Building an integrative Crime - Social - Landuse Conceptual Model





Attempting such a construct that studies the incidence of crime necessitates a complex review of the different disciplines that interact together to investigate offences. The Formosa study employed the three pivots of the CRISOLA model, which necessitates that some of the steps required to understand why crime occurs where and when it does, would involve a study of relationships that are non crime specific. This is important to ensure that the basis for understanding the relationship between two variables is established prior to any cross-thematic comparison. A specific case in point would be the analysis of offender residence and incidence of poverty, which necessitates a series of background or first-level analysis to understand whether poverty in effect exists within specific areas where offender-specific hotspots have been identified. As an example one has to establish whether there are poverty hotspots in Malta and subsequently looks for correlation of crime-poverty relationships in those hotspots through cross-thematic analysis. The results would then point towards an understanding of the geographical patterns of crime within a social and landuse construct.

Why create a conceptual model? Such a question lingered over the years through reviews of the environmental criminology literature, the GIS literature and Maltese scenario readings. The reviews, together with an understanding of the complex Maltese data availability situation, highlighted the need to bring together each aspect and build a mindmap that helps set out a process to depict a basic and generic model on how crime, social and landuse issues interact together.

The review process also identified techniques and datasets that can be used in the identification and understanding of crime. The use of these datasets is best explained through a conceptual model that is relevant to CRIme and to the SOcial and LAnduse aspects, herein embedded as the acronym CRISOLA (c) Formosa.

The model took shape through a tiered 3-phase process, with each iterative phase building up from an abstract level (Phase 1) through the identification of the main datasets (Phase 2) to a final individual attribute listing (Phase 3). The model is not exhaustive as it covers potential datasets that yet need to be created/surveyed, statistical measures identified as well as inclusion of other crime-relevant theories. The model can be evolved in future studies as it attempts to highlight areas of study that will not be tackled in this research and which may/may not be found to be significant, entailing further change.


The Three CRISOLA Radials: Crime, Social and Landuse

Initially the conceptual Model catered for the crime aspect in isolation, but crime does not stand alone: it interacts within a wider and more complex environment. The mindmap exercise soon sought the inclusion of social and landuse parameters within the model aimed at streamlining the process to facilitate the analysis. The result brings together the three CRISOLA disciplines and attempts to identify theoretical links between the different datasets.

The decision to model crime together with the sociological and landuse disciplines is based on an understanding of the interactivity between the three as identified in the literature. The model attempts to understand criminal activity within the social and physical structures it operates in. The main area of study is the interaction between:

  1. the crime characteristics through an analysis of offender and offence composition and the interactivity between them,

  2. the social characteristics of an area through an analysis of its poverty/deprivation,

  3. the physical characteristics of an area, particularly its landuse, structural and zoning parameters.

The social characteristics of a human society are linked to the physical surroundings it operates in, which two characteristics are directly caused by or affect crime. Offender analysis requires an understanding of the social construct that the offender operates in, such as affluence and poverty. Offence analysis requires an understanding of the landuse structure crime occurs in; the opportunities offered, the mode of travel, and the activities that may lead to the occurrence of crime, amongst others.


Phase 1 – The Abstract Level

Table 1 outlines the Phase 1 thought-process needed to reach an initial structure within which to analyse any relationships between the three disciplines. It is a high-level abstract model that attempts to look at parallel processes between the three disciplines and how an understanding of the processes can be achieved. It develops the concept through a series of five linear steps that can be tackled in order to facilitate later cross-thematic crime studies. It is aimed at an analysis of the thematic structure, focusing on the main parameter in the themes that affect change, identifying the spatial construct within the theme, highlighting the impact on capital and cohesion and finally leading to a change phase.

The latter phase can only be tackled through longitudinal studies that would draw a better long-term picture of what constitutes change. Although the current study looks at crime over a period of time, this model needs to be revisited with longer-term data if one needs to analyse sturdier change processes. This is needed particularly in the final phase that covers change for each of the CRISOLA themes.


Table 1: Phase 1 - Conceptual Model Logical Matrix











Analysis of the Social structure of the area under study


Analysis of crime in the area under study through offences and the behaviour of offenders


Analysis of spatial constructs through a study of landuse zoning, spatial aggregates and physical structures



Focuses on socio-economic and socio-cultural parameters towards an understanding of poverty and deprivation as a surrogate for social and community health


Focuses on offences as a measure of attractiveness of an area and focuses on offender data as a measure of social disorganization


Focuses on landuse zoning as a measure of affluence, leading to an understanding of opportunity structures



Identifies the social-spatial constitution of the areas, leading to a social-zoning structure


Identifies the criminal-spatial constitution of the areas leading to a crime-zoning structure


Identifies the physical constitution of the areas leading to a landuse-zoning structure



Impact on social capital – social cohesion


Impact on security and safety


Impact on spatial capital



Social change


Crime change


Landuse change


Phase 2 – Identifying the linkages

Whilst, the high-level Phase 1 Model enables a generic focus on the study in question, a more detailed second level model was required which helped point at and identify the interactivity between the three parameters. This is accomplished preferably through the identification of datasets that may be used for analysis. Being a mindmap model, Phase 2 sought to identify those literature-related issues and integrate them within the model. It also sought to bring together the different Theories, Datasets, Spatio-Temporal Aspects, predictors and the main tenets that can be used in such a study on crime. These include such parameters as are age and density, amongst others.


Phase 3 – Identifying the datasets and attributes

Taking the model one step further to Level 3, a series of statistical measures are listed for the variables within each dataset identified for model integration.


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Source: Formosa S., (2007), Spatial Analysis of Temporal Criminality Evolution: An Environmental Criminology Study of Crime in the Maltese Islands, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom