Predicting Crime: The review of Research
- 5.1 Factors Driving Future Crime Trends
- 5.2 The Future Scope and Nature of Crime
- 5.3 Future Offenders and Victims
This section summarizes and examines the literature and organizations that have developed predictions of crime for the initial years of the 21st Century. Also, particular emphasis has been placed on how the scope and nature of crime will change: Crime is expected to change in both quantitative and qualitative terms. While this summary analyses how future crime rates may differ from those in the past, much of it focuses on how the nature or complexion of crime is expected to change in the future.
This section begins by summarizing the key factors that research indicates will influence the scope and nature of crime in the future in particular demographic, macro-economic, and technological factors. A synopsis of research that has made specific predictions on future crime rates is then presented. This is followed by a review of predictions concerning the nature of crime, with a particular focus on future trends and anticipated developments that will distinguish crime in the 21st Century. This review identifies products and services that will be targeted by offenders in the future, specific types of emerging crimes that are expected to increase, the extent to which crime in the future will impact society, and a profile of victims and offenders of the future.
There are a number of factors that influence the scope of crime, although there is no definitive explanation as to why the crime rate has fallen in the last few years or why it began to dramatically increase in the 1960s. Regardless, the two most significant variables that have influenced crime ratesin the past and are expected to be highly influential on future rates are macro-economic factors (e.g., strength of the economy, unemployment rates, consumer spending levels) and demographic factors, (in particular the number of males in the crime-prone age group. The one factor that may have had the most significant impact on crime rates in recent years is technology. It will, in all probability, continue to greatly influence the nature of crime.
Demographic variables have been cited as the strongest determinants of crime rates and hence have been central to predictions about the future of crime (Fox, 1978; Bennett, 1987; Pyle and Deadman, 1994; Britt, 1995; Field, 1998; Dhiri, Brand, Harries, & Price, 1999; Deadman, 2000; Foresight Directorate, 2000b). In particular, the demographic variable that appears to most influence crime is the size of the male population within the crime-prone years of 15 to 25. As such, it has been argued that the age structure of a society has the most influential effect on the level of crime in a society. In those societies with large proportions of young males, there tends to be a higher crime rate. Conversely, in societies with an aging population, the crime rate tends to be lower. The aging population of the 1990s has meant that there is proportionately fewer people in this crime-prone age group-which may explain the startling drop in crime throughout much of this decade-compared to the late 1960s through to the early 1980s when a large portion of the male population was in that age bracket. Time series models that explore the relationship between the size of the crime-prone age population and crime rates generally indicate that both the property and violent crime rates are greatly influenced by whether the number of young men in a society is rising or falling (Fox; Pyle & Deadman; Field; Dhiri et al., Snyder & Sickmund, 1999; Deadman).
The idea that crime may be related to macro-economic factors has been explored, especially in research from the United Kingdom. A number of studies suggest that crime rates, and property crime rates in particular, are closely tied to the strength of the economy, although the direction of this relationship is the subject of much debate. One argument is that during economic recessions, property crime tends to grow rapidly, whereas during more economically favourable periods, it is apt to fall. It is hypothesized that during economically robust times, more people are employed and/or earn better wages, and as such, are less likely to be attracted to crime. In contrast, economic recessions result in greater unemployment and poverty, which, in turn, drives more people toward criminal behaviour. The antithetical argument is that booming economies produce increased wealth, which, in turn, bolsters conspicuous spending on consumer commodities. The increase in the number of commodities in society increases opportunities for theft, thereby pushing up property crime rates.
Field (1990; 1998) concludes that macro-economic factors correlate most strongly with crime trends. In particular, he argues that the escalation of the property crime rate in the United Kingdom is closely tied to economic growth, and more specifically to consumer spending. When the economy is strong and consumption of consumer goods and services is growing, property crime growth tends to slow down or reverse. The opposite is true during periods of economic recession. Following an analysis of data on crime and macro-economic cycles in England and Wales between 1946 and 1991, Pyle and Deadman (1994) found that the number of recorded burglaries, robberies, and thefts rose which coincided with the ever-expanding economy and the rise in consumer spending.
The historical correlation between the economy and crime rates may also help to explain why the crime rate began to significantly increase during the 1960s and 1970s. This explanation hinges on how the increased wealth of developed countries was spent and the implications that these changing spending patterns had on opportunities for crime. Field (1990) hypothesizes that prior to and immediately following the Second World War, increases in national income were heavily invested in improvements in the basic necessities of life, such as food and housing, heating, lighting, public transport, and social welfare programs. Increased expenditure in these areas did little to affect the opportunities for crime. It was during the 1950s that the accumulating wealth was increasingly devoted to more consumer commodities vulnerable to theft, such as cars and electronic goods.
While demographic and macro-economic factors are central to forecasting the future scope of crime, another variable that is seen to greatly influence both the nature and scope of current and future crime is technology. The influence of technology on the future of crime can be demarcated into three broad categories:
- advances in technology will continue to provide criminals with the tools to facilitate the commission of traditional crimes (e.g., fraud, theft, money laundering, and counterfeiting),
- technology itself will be the target of criminal offences (e.g., theft of telecommunications services and the spread of viruses), and
- new technology will be used to prevent or deter criminal attack (Association of British Insurers, 2000).
One of the principal reasons for the increase in counterfeiting in recent years is the advance made in such technologies as personal computers, scanners, colour laser printing, photocopiers and desktop publishing software. The commercial availability as well as the decreasing costs of these technologies have increased their accessibility, which in turn has provided a greater number of people-amateurs and professionals alike-with the opportunity to commit a number of fraud-related crimes, which were once the domain of highly skilled forgers or counterfeiters who required specialized equipment and expertise (Schneider & Cotter, 2000).
The domination of and changes brought about by Information Communications Technology (ICT) will have profound effects on crime in the future, particularly the potential for its increased speed and scale. Crimes such as electronic theft and fraud will occur more quickly, reducing the likelihood of offenders being caught in the act. As the automation of financial transactions increases, so will the opportunities for online theft and fraud (Cole, 1995). According to the Foresight Directorate, which was launched in 1994 as part of the British Department of Trade and Industry, the Internet will facilitate the ability of offenders to take advantage of their relative anonymity to strike quickly and without trace against targets at both a national and international level. Indeed, ICT will allow people to group together more easily, overcoming geographical limitations. The Internet in particular will ensure that information about how to compromise the data systems of companies and government agencies will be available more quickly and to more people. ICT also facilitates the sophisticated use of cryptography and stenography to conceal illegal transactions. Developments in miniaturization and nanotechnology will mean even smaller, more portable products that will be easier to steal and conceal by offenders (Foresight Directorate, 2000b).
In short, technological innovation, particularly in the convergence of computers, communications, and information, will be an increasingly important facilitator of criminal activity. New technology will allow individuals and small groups to commit crimes previously beyond their means, while minimizing the risks inherent in offending. It will provide easier access to systems, premises, goods, and information; remove geographical obstacles to crime; heighten the scale of potential rewards; and increase anonymity and enhance the ability of offenders to avoid detection. The problem is compounded by the fact that new technology is introduced without consideration of the crime consequences. (Association of British Insurers, 2000; Foresight Directorate, 2000b).
The advances in telecommunications along with other factors, such as increased international trade, travel, and immigration, have resulted in the growing irrelevance of national borders, at least as far as crime is concerned (Foresight Directorate, 2000b).
As indicated above, the Internet has been a boon particularly for transnational crime, allowing offenders from different countries to group together more easily by overcoming geographical limitations. More offences can be committed without the perpetrator ever having entered the jurisdiction where the crime has occurred.
Ever expanding volumes of trade will heighten the opportunities for, and decrease the risks involved in, organized illicit smuggling (Foresight Directorate, 2000b). Indeed, according to Wardlaw (1999), when looking at the key forces driving change and influencing the criminal environment, one must place considerable emphasis on the globalization of markets and commerce, which has opened up opportunities to sophisticated criminals and transnational crime groups.
Significant increases in international migration, as well as the ongoing ability and desire for domestic and international mobility of individuals, families, and larger groupings of people, will continue to fuel crimes related to illegal immigration, in particular migrant smuggling.
Transnational crime groups also take advantage of the inherently local and national nature of law enforcement.
Although there is a vociferous debate over the ability of law enforcement and the criminal justice system to influence crime rates, some have argued that such factors as criminal justice expenditures, the use of technology by law enforcement agencies, more effective policing and correctional facilities, and a greater role of the public and private sector in crime prevention, will impact crime (Muraskin & Roberts, 1996; Scott, 1996; Gordon, 1999). Therefore, predictions about the future scope and nature of crime should take into consideration the governmental and societal responses.
According to Muraskin and Roberts (1996), technological developments offer much promise for the future of law enforcement in combating crime. Some of the most promising technological advances include biosensors, lasers, and thermal neutron analysis, which facilitate the search for missing persons or toxic wastes, drugs, and explosives; bionic eyes and eardrums which aid in police surveillance; digital technology in automated fingerprinting; and the use of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) for use in cases of personal identification.
One of the greatest challenges for governments and police in the future will be dealing with the internationalization of crime. Some have speculated that law enforcement agencies will not be able to keep up with the speed and globalization of criminal innovation. Unlike businesses and criminal organizations, it is difficult for local and national law enforcement bodies to have strong presences outside their jurisdictions (Foresight Directorate, 2000). However, Gordon (1999) optimistically predicts that one of the most profound changes in international law enforcement will be the tendency for jurisdictions to become interlinked in response to transnational crime. For Gordon, change is likely to take place on at least four fronts:
- the erosion of individual police jurisdictions by the increased use of international conventions, which will in turn be reflected in domestic law;
- the increased salience of regional and international policing organisations such as Interpol, Europol, and Aseanapol;
- the forging of key bilateral and multilateral strategic alliances in affected jurisdictions; and
- the increasing criminal justice aid and assistance provided to developing countries as an extension of government policy.
Views about the future scope of crime in developed countries are noteworthy for their diversity. While one time series analysis predicts a rise in property crime in the U.K. in the immediate future (Dhiri et al., 1999), a similar model using the same data predicts a slight decline (Deadman, 2000). The anticipated ballooning of the crime-prone age population has some predicting a tidal wave of youth crime and violence in the United States (Youth Policy Institute, 1996), while others believe that past trends and future predictions of an escalating rate of youth violence are exaggerated (Zimring, 1998; Donohue, 1998).
There appears to be somewhat of a consensus among those brave enough to formulate specific predictions for the United Kingdom and the United States: from now until 2010, the overall crime rate is expected to equal the average crime rate over the past 10 to 15 years. This means that there will be a low to moderate annual increase in the overall crime rate beginning in the early years of the 21st Century in these two countries (Britt, 1995; Steffensmeier & Harer, 1999; Pyle & Deadman, 2000; LaFree, Bursik, Short, & Taylor, 2000). Based on current trends, there is little evidence to suggest that property or violent crime will increase dramatically over the next two decades. While the juvenile crime rate is expected to increase due to a swelling of the crime-prone age group, the anticipated size of this group is not so large as to have a significant impact on overall crime rates. This estimate certainly does not come close to the size of the baby boom population that sparked the rapid increase in crime in the 1960s and 1970s. What seems to be the safest prediction, according to LaFree et al. (p. 20), is that the declining crime rate of the 1990s is unlikely to continue to the point where it will return to the low level witnessed in the 1950s and early 1960s.
For many countries, the property crime rate (break and enter, theft of vehicle, theft from vehicle, and some personal crime) serves as a barometer for the scope of crime in general. Crime rates in North America and the U.K. suggest that the property crime began to escalate in the 1960s, peaked during the late 1970s, levelled out in the 1980s, and then declined beginning in the early 1990s. Some analysts predict the property crime rate will increase in the future. The Foresight Directorate suggests that the proliferation of expensive technology in homes may result in increased targeting of domestic premises by burglars (Foresight Directorate, 2000b; Association of British Insurers, 2000). Time series analyses that correlate historical property crime trends with demographic and economic forecasts indicate an upward pressure on property crime in the future as a result of current increases in consumption expenditures and some increases in the number of young males (Field, 1998; Dhiri et al., 1999). In contrast, Deadman (2000), using the same forecast values for the consumer consumption, and unemployment variables as Dhiri et al., predicts a slight decline in residential burglaries in the first few years of the 21st Century in the United Kingdom. Based on his analysis of past trends of the American property crime rate, Britt (1995) argues that the level of property crime in 2010 will be approximately the same as that during the late 1980s, which translates into a low to moderate increase in relation to the current rate.
As noted by the Foresight Directorate (2000b), crime in the future is likely to occur on two levels:
- the continuation of traditional, age-old “physical crime”; and
- the new form of electronic crime.
The types of household property that will increasingly be targeted by physical crimes are high-value, high-tech electronic and computer products. In the future, traditional physical crime will be equalled, and perhaps surpassed, in scope and social impact by the theft from consumers and businesses of intangible property, in particular electronic services, knowledge, and even identities. These types of thefts will increasingly be committed via computer-based telecommunications vehicles, such as the Internet. It is the theft of intangible products and services, through traditional physical means, and more significantly, by way of computer-aided vehicles, that represents the most dramatic change in the complexion of property crime of the future.
As indicated in the previous section, the factor that will most influence the complexion of crime in the future is technology. Traditional crimes, such as theft, counterfeiting, child pornography and fraud will continue, albeit with new electronic targets and facilitated by advanced technological tools. Electronic targets include both physical consumer products, such as digital entertainment systems or portable computers, and intangible electronic services and property, such as the electronic transfer of information (e.g., credit card numbers, personal financial data), programming codes, cellular phone services, satellite signals, copyright information, or personal identification information. ICT will facilitate such electronic crimes as credit card fraud, network hacking, distribution of digital child pornographic images, and money laundering. High technology tools will also be used to further traditional physical crime. Two examples are laser cutters, which can be used to penetrate physical barriers, and video and audio devices that can gather counterintelligence on law enforcement operations (Reno, 1998).
Future 'Hot Products' Targeted by Physical Crime
While crime will increasingly target intangible services and property, there will no doubt be a persistence of traditional physical property crime that targets tangible goods. Ongoing developments in electronics, materials, chemicals, and communication technology will continue to produce high-tech, high-value, portable products desired by consumers and criminals alike. The trend toward increased miniaturization-the ability to integrate a number of different functions in one product without a significant gain in size or weight-of electronic consumer goods and the development of lightweight casings will potentially contribute to an increase in property theft. Another result of miniaturization will be thieves' heightened attraction to consumer electronics. In short, some have predicted that property crime may increase due to the opportunities presented by the greater availability of small, high-value electronic products in households and businesses. Such products will be highly vulnerable to theft due to their value and the relative ease with which they can be stolen, transported, and fenced (Foresight Directorate, 2000b; Association of British Insurers, 2000).
An important predictor of the types of products and services that will be targeted for theft is the extent to which a product is desired. Products attractive to both consumers and criminals are sometimes called hot products. The U.K. Home Office has identified 15 characteristics of goods that will make them highly vulnerable to theft. These are summarized in the acronym CRAVED (defining products which are Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable, Enjoyable, and Disposable) (Foresight Directorate, 2000a). Based on this threat assessment, some examples of hot products that may be targeted by offenders in the future include portable digital virtual disk (DVD) players, the wearable personal computer, automobile digital stereo systems, lap top computers, and handheld personal computers.
Future 'Hot Services' Targeted by Physical Crime
Information and entertainment is increasingly delivered as a service, usually in the form of an electronic signal (i.e., cellular, digital, and satellite signals). Television sets, cellular phones, and computers are all vehicles through which an electronic service is delivered. As such, the hardware is increasingly nothing more than the access point to highly desired services. New forms of crime will increasingly exploit this new electronic world. The electronic signals used to access such desirable entertainment and information services as digital television, the Internet, or cellular telephone services, will become targets in themselves, while the physical hardware, such as television sets, computers, or cellular phones, will be stolen to facilitate access to these services ( Foresight Directorate, 2000b).
The Foresight Directorate (2000b, 8) sought to replicate CRAVED for electronic services under the acronym EVADED. This identifies a hot service as one that is:
These hot services are not limited to current signal-based entertainment. The uploading and downloading of digital material from the Internet (e.g., music, movies, and games) will also be an area of immense growth.
Computers, especially when used as information communication devices, will increasingly be central to a vast array of electronic crimes. As previously mentioned, the Internet in particular will be a popular vehicle through which traditional and new forms of computer-based crimes will be perpetrated. The scope and impact of Internet-based crimes are likely to continue to grow in the future.
The Internet will provide computer-literate offenders with new opportunities to commit crimes directly related to networked systems. E -mail abuse, viruses, and hacking are expected to grow in prominence in the future (Daniels, 1995). Companies are likely to face Internet attack from both within (viz., by employees) as well as externally (e.g., by “hackers for hire”). Ever-increasing volumes of valuable and sensitive information will be stored electronically by the commercial, government and domestic sectors en masse in data warehouses. These facilities will be vulnerable to electronic vandalism, and theft and the potential for loss of or damage to such data can be immense ( Association of British Insurers, 2000; Foresight Directorate, 2000b).
While offenders find new areas of value to pursue in the electric, digital, and computerized world, many old forms of crime will be translated to the electronic world and increasingly conducted through new electronic mediums. The Internet will enable criminals to perpetrate traditional crimes such as fraud, theft, embezzlement, gambling, drug trafficking, and pornography on a much wider scale (Reno, 1998). The Internet will not invent new forms of frauds; however,
"electronic variations of traditional frauds will be carried out with greater efficiency and effectiveness, will have potentially greater impact and will be more difficult to investigate" (Wardlaw, 1999, 8). The Internet will help to feed the growth of fraud and theft, especially in relation to credit and debit cards, telemarketing, multi-level marketing, on-line auctions, personal identity, intellectual property, and stock markets.
According to Moore (1994), criminal organizations are becoming more knowledgeable and sophisticated in their use of new technologies, and in the future, will be heavily involved in computer-related crimes, especially in crimes against financial institutions. For Johnstone and Haines (1999), extensive use of the Internet as a means of commerce, and more specifically, of electronic payment, will increase its attractiveness for exploitation by offenders.
Telemarketing fraud and stock market manipulation through the Internet are also expected to increase. There is a growing fear that well-organized criminals will launder their ill-gotten gains through e-commerce transactions, sending electronic cash to cyber-accounts located all over the world. With vast wealth at their disposal, criminal organizations can buy almost any kind of technological resource or expertise. The Hell's Angels, for example, are known to have their own Internet service provider; this is an effective way to block attempts to monitor their activity on the Internet (Schneider, 2000).
Knowledge and Information Crimes
Information and knowledge are viewed as the key to future economies . In the knowledge-based economy, it is the conception of new designs, patents, and intellectual property that has an extremely high value. In short, information increasingly has financial value in its own right.
The theft of information and intellectual property will increase as the importance of the knowledge-based economy grows. Intellectual property offences-including copyright infringement, product counterfeiting, and breach of confidence-are already one of the fastest growing categories of crime and a matter of international concern. There is much speculation that economic espionage between companies will continue to increase as international competitiveness in the knowledge arena intensifies.
Copyright fraud is expected to greatly increase in the future. In particular, the illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted materials from the Internet, such as music, movies, and games, etc.) will be an area of immense growth (Association of British Insurers, 2000). This is accompanied by more traditional forms of piracy, such as the illegal copying of software, videos, and computer games. Traditional and Internet-based forms of product piracy are problematic because both are so widespread, hard to detect, and difficult to police. (Association of British Insurers, 2000, 22)
One of the most personally intrusive of crimes that has emerged in recent years is where an offender pieces together the private information of individuals to impersonate them for fraudulent purposes (Smith, 1999). While identify fraud is a serious crime in itself, it is significant because of the role it plays in facilitating other types of crimes, such as cheque or credit card fraud, bank loan fraud, fraudulent purchase agreements, government assistance fraud, and illegal immigration. It has been estimated that 95 percent of financial crimes in the United States involve stolen identities; while financial losses related to such crimes nearly doubled in the two years preceding 1998 (Kyl, 1998). As such, an individual's identity, in whatever form it takes, will have greater value and hence be highly attractive for theft in the future, especially as its centrality to other crimes increases and as public information on individuals becomes more sought after by criminals. The large amount of information that companies now maintain on consumers, combined with increased access to such information through commercial services or the Internet, will contribute to an increase in identity-related crimes in the future.
Increased Organization of Crime
As crime becomes more sophisticated, international, and technological, it will also become more organized (i.e., committed through ongoing conspiracies involving two or more people). In recent years, there has been an increase in the organization of traditionally “unorganized” predatory crimes, including the entry of Asian, Italian, and Eastern European crime groups, into auto theft, burglaries, home invasions, and fraud, to name just a few. According to Moore (1994), theft will be much more highly organized, sophisticated, and specialized in the future.
In addition, many of the crimes that will be highly profitable in the future, such as illegal waste disposal, trafficking in arms and nuclear materials, migrant smuggling, and trafficking in humans, will demand some form of organization (Moore, 1994). Certain economic crimes, such as telemarketing fraud, counterfeiting, and credit card fraud, are already highly organized. Corporate crime, which historically has been committed by employees acting alone, will increasingly be perpetrated by groups external to companies. This includes both traditional crime groups, which are organized around common ethnic or cultural ties, and the emerging non-traditional economic crime groups or networks, which have, as their sole common bond, the profit motive.
As with crime in general, technology is a critical factor in the proliferation, globalization, and reach of criminal organizations, and will play a defining role in the nature and scope of organized crime in the forthcoming years. Future technological crimes (e.g., hacking, viruses, theft of electronic services), which were traditionally committed largely by individuals (e.g., teenagers hacking into external networks through a computer modem in their bedroom), may be replaced with groups or loose networks of like-minded individuals. Information and communication systems will be subject to sophisticated and well-organized hackers. Criminal organizations will be tied into larger networks that will use technology and communications to operate more efficiently and with greater impunity (Moore, 1994). Organized crime groups will continue to explore the possibilities of new technology and will reach out to individuals with specific technological skills (Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, 2000).
Growing Transnational Nature of Crime
The future of crime will increasingly be one without boundaries. The role that telecommunications technology, and the Internet in particular, will play in globalization, will ensure that crimes become more transnational in scope (Foresight Directorate, 2000b). S ophisticated criminals have capitalized on the global integration of commerce and communications, while taking advantage of the limitations of local and national regulatory and enforcement regimes (Wardlaw, 1999; Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, 2000 ). Information communications technology will allow people from different countries to group together more easily, overcoming geographical limitations. Through the use of technology such as the Internet, offenders can be located in one country while the victims reside in countries scattered all over the globe.
This section is concerned with the characteristics of future offenders and victims of crime and how these characteristics may diverge from the past.
What is constant among most crime predictions is the assumption that the largest offending demographic group will continue to be young males between 15 and 25 years of age. The young offenders of the future can be divided into two groups:
- those who rely on traditional property crimes, and
- those that commit more advanced electronic and computer-based crimes.
The first group will not be very different from traditional young offenders. They will largely be of lower socio-economic status, the product of dysfunctional environments, with learning disabilities and a history of crime and delinquency. This group will largely be responsible for rudimentary property crimes, such as break and enter, theft from autos, and theft of autos. According to Cole (1995: 13), advancing technology and the new knowledge-based economy may result in a disproportionate impact on less skilled, lower socio-economic groups. Certain groups may be excluded from new technology for financial or geographic reasons. This may create black markets for stolen goods or feelings of social exclusion, both resulting in an increase in crime among disenfranchised populations (Association of British Insurers, 2000).
The second category of young offenders will be dominated by educated, middle-class youth, who are technologically-astute and use their knowledge of computers and networked systems to steal electronic signals, counterfeit digital products, or hack into networks for vandalism or profit. In future years, analysts predict that the average individual will know more and more how to use technology, but understand less and less about how it works. As such, society may one day be at the mercy of a small, technologically-knowledgeable elite of computer experts who fall within the crime-prone years. With greater access to information, including sensitive information, low level agents may be capable of creating crime and havoc of a severity previously limited to organized or career criminals (Foresight Directorate, 2000b).
Another concern-although there is little evidence of this as yet-might be the effects of social exclusion leading to more crime committed by members of the aging population. As people live longer, and possibly retire earlier, the perception that this group lacks a constructive role in society might develop. As with any other socially excluded group, this might lead to crime. In such a case, the motivation might also be supported by extensive knowledge of financial and commercial institutions and markets. With time on their hands, there is no reason why offenders might not come from the aging population (Foresight Directorate, 2000a, 5). As Bennett (1987) predicts, traditional criminals (i.e., young, male, poor, and uneducated) will be increasingly displaced by older, more upscale offenders. Indeed, sophisticated types of fraud, which have been on the rise in recent years, are generally committed by older offenders.
The future may also hold a greater degree of offending by legitimate and illegitimate “companies.” The Internet has given rise to the virtual firm, which facilitates the ability of unscrupulous offenders in committing such widespread crimes as Internet auction fraud. (Association of British Insurers, 2000: v) Indeed, according to Daniels (1995), bogus goods or services are more likely to be sold over the Internet through individuals or organizations posing as legitimate companies. Customers may find they have ordered goods from a company that does not exist, gained a qualification from an unrecognized distance learning college, or received a service from a professional with a bogus qualification (Association of British Insurers, 2000, 17). The anonymity of the Internet creates new opportunities for companies to conduct fraud because those perpetrators will be harder to trace, being hidden behind the veil of an electronic organization (Daniels, 1995, 11).
Traditional organized crime groups will continue to claim their fair share of victims through traditional predatory crimes such as extortion, as well as via more sophisticated and profitable economic crimes, including fraud, counterfeiting, and product piracy. The future may also witness the proliferation of non-traditional criminal organizations and networks, whose members are not affiliated by ethnic or cultural ties, but by interest in specific types of economic or financial crime, such as credit card fraud, deceitful telemarketing, or securities fraud (Schneider, 2000).
As for the future victims of crime, households, businesses, and governments will continue to be targeted by a wide range of organized and unorganized physical, electronic, and intellectual crime. The general public will also be victimized by property crime, especially as the consumption of high-value, consumer electronic products grows.
Demographic trends point to a significant rise in the aging population over the next 20 years, which will produce a senior citizen population that may be at greater risk to criminal attack (Froom, 1996). While the victimization rate of the elderly is low relative to their population size, the sizeable and vocal baby boom population that is entering their advanced years will ensure that crime against the elderly will remain a central public policy issue (Walker, n.d.).
Businesses will continue to be the victims of traditional property crime, as well as internal theft and corporate fraud. In the future however, the greatest crime threats to businesses may come from attempts to steal or sabotage intangibles, in particular information and knowledge. As global competition intensifies in the knowledge era, businesses may increasingly target intellectual property of rivals through industrial espionage to maintain a competitive edge. This industrial espionage will take place primarily between competing companies, but may also involve individuals, organizations, and companies that are hired explicitly to conduct these covert operations. Other types of knowledge crimes, including copyright infringement, counterfeiting and product piracy, are also anticipated to grow and consequently impose a considerable cost to manufacturers, especially in the computer software and entertainment industries.
While, there is little reason to believe that the crime rate will increase dramatically in the first decade of the 21st Century, given the anticipated increases in the globalization, sophistication, and organization of crime, one may conclude that the impact of crime on Western societies may be more severe than the one witnessed under a similar rate of crime in the past.
It is perhaps the growing role of technology in criminal activities that will be most responsible for this increased impact. For it is technology, in particular telecommunications technology, that will provide offenders with greater access to valuable information and services at both the household and commercial levels. Telecommunications technologies will also further the reach of offenders, in geographical terms; the number of potential victims; the amount of assets that can be stolen; or the degree of damage inflicted.
Technology such as the Internet has allowed traditional fraud schemes to be directed towards thousands of people, in comparison to the dozens or hundreds that could realistically be reached through traditional mediums, such as the telephone or postal service. The advent of desktop publishing, colour printers, and photocopiers means that currency counterfeiting is no longer the exclusive domain of lithograph experts with expensive offset printers. As such, a greater number of amateurs can produce larger numbers of bogus bills. The widespread availability of compact disc writers greatly facilitates the illegal copying of software, music, and other forms of digital entertainment. The ability of hackers or viruses to penetrate the internal networks of companies can potentially result in the type and scope of damage that would have been impossible before the rise of the Internet.
The increased organization of crime may also intensify the impact of crime on society. The organization of traditionally unorganized crimes, such as fraud or auto theft, means that greater numbers of victims can be targeted for more assets. Illegal immigration has dramatically changed in recent years through well-organized migrant smuggling operations. The smuggling of migrants by organized crime groups will result in a larger number of individuals illegally entering Western countries, which will negatively impact on the recipient societies as well as the migrants themselves, who are forced to work as indentured labourers or prostitutes to pay off their transport fees.
The combination of technology, the integration of international markets, and the increased organization of crime mean that economic and financial crimes can be committed on a much larger scale than in the past. The result is that there may be a greater negative impact on the financial markets and on some countries' entire economies. This can lead to the destabilization of global commerce, financial markets, and investor confidence. The growing power of transnational crime groups may also pose threats to the national security of some developing and transitional countries (Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 1998; United States Department of State, 2000; MI5, www.mi5.gov.uk/).
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