Objective safety relates to various forms of property crimes and violent crimes with
which residents may be confronted in their daily living environment. These are:
- high impact crimes: home break-ins, robbery (homes and businesses), and mugging;
- violent crimes: threatening behaviour, assault, and street violence;
- property crimes: basement storeroom break-in, pickpocketing, theft from or parts or
accessories of vehicles, theft of vehicles, theft of bicycles, mopeds.
Records of crimes falling under this theme are affected by what is referred to as
the ‘dark number’: the numbers are dependent on the extent to which members of public
actually report the crimes. Their readiness depends on the degree to which the victims
feel that it is worthwhile to report the crime (for insurance purposes of for prosecution).
Both the quantitative and qualitative depictions reveal that the aforementioned forms
of crime exhibit a downward trend. It would appear that this decline is not limited
to Maastricht, as this also appears to be a national development.
Consequently, it can be concluded that frequently occurring crime is declining. The
reason for this decline are a subject of discussion amongst scientists and policy-makers.
The trends in drug use and drug trafficking, increasing prosperity and increased investments
in the prevention of break-ins and theft would appear to tie in with the developments
in criminality and for this reason are the most frequent explanations used to account
for this decline. It is also possible that crime is going online (cybercrime). However,
the situation is unclear and further studies are required.
The decline in crime that is indicated by the figures is often claimed to be due to
the public’s decreasing willingness to report crime. This claim is supported by the
indications that as prosperity increases members of the public become less inclined
to report break-ins or vandalism resulting in minor financial loss (Bernasco & Van
de Weijer, 2016).
The willingness to report crimes is also influenced by the public’s perception of
the preparedness of the police to take effective action (Goudriaan, Nieuwbeerta &
Wittebrood, 2005). Members of the public who witness a crime may be less inclined
to report it when they feel less of a bond with their neighbours (Goudriaan, 2006;
Bernasco & Van de Weijer, 2016). However, the decline in the willingness to report
crime identified in the period between 2005 and 2015 is less than the total decline
in reported crime. Consequently, the decline in recorded crime cannot be fully explained
by the lower willingness to report crime. In addition, the findings of the Safety
Monitor reveal that the developments in the numbers of victims of crimes are also
indicative of a decline in crime.
No conclusive explanation for the decline in the number of victims of the aforementioned
forms of traditional crime is currently available. The most probable explanation lies
in the emergence of situational crime prevention (SCP). SCP focuses on making crime
more difficult by taking preventive measures in the area of hot spots and/or during
hot times and by promoting the awareness of members of public to avoid them becoming
victims of crime by eliminating opportunities for crime. SCP is derived from situational
which endeavours to explain how the immediate surroundings — the situation – can have
an influence on criminality. The objective is not to increase the chance of catching
criminals and rehabilitating criminals, but rather to modify the immediate surroundings
that facilitate and result in criminality by taking the necessary preventive situational
measures. Situational crime prevention measures need to take continual account of
the situational determinants (opportunity, motive and target). This approach requires
an understanding of how criminality occurs and of the offender’s motive (balancing
the cost — the chance of being caught — against the benefit — the financial gain).
Jong, J. de (2018), Het mysterie van de verdwenen criminaliteit, Den Haag: Centraal
Bureau voor de Statistiek
Clarke, R.V., Environmental criminology and crime analysis: Situational crime
prevention. In Wortley, R & Mazerolle, L. (Eds.), Environmental criminology and crime
analysis (p 178 - 194). Collumption: Willan Publishing.