If offending were simply displaced following (often spatially) focused crime reduction initiatives, the continued expenditure of resources on this approach to crime reduction would be pointless. The aims of this article were to: critically appraise the current body of displacement research; identify gaps in understanding; articulate an agenda for future research; and to consider the implications of the accumulated findings for practitioners, evaluators, and policy makers.
First, we review existing criminological theory regarding crime displacement and the alternative perspective—that crime prevention activity might generate a diffusion of crime control benefits. Second, we review the empirical research, focusing in particular on the findings of existing systematic reviews. Third, we consider the types of displacement that might occur and the methodological approaches employed to study them.
Theoretical and empirical research suggests that displacement is far from inevitable and that a diffusion of crime control benefit is at least as likely. However, some forms of displacement have not been adequately studied.
Existing research suggests that successful crime reduction interventions often have a positive impact on crime that extends beyond the direct recipients of a particular project. However, current understanding of crime displacement and how benefits might diffuse remains incomplete. Consequently, to inform an agenda for future research, we derive a typology of methodological issues associated with studying displacement, along with suggestions as to how they might be addressed.