Problem oriented policing and the Stockholm Prize in Criminology

The 2018 Stockholm Prize in Criminology, the 'Nobel Prize' for criminologists, was awarded to Professor Herman Goldstein. Crime Science published the edited versions of both the lecture given by Professor Goldstein and the 2018 Jerry Lee lecture, given by Professor Malcolm Sparrow. Both accounts fit neatly together to set an agenda for problem-oriented policing as a relevant and effective tool in modern crime prevention.

The Prize is widely considered to be the most prestigious award in the field of criminology. Recipients have been recognized for improving our knowledge on crime causes and effective prevention strategies.

Each year, academics, policy makers, practitioners and other stakeholders meet at a symposium in Sweden at which the Stockholm Prize in Criminology is awarded. The Prize is supported by the Swedish Ministry of Justice and is awarded to an individual or individuals who have had a global influence on our understanding of crime, crime prevention or human rights.

The Prize, first awarded in 2006, is widely considered to be the most prestigious award in the field of criminology – it is our Nobel Prize. Recipients are selected from nominees by an independent international jury and past recipients have been recognized for improving our knowledge on crime causes; supporting and effectively dealing with victims and offenders; improving our knowledge of effective prevention strategies and ensuring fairness in the administration of justice.

An original donor for the prize was U.S. philanthropist Jerry Lee and the Jerry Lee Foundation’s initial and continued support is recognized through the annual Jerry Lee lecture, also taking place at the Stockholm symposium, which is delivered by a world renowned academic or practitioner who can offer insights into the contributions made by the Prize winner.

The Stockholm Prize in Criminology will always be of relevance and interest to Crime Science journal readers and contributors. Crime science is at heart a practical discipline and a great feature of the Prize is the recognition that research on crime can make a significant and sustained difference to the safety and security of the public. Prevention is a core component of crime science and a quick scan of previous Prize winners indicates that much of their work is referred to in papers published in this journal. We have also previously published contributions from Prize winners, such as Professor Ron Clarke and Professor Pat Mayhew.

There is an anxiety, particularly in the UK, that the austerity policing era is at odds with approaches that call for detailed analysis or individual tailoring.

This year (2018) the Stockholm Prize in Criminology was awarded to Professor Herman Goldstein from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Professor Goldstein was recognized for his global influence on modern policing strategies.

This is an entirely appropriate accolade for an individual whose life’s work has focused on encouraging the police to consider the goals and outcomes that they need to achieve rather than falling into the deeply entrenched routine tasks that police organisations can often foster. By introducing the concept of problem oriented policing (POP), Professor Goldstein has encouraged deeper thinking about the way in which we can best address specific and often re-occurring crime and public safety problems.

At its root, POP states that in order to find the best strategy for combating crime and other community relevant problems, it is important to first understand the specific features of the presenting problem and then develop strategies that are tailored to the characteristics of the particular problem and context.

Photo by Daniel Tafjord on Unsplash

POP is widely advocated and implemented. The annual Goldstein award for excellence in POP demonstrates the many innovative and effective projects undertaken in the name of POP. There is an anxiety, particularly in the UK, that the austerity policing era is at odds with approaches that call for detailed analysis or individual tailoring. In fact, it can be argued that such ideas sit very well with evidenced-based policing approaches and in the longer term can save police time and effort as well as providing a better service to communities.

We are delighted to have the opportunity to publish edited versions of both the 2018 Stockholm Prize lecture given by Professor Goldstein and the 2018 Jerry Lee lecture, given by Professor Malcolm Sparrow. Professor Sparrow from Harvard Kennedy School has an extensive and wide-reaching background in the field of social regulation. This has led him to conclude that in order to make an impact on social problems it is often more productive to take a problem-centric rather than a program-centric view when designing interventions. This fits in very neatly with Prof Goldstein’s view, and indeed Professor Sparrow cites Goldstein’s work as being highly influential in his career. We believe that the two accounts fit neatly together to set an agenda for problem-oriented policing as a relevant and effective tool in modern crime prevention.

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