All in the family: l-r: Paul, Patricia and Jeffrey Brantingham use computational criminology to analyse urban crime and design neighbourhoods that are less attractive to criminals.
Defeating crime with urban design
April 7, 2011
SFU’s crime-fighting husband-and-wife team, Patricia and Paul Brantingham, got a resounding vote of confidence recently from B.C.’s law enforcement community with the renewal of their two RCMP-funded research chairs, in computational criminology and crime analysis.
The Brantinghams, who founded SFU’s Institute of Canadian Urban Research Studies (ICURS) in the early 1990s, are both criminologists and pioneers in analyzing crime patterns and making recommendations to governments on how to design neighbourhoods that are less attractive to criminals. They also research innovative ways of dealing with crime and the fear of crime.
The $4-million, five-year renewal of their chairs—the first ever supported by the RCMP—will fund their work and that of visiting faculty, post-doctoral scholars and research assistants at ICURS.
The interdisciplinary centre brings together people from a wide range of disciplines to study city issues. Its focus is urban crime and how factors such as city design, layout of road networks, rapid-transit stations and shopping-mall hours affect the location, frequency and severity of crime.
“One of the strengths of SFU is its cross-faculty, thematic approach,” says ICURS director Patricia Brantingham. “Criminology in particular has faculty from many areas.”
ICURS also partners with 14 universities internationally, from Perth, Australia to London, U.K.
The institute hosted a symposium in February to celebrate the continued funding and the agreements formalizing secure data-exchange efforts between the university, the RCMP’s “E” (B.C.) division and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
Among the guests was the Brantingham’s son Jeffrey Brantingham, an expert in East Asian paleo-archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, but also leader of the U.S. National Science Foundation-funded University of California Mathematical and Simulation Modeling of Crime program.
The younger Brantingham, who gave the symposium’s keynote speech on the role of university research in predictive policing, says he picked up his parent’s penchant for computational criminology “by osmosis.”