Design and Crime: Proofing Electronic Products and Services against Theft
ABSTRACT This paper introduces the work of Project Marc (an EU-funded project to develop mechanisms for assessing the risk of crime)
and discusses both difficulties encountered throughout the project and progress made since the project ended. The authors
introduce the papers contained within this special edition and summarise their relevance to crime-proofing. The paper discusses
progress made within this field in the decade prior to Project Marc and makes recommendations to ensure that the ideas move
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ABSTRACT: This paper is based upon a series of presentations given at Michigan State University as the 2006 Dae Chang International Visiting Scholar. It is not, therefore, a ‘normal’ journal article describing a particular study or review. Rather, it aims to make the case for a more systematic consideration of the role of science and technology in international crime control —not only in relation to our general understanding of crime, but also in developing techniques for its prevention and detection. In doing so, it draws, for illustration, upon a small international study funded by ADT Alarms as part of its thought leadership programme. The study provides one example of the kind of developments in international crime research of which, the paper argues, there is a need for more.International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice. 01/2009; 33(1):1-15.
University of Huddersfield Repository
Armitage, Rachel and Pease, Ken
Design and Crime: Proofing Electronic Products and Services against Theft
Armitage, Rachel and Pease, Ken (2007) Design and Crime: Proofing Electronic Products and
Services against Theft. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 14 (1). pp. 1-9. ISSN
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Crime Proofing Products and Services
Design and Crime: Proofing Electronic Products and Services against
Dr. Rachel Armitage and Professor Ken Pease
Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr. Rachel Armitage, Senior
Research Fellow, Applied Criminology Centre, University of Huddersfield,
Floor 14, Central Services Building, Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH.
Tel: 01484 473854. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This paper introduces the work of Project Marc (an EU funded project to
develop Mechanisms for Assessing the Risk of Crime) and discusses both
difficulties encountered throughout the project and progress made since the
project ended. The authors introduce the papers contained within this special
edition and summarise their relevance to crime proofing. The paper
discusses progress made within this field in the decade prior to Project Marc
and makes recommendations to ensure that the ideas move forward.
Crime proofing, electronic products and services, risk assessment, standards,
* Dr. Rachel Armitage is a Senior Research Fellow at the Applied Criminology
Centre, University of Huddersfield; Prof. Ken Pease is Visiting Professor at
This special edition of the European Journal of Criminal and Research seeks
to introduce the findings of a recent EU funded project to develop
Mechanisms for Assessing the Risk of Crime due to products in order to proof
them at an EU level (hereafter referred to as Project MARC). This is
supplemented by even more recent work informed by the approach adopted
by MARC (including the difficulties it encountered). It is hoped thereby to
provide a basis of information and theory to assist those working within the
field of designing out crime to advance on Project MARC and to benefit from
its hard-won results. A companion special issue of the Journal deals with the
complementary strand of MARC work, namely the attempt to crime-proof
The crime proofing strand of Project MARC sought to develop a mechanism
to assess the risk of theft of electronic products and to take steps to make that
mechanism operational. In practice this meant reviewing existing crime risk
assessment mechanisms, consulting with key stakeholders to establish
whether the idea of a crime risk assessment mechanism was worth pursuing
and if so, what form it should take. Steps were then taken to design a system
to operationalise the measurement of risk.
The concept of manipulating the environment as a means of reducing crime is
not new. The recognition that the environment can influence behaviour dates
back thousands of years, with the formal study of the geography or pattern of
socio-economic variables (and the social problems associated with these)
commencing largely with the University of Chicago School of Sociology in the
1920s and 1930s (Burgess, 1916, Park et al, 1925). Although the geography
of social problems such as unemployment, delinquency and deprivation had
been researched long before, specific reference to the potential to reduce
crime through the design or manipulation of the environment began in the
1960s and 70s with research conducted by authors such as Jacobs (1961),
Jeffery (1971) and Newman (1973). Recent research into the impact of
environmental design upon crime has further explored the ability of design to
influence crime levels (Brantingham and Brantingham, 1981, 1984, 1993,
2000; Poyner, 1983, 2005; Poyner and Webb, 1987), the effectiveness of
practical schemes introduced to implement the principles of designing out
crime, for example Secured by Design within the UK (Brown, 1999; Pascoe,
1999; Armitage, 2000) and the differential impact of the individual elements of
designing out crime (Brown and Altman, 1983; Newlands, 1983; Greenberg
and Rohe, 1984; Cromwell and Olson, 1991; Brown and Bentley, 1993; Bevis
and Nutter, 1997; Hillier and Chi-Feng Shu, 1998; Chi-Feng-Shu, 2000;
Armitage 2006, 2007).
Similarly, measurement of risk or hazard within criminology is not new.i As
Wiles et al (2003) highlight: “There are at least four criminal justice contexts in
which understanding and communicating risk is important” (p.1). The four
areas in which risk-assessment within criminology has traditionally focused
are: the chance of someone embarking on a criminal career (West and
Farrington, 1973; West, 1982; Farrington, 1978, 1986a, 1986b, 1991, 1992,
1995; Homel et al, 1999; Youth Justice Board, 2001; the risk of re-offending;
the likelihood of a particular offender being responsible for a particular
unsolved crime (offender profiling) and finally, the probability of crime
victimisation by location and person (Winchester and Jackson, 1982;
Coleman, 1986; Groff and LaVigne, 2001, Armitage, 2006, 2007).
The concept of assessing the risk of theft of products (as opposed to the
environment) and taking steps to design out that risk, although not entirely
new has taken much longer to transfer from research and innovation to
practical application, perhaps because of the great primacy of the private
sector in designing products. Clarke and Newman (2005) highlight the
effectiveness of situational crime reduction in product design, including the
use of toughened glasses in British pubs (Design Council, 2002). However,
disparity between progress made within other sectors (for example, the built
environment and vehicles) and that made within consumer electronic products
remains considerable and it is this gap, specifically the need to move research
into practice, which the products strand of Project MARC hoped to address.
This volume is designed to introduce the reader to the work conducted under
the crime proofing strand of Project MARC. Although this strand was led by
the Jill Dando Institute, it became clear throughout the two-year project that
key individuals not directly involved in the project (namely Professor Graham
Farrell and his colleagues at Loughborough University and Professor Paul
Ekblom and Dr. Lorraine Gamman at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and
Design) had a vital role to play in reviewing the project’s progress, but of as
much importance, in taking these ideas forward. In this volume, Farrell et al.
note progress and problems with a particular product – the mobile phone.
Building upon the work presented by Project MARC (as well as Cohen and
Felson, 1979 and Clarke, 1999), they present a set of characteristics that
promote anti-theft design. These form the acronym IN SAFE HANDS from the
characteristics: Identifiable, Neutral, Seen, Attached, Findable, Executable,
Hidden, Automatic, Necessary, Detectable and Secure. Not only is this
framework’s presentation more likely to appeal to designers than CRAVED or
VIVA, it also identifies characteristics which can reduce the theft of products
as opposed to those which promote the theft of products (as CRAVED and
VIVA do). Ekblom and Sidebottom describe and analyse some of the
limitations of Project MARC (in particular those relating to concepts and
terminology), discuss an approach to redesigning language, propose a ‘basic
grammar’ of risk and security and suggest improvements to product
assessment schemes. Examples of problems identified include confusion and
overlap in usage of the terms ‘risk’ and ‘vulnerability’. The latter being used as
a synonym for risk, as a source of risk and as the resultant of the balance
between risk and protection/security. Drawing upon Saraga’s concerns that
the MARC team failed to grasp the importance of the global market in the
design, supply and marketing or portable electronic goods, it is vital that the
language used in any future risk assessment mechanisms, design standards
or guidance is both clear and consistent. A structure for the proposed expert
group could (and should) readily be abstracted from the developments
outlined in these papers. Finally, Saraga helpfully berates the criminological
academy for its latent or overt hostility to manufacturers. One observation of
the authors is that despite protracted and intensive efforts to engage the
manufacturers of electronic goods in the MARC process, their wish to be
involved was minimal or absent. Saraga’s point that criminologists have to
learn how to present the business case for security is well taken.
As the first paper presented within this journal outlines in more detail, Project
MARC aimed to develop a mechanism to assess the risk of theft of electronic
products and to take steps to operationalise that mechanism. The project
presented both a mechanism for assessment of risk as well as a system to
put this in practice. The project authors conclude that the vulnerability
checklist designed as part of the project is fit for purpose, however, measuring
security through a standardised quantitative checklist risks imposing an
artificial ceiling upon the exercise of ingenuity and skill and understates the
degree to which security is specific to product type. In short, vulnerability is
effectively measurable, security is not. A parallel is the debate about
standards, where product security can be designed down to a standard and
hence more easily be by-passed. It is suggested that security should be
measured by an independent technical group which would deem security
features as good, adequate or insufficient with rated vulnerability, yielding a
three level rating. In terms of applying the mechanism in practice, the project
suggests two systems - the first an accreditation scheme and associated logo
(similar to the Secured by Design scheme) which would allow products
meeting the required standards to be marketed as a ‘Secure Product’, the
second a ‘signposting system’ (similar to that suggested by the UK Food
Standards Agency) which would provide consumers with instant information
relating to levels of vulnerability and security. A third suggestion not raised in
the project, is to explore the idea of implementing a system similar to carbon-
trading where a cap is imposed upon manufacturers in terms of their
permitted level of criminogenic design. Manufacturers exceeding their
allowances would be required to buy credit from criminocclusive
manufacturers. This system is an extension of the polluter-pays principle first
raised in crime reduction by Roman and Farrell (2002). Although this
suggestion (as well as others) should be explored further, care must be taken
to avoid alienating manufacturers. In the concluding paper, Saraga warns that
progress will not be made through name-calling and that the one perspective
particularly likely to alienate manufacturers is the application of the polluter
pays principle. Whilst Saraga’s view that that the direct link between design
and crime fails to acknowledge the role of the motivated offender, is not
accepted by the authors, his view that effective collaboration relies upon
mutual respect is entirely accepted. As the title to his paper suggests, there is
a need to create and maintain an open dialogue.
Whilst progress in other sectors, as well as the enthusiasm of key individuals
involved in the project, persuades authors of viability of enterprise, frustrations
and concerns remain. The first relates to the lack of interest shown by those
outside the criminology/law enforcement sector – particularly from those
within manufacturing. This was demonstrated by the low level of responses
from manufacturers within the research phase of Project MARC – responses
from manufacturers made up only 9% of the total (insurance representing
32%, consumer associations 27%, insurance 27% and European
Standardisation Organisations 5%), as well as the attendance at the
conference which concluded the two year project. The second area of
concern lies with the lack of cohesion within the field of crime proofing
products to date and the fear that whilst individuals are making their own
contribution, these efforts are disjointed with little or no central guidance or
First to the issue of the difficulties of engaging manufacturers. The two-day
crime proofing conference which represented the culmination of this two year
project was held in April 2006. The aims of the conference were to
disseminate the findings of this strand of Project MARC and to discuss the
feasibility of the ideas being proposed. The research team, aware of the
dangers of over-emphasising crime/security at the expense of designers and
manufacturers, took great care to ensure that a balance was struck. The
research team recruited the services of Central Saint Martin’s College of Art
and Design who not only designed the invites and associated merchandise,
but also volunteered (at no expense) the services and expertise of two
members of staff who devoted approximately one month to identifying and
contacting the appropriate individuals/organisations to invite. The conference
invites and merchandise were branded with an eye-catching, colourful design
and the conference was titled: iWant to design secure products. The aim was
to achieve a balance of those from a security/criminology background as well
as designers, manufacturers, retailers, insurers and those representing
consumer organisations. Care was also taken to ensure a balance between
attendees from the UK and other EU states. The conference was held in April
2006 in London, UK. The research team began identifying and contacting
individuals and organisations in December 2005 and the following four month
period was devoted to ensuring the appropriate people had been invited,
pitching the design and content at the correct level and reminding invitees of
the benefits of attendance. Approximately 200 named individuals were invited
to the conference. A review of the invites suggests that 49% were from the UK
and 51% were EU or international. 33% were manufacturers, 29%
criminologists (or from law enforcement backgrounds), 11% represented the
insurance sector, 9% consumers, 5% designers, 5% security and 4% policy.
Attendance at the conference was good, the balance between sectors was
not. Approximately 80% of those who attended were criminologists or those
representing law enforcement. The remaining attendees were policy makers,
consumer representatives and those from the insurance sector. Only two
attendees represented manufacturers (of the 41 invited). The geographical
balance was also disappointing. Although 60% of invitees were from outside
the UK, more than 90% of attendees were from UK based organisations.
Now to the second concern – that progress within this field has been
disjointed and has lacked leadership from a central organisation. In the final
paper within this journal, Saraga condemns the Home Office – the
Government Department primarily responsible for crime matters within the
Foresight programme, for failing to act upon recommendations which were
made. A review of the gains made since the Foresight programme would lead
the authors to agree. Much has been discussed, but little has made the
transition from research to policy or practice and the little which has been
done risks being wasted as individuals move on, funding ceases and
organisations (who may have shown early interest) become frustrated with the
duplication of effort.
The Foresight Crime Panel was one of three cross-cutting panels which the
Department of Trade and Industry established in the second phase of its work
in 1999. Recommendations made by the panel were included in the report
Turning the Corner (DTI, 2000). Some of the most relevant recommendations
to this subject include:
1) That a dedicated funding stream be established to focus science
and technology attention on crime reduction.
2) That a national e-crime strategy be established for all levels of
3) That thinking on crime reduction be incorporated into the
mainstream of central government and business decision-
making. Similarly, ongoing programmes to encourage horizon
scanning to identify and prepare for future threats should be
4) That a programme be developed to address crime at all stages
of a product’s life-cycle.
The ensuing seven years have seen some progress made towards achieving
these goals. In response to the first recommendation, the Engineering and
Physical Science Research Council launched its ‘Think Crime’ initiative
(November 2002), the aim being to encourage cross-cutting work encouraging
those from disciplines such as engineering and science to play a part in the
reduction and detection of crime. In relation to the second, some progress has
been made (McKinnon and Tallam, 2002; Newman and Clarke, 2002;
Newman and Clarke, 2003) and it is expected that the work currently being
conducted under the AGIS Programme – E-Services Crimes: Theft and Illegal
Use of Electronic Services (led by Professor Farrell at Loughborough
University) will make further progress towards this objective. The third
recommendation is crucial to the field of crime proofing products yet is still to
be addressed. As Pease (2005) highlights, one of the ways in which this
recommendation could be concretized include the application to central
government and business the obligation imposed upon local authorities,
police, fire services and primary care trusts to consider the crime implications
of every decision that they make in Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act
(1998). Regrettably, despite this recommendation, there remains a failure to
extend the provisions of Section 17 to central government and the private
sector. In reality this means that whilst legal actionii can be used as an
incentive to convince local authority planning departments that (for example)
housing in the area should be built to Secured by Design standards, which
render them less vulnerable to victimisation (Armitage, 2000)iii, those who
design, manufacture and retail desirable and expensive electronic goods have
no legal responsibility for the crime and disorder implications of their products.
Whilst legislation alone may not always be the answer, the omission of central
government and the private sector from the provisions of the Crime and
Disorder Act portrays the message that currently these sectors are not
charged as major suppliers of criminal opportunities. In terms of ‘horizon-
scanning’, the Home Office’s Police Science & Technology Strategy Group
has a ‘Future Scanning’ Sub-group chaired by the Home Office Scientific
Development Branch which assesses science technological innovations for
crime risk and crime reduction opportunity.
In relation to the fourth recommendation, that a programme be developed to
address crime at all stages of a product’s life-cycle, the goal is in sight, yet
remains frustratingly distant. The sub-elements of this recommendation
• An annual award for new products which have been designed with
crime reduction in mind.
• How to encourage a climate of demand for secure products amongst
• Identifying the roles for manufacturers, retailers and consumers in
developing secure products.
• A voluntary standards system within manufacturing which would show
that the criminogenic capacity of a product has been addressed.
Progress has been made with the first in the form of the Student Design
Awards of the Royal Society of Arts well as the Design Council’s Design
Challenge competition. The second has remained largely untouched;
however, findings from Project MARC strongly recommended that lessons are
learnt from the field of designing out crime within the built environment.
Research published in 2003 (Armitage and Everson, 2003) found that hose
considering the purchase of a new property rated ‘a secure environment’ as
more important than five other variables selected by estate agents for their
popularity. This research also highlighted that consumers are willing to pay for
extra security and do not expect developers to absorb these costs. This
research has allowed policy makers to challenge developers who suggest that
housing described or marketed as ‘secure’ would give consumers the
impression that the areas had a high crime rate. The argument by many
developers of electronic products that consumers do not want their products
to be safe as a stolen product will be replaced by a new upgraded product
must be challenged. Manufacturers need to be confronted with the facts – do
consumers want secure products? Are they willing to pay an additional
premium for security? Would a secure product give manufacturers a market
advantage? Do the benefits of a new upgraded replacement compensate for
the emotional and physical trauma of being a victim of theft? Without this
information, the assumptions made by manufacturers will remain
The third - identifying the roles for manufacturers, retailers and consumers in
developing secure products, although not specifically targeted is being
encouraged by the Design against Crime team at Central St Martins College
of Art and Design (University of the Arts London) and the Designing Out
Crime Association (DOCA) which was formed in 1999. Unfortunately, the
Home Office Designing out Crime Working Group which was attended by
agencies such as ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers), Intellect
(the trade association for UK high-tech industry), ABI (Association of British
Insurers), the Consumer Association and RETRA (radio, electrical and
television retailers’ association) disbanded in 2005 after just three meetings.
The final element – to develop a voluntary standards system within
manufacturing which would show that the criminogenic capacity of a product
has been addressed, formed large part of the crime proofing strand of Project
MARC. In aiming to achieve this goal, a desirable (if perhaps naive) sequence
of events would have been for the EU to commission Project MARC to
develop mechanisms for measuring the risk of theft and to discuss the
feasibility of making this system operational. Following the conclusion of
Project Marc, time would have been allowed for those working within the field
of designing out crime to offer their views, to critique the proposals and to
suggest improvements (as is being done within this journal). Regrettably, the
actual sequence of events was very different. Project MARC began in May
2004 and finished in April 2006. The period between its conclusion and the
publication of this journal has been used to review its findings, discuss
weaknesses and suggest improvements to the proposals. Although the EU
must be praised for trying to progress the development of crime proofing
standards, their haste may jeopardise quality. Three months after the
commencement of Project MARC, the European Union’s issued mandate
M/355 EN to European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs) CEN,
CENELEC and ETSI for the elaboration of European standards to identify and
reduce crime risk in products and services. The mandate was issued with the
request for a submission of a standardisation work programme by August
2005, eight months before Project MARC’s final report was submitted and
more than a year before the reviews/critiques of Project MARC’s findings
(presented within this journal) were published.
ESOs were specifically asked to provide a rationale for producing standards
for crime proofing products and services; to conduct a stock take of current or
developing standards on product and service proofing; to identify potential
European standards to enhance industry; to identify areas, features,
processes and interfaces where standards could support effective product
proofing and to identify stakeholders within the EU that could contribute to the
standardisation process. A CEN expert group was convened in January 2005
including members from ACPO, DTI (Department of Trade and Industry, UK),
NSAI (National Standards Institution, Eire), BSI (British Standards
Association), UCL (University College London), Home Office, Selectamark,
Fraunhofer Institut, British Telecom and ABI. CEN’s report which contained
seven recommendations, was submitted to the EU in September 2005.
Unfortunately by coincidence rather than co-ordination of responses, one of
the authors (who sat on the CEN expert group) was asked to comment on the
ETSI response to this mandate in January 2007 – 17 months after the EU
deadline and 16 months after the CEN response was submitted. Unfortunately
this lack of co-ordination results in duplication of effort, lack of consistency
and ultimately a delay in standards being produced.
It is hoped that this journal will stimulate interest within this subject as well as
helping to maintain momentum. It is clear that progress is being achieved and
that the gains made in the last two years must not be lost. Many will dismiss
the ideas presented within this journal as unfeasible, unrealistic and even
insane! What is clear though to the authors is that the craziest course of
action would be to allow this hard work to go to waste. Perhaps it is time to be
brave and even a little bit mad - in the words of George Bernard Shaw: “We
need a few mad people now. See where the sane ones have landed us”. The
hopes of the authors are that Project MARC and this subsequent publication
will encourage the development of an international expert group who can take
forward and build upon MARC’s recommendations; further funding to explore
consumer appetite for secure products, the development of a risk index of
electronic products and further exploration of offender decision making at
point of theft and finally, that criminologists and manufacturers can become
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