This week I spent time with new friends at the Designing Out Crime (DOC) center at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia (UTS).
Criminology can be plodding and stagnant. This is no doubt surprising to outsiders like journalists who turn to criminologists for answers to the latest crime spree. Too often outsiders are fed stale abstractions with no real-life angle. Not so for the DOC centre in Sydney. In fact, even the architecture in and around the UTS campus, as the photos here show, reflected cutting edge thinking.
The sad fact is much academic criminology is very far from the cutting edge. Conference themes regurgitate the same tired issues. Researchers complain about a lack of evidence-based this or that (and funding that supports them).
On the flip side I have written about DOCs in London and Sydney. They breathe new life into an old story. Consider Laneway Chic in Sydney and Magic Carpets in the UK. This was the first time I got up close and personal visiting the Sydney HQ at UTS, meeting the DOC team and hearing their stories.
What fun! What a relief.
Design Out Crime theory has been around for awhile as an offshoot of CPTED, tinkering with security and target hardening. The DOCs, at least those I'm familiar with in London and Sydney, take a quantum leap forward. They innovate with a collaborative, action-based method. Their website describes how they "evolved towards transdisciplinary crime research…to improve the quality of life for law-abiding users of public spaces (and) adopting a broad approach to crime prevention."
I love this transdisciplinary approach. I first wrote about it in 1991 in my work on the Toronto Subway Security Audit. More complicated than consulting or advising, it is action research incarnate.
The transdisciplinary, action research method, along with DOC's real-life, community-partnering angle, is an important crime prevention breakthrough. Finally...some fresh air!