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The Geography of Cross-Border Crime

Research Statement

Derek Johnson, Geography & Environmental Sciences Department, Northumbria University

The Geography of Crime has the power and insight to deliver constructive knowledge and information to the development of policy and processes in the Justice and Policing arenas (Herbert, 1989; Lebeau and Leitner, 2011; Andresen, Linning and Malleson, 2017; Ludwig and Johnson, 2017), often being able to provide essential contextual material for such decision making. It has the ability to work on security issues at the local, national and international scales and incorporate diverse critical research philosophies to retain a focus on the importance and relevance of ‘place’ at each scale (Johnson, 2013; Johnson et al., 2015; Ludwig and Johnson, 2016, 2017).

International cooperation is seen as an essential element in the ‘fight against crime’ but terminology and data availability often pose a problem (Johnson, Gibson and McCabe, 2014; Gibson and Johnson, 2016; Ludwig and Johnson, 2016) at many scales of enquiry. Understanding such diversity of language, cultures, governance and place related contexts is core to the development of an inclusive yet flexible EU-UK security and criminal justice treaty. Cooperation is required in its development between informed academics and professionals and this proposed network provides such an engagement opportunity.

Whilst publications to date appear disparate as topic titles they are approached with an intertwining theme of the Geography of Crime and a paradigm of inclusive research approaches to reach out of the ‘locational’ spatial analysis of place. Spatial analysis of offending behaviour (Johnson, 2008, 2013) follows an empirical avenue of study and from the outset is geographical in nature. The 2008 paper significantly advances the contemporary knowledge base on the phenomenon of spatial behaviour that has become labelled ‘near repeat’. Up to this point in time work in this area was predominantly and almost exclusively centred on areal analysis of spatial crime data to identify if such patterns of behaviour were apparent in a town, a city or across countries and continents. The research steps in to that arena and pulls the scale of enquiry down by examining the individual behavioural patterns of serial offenders. It shifts the focus of enquiry from the aggregated areal, and as such environmental outcome to the individual offender through the spatial lens. Identifying near repeat behaviour at the individual level, and the strength of that behaviour to the point where it becomes effectively long lasting and habitual allows the research to become a significant contribution to an otherwise environmental and aggregated study agenda.

Research diversifies to that of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design and concentrates on development of a management framework (Johnson, Gibson and McCabe, 2014; Gibson and Johnson, 2016) to empower a prevention approach that is acknowledged at a global level. Work includes linkage between crime prevention and the development of sustainable communities (Johnson, Gibson and Stevens, 2014). How these two approaches to crime study incorporate the concepts of ‘place’ and ‘space’ which are fundamental to the Geography discipline is explored and emphasises the intertwining theme.

Empirical papers on intra-EU migration across the scale of country and EU, whilst geographical in nature also bring to the fore the issue of secondary data use, that of Recorded Crime data, its remit and governance (Johnson, 2014, 2015; Johnson and Hampson, 2015; Johnson, Davidson and Younger, 2016; Ludwig and Johnson, 2016, 2017). For both national and EU justice agendas and policies the studies question factors of data integrity and informed high level policy development in parallel with analysis corroborating the importance of cross border cooperation and relevance of ‘place’. The sub-discipline theme of the Geography of Crime is woven throughout all research work undertaken and publications consider and express the importance of place and space in the study of crime, its importance to individuals, local agencies, national bodies and international cooperation. The Geography of Crime is, and needs to be inclusive and cross disciplinary in nature and can be of high value in policy development.

Current work engages with Law, Computer Science and Social Sciences across the UK, The Netherlands, Sweden and Norway researching Policing of the TOR darkweb and potentially the heart of the world wide web privacy debate. Geographies are changing and new ones developing. Recent analysis of one TOR network (criminal) marketplace displays approximately 11% of providers claiming Scandinavian countries as their base, the UK almost on a par with the US (23.4% vs 24.3%) followed by The Netherlands with 15.5% of the marketplace. Most of this marketplace was narcotics supply related. The Geography of crime can inform, build and contextualise to the benefit of a comprehensive and flexible EU-UK security and criminal justice treaty with broad objectives.


Andresen, M. A., Linning, S. J. and Malleson, N. (2017) ‘Crime at places and spatial concentrations : Exploring the spatial stability of property crime in Vancouver BC , 2003-2013’, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 33(2), pp. 255–275.

Gibson, V. and Johnson, D. (2016) ‘CPTED, but not as we know it: Investigating the conflict of frameworks and terminology in crime prevention through environmental design’, Security Journal, 29(2). doi: 10.1057/sj.2013.19.

Herbert, D. T. (1989) ‘Crime and Place: an introduction’, in Herbert, D. and Evans, D. (eds) The Geography of Crime. Routledge, p. 15.

Johnson, D. (2008) ‘The Near-Repeat Burglary Phenomenon’, in Chainey, S. & Thompson, L. (ed.) Crime Mapping Case Studies: Practice and Research. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/9780470987193.ch15.

Johnson, D. (2013) ‘The space/time behaviour of dwelling burglars: Finding near repeat patterns in serial offender data’, Applied Geography, 41, pp. 139–146. doi: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2013.04.001.

Johnson, D. (2014) ‘E.U. migrant criminal activity: Exploring spatial diversity and volume of criminal activity attributed to inter EU migrants in England’, Applied Geography, 50. doi: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2014.02.002.

Johnson, D. (2015) ‘Intra-EU migrant crime: Fact, fiction and knowledge gaps.’ Stockholm: Stockholm Criminology Symposium.

Johnson, D. et al. (2015) ‘The Prüm Implementation, Evaluation and Strengthening (P.I.E.S.) of Forensic DNA Data Exchange. Northumbria University Final Report’, pp. 1–103.

Johnson, D., Davidson, G. and Younger, B. (2016) ‘Patterns in inter-EU migrant crime in England: exploring the available data for indicators of knowledge requirements’, New Zealand Journal of Research in Europe, 11(2).

Johnson, D., Gibson, V. and McCabe, M. (2014) ‘Designing in crime prevention, designing out ambiguity: Practice issues with the CPTED knowledge framework available to professionals in the field and its potentially ambiguous nature.’, Crime Prevention and Community Safety, 16(3). doi: 10.1057/cpcs.2014.3.

Johnson, D., Gibson, V. and Stevens, E. (2014) ‘Developing & maintaining sustainable communities: Managing the output focus of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)’, Carribean Urban Forum, (May), pp. 14–17.

Johnson, D. and Hampson, E. (2015) ‘Utilising the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000 for crime record data: Indications of the strength of records management in day to day police business’, Records Management Journal, 25(3). doi: 10.1108/RMJ-05-2015-0020.

Lebeau, J. L. and Leitner, M. (2011) ‘Progress in Research on the Geography of Crime’, The Professional Geographer, 63(2), pp. 1–13. doi: 10.1080/00330124.2010.547147.

Ludwig, A. and Johnson, D. (2016) ‘Migration and crime: A spatial analysis in a borderless Europe’, European Journal of Policing Studies: Special issue, 1(4), pp. 1–25.

Ludwig, A. and Johnson, D. (2017) ‘Intra-Eu Migration and Crime: A Jigsaw to be Reckoned with’, Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 00(00). doi: 10.1111/tesg.12246.

Research projects

November 2010: Bespoke Post graduate accredited training for UK Police Force. £5,000

May 2010 - January 2011: ‘Integrated Offender Management in the South of Tyne Region: Considering a regional approach to I.O.M. governance’. £38,000

September 2012 – June 2014: Principal Investigator –Integration of CPTED in the knowledge base of professional practice £20,000

September 2012 – December 2013: Principal Investigator – Developing an evidence led predictive model of (burglary) crime to inform crime prevention £20,000

November 2012 – November 2015: Principal Investigator E.C. funded research project with 7 European Partners. Total Funding value €1.7m

January 2016 – January 2017: Spatial analysis of crime for predictive crime analysis. £12,000

February 2017: Ongoing  Police Detectives on the TOR-network (A Study on Tensions Between Privacy and Crime Fighting) - NORDFORSK


Derek Johnson

As a sworn UK Police Officer (1978-2008), working life followed a factual realism approach, in part best described by ‘what you see is what you get’ – you get the story based on the evidence presented. The latter half of the 20th century was a period overseeing growing reliance on forensic science and concentration on cross border investigations. These I experienced from two viewpoints; pro-active Crime Investigator and as a more ‘evidence detached’ Intelligence Officer. Two contrasting roles balanced the formal regulatory perspective and confrontational interaction with offenders. An Intelligence role included handling offenders as valuable information resources, relying on a non-confrontational but trustworthy relationship to garner information on the criminal activity of others.

The last years in service involved strategic and tactical analytical work. This led to being instrumental in the development of an operational team tackling alcohol related violence. Collectively 30 years of experience garnered an empirical realism approach counterbalanced with elements of constructionism seen primarily through interaction with victims, non-confrontational engagement with offenders, NTE business leaders and local government policy involvement. Underneath all was recognition of the importance and power of ‘place’ and ‘space’ and inter-related Geographies.

Personal research interest focus remains to maintain and develop an inclusive Geography of Crime and reaching that balance of approaches to provide high level knowledge to cross border cooperation and informed activity in the security and criminal justice arenas.