A study led by an Engineering Doctorate student at the University of Surrey has found that the carbon footprint of crime over the last 20 years has fallen.
The study, published in the British Journal of Criminology, applied estimates of the carbon footprint of criminal offences to police-recorded crime and self-reported victimisation survey data, to estimate the carbon footprint of crime in England and Wales between 1995 and 2015.
The study was conducted by Helen Skudder at the University of Surrey and supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Home Office, and Secured by Design Police Crime Prevention Initiatives Limited.
The carbon footprint of acquisitive and violent crime was estimated at around 7 million tonnes CO2e in 1995, falling to below 3 million tonnes CO2e by 2015. This represents a substantial carbon drop of 62% and a total cumulative reduction of 54 million tonnes CO2e over this period.
Research lead Helen Skudder said: "All public bodies, organisations and businesses must reduce their carbon emissions wherever possible, so to ignore these carbon emissions risks crime prevention strategies being unsustainable. Our study has shown that the carbon emissions have fallen further than the rate of crime, with a 48% carbon drop observed alongside a 30% crime drop."
Focusing on areas that resulted in the majority of emissions reductions may offer the best potential opportunities for further decreasing the footprint in the future. These include burglary and vehicle offences, which reduce the need to replace stolen or damaged items, which was found to contribute substantially to the carbon footprint.
The relationship between the drop in crime and drop in carbon footprint is complex. A 30% drop in police-recorded crime between 1995 and 2015 resulted in a 48% reduction of carbon emissions. This clearly demonstrates that there is not a straightforward relationship between the number of offences and the resulting carbon footprint.
The study has its limitations, mainly concerned with the carbon footprinting methodology and application of 2011 carbon footprint data to each year in the series. Also, the emissions reductions are only potential: the absolute reductions will depend on how the money saved when crimes are prevented is spent. However, this study adds to previous research on the carbon footprint of crime, and the results presented in the paper are an important contribution towards a growing connection between crime prevention and sustainability agendas.
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