about how ASBO’s have become badges of achievement for some groups?

The document seems full of confident sounding proposals but very little curiosity or respect for uncertainty. What a pity they can’t propose some small scale experiments to see what impact some of their ideas have.

This strikes me as a classic case of what Jeff Conklin calls “solving” a wicked problem.

You simply construct a problem definition that obscures the wicked nature of the problem and then apply linear methods to solving it.

But if the government want a confident sounding proposal (and I fear this is really all they’re after) then I propose locking the author of this report in a room with Dave Snowden for a day. She might learn something. Jumpsuit optional.

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