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USM Researcher’s Work on Crime Patterns in China During Covid-19 Pandemic Published in Noted Journal

Thu, 10/22/2020 - 07:22am | By: Van Arnold

Dr. Justin KurlandIntensive research conducted by Dr. Justin Kurland and others involving crime patterns in China connected to the COVID-19 pandemic has been published in the prestigious science journal PLOS ONE.

Kurland, research professor in the School of Criminal Justice, Forensic Science and Security at The University of Southern Mississippi, collaborated on the project with three other research scientists: Dr. Herve Borrion, Associate Professor, Department of Security and Crime Science, University College London, London, United Kingdom; Dr. Nick Tilley, Principal Research Associate, Department of Security and Crime Science, University College London, London, United Kingdom, and Dr. Peng Chen, Professor, School of Policing and Information Engineering, People’s Public Security University of China, Beijing, China.

The group’s paper is titled: “Measuring the resilience of criminogenic ecosystems to global disruption: A case-study of COVID-19 in China.” In the publication, Kurland and his colleagues quantified how retail theft was affected during the pandemic lockdown by taking advantage of incident data from as far back as 2017 for an anonymous city in China. Focusing on a Chinese city had the distinct advantage of examining patterns of crime across a complete public health contagion prevention cycle.

“Put differently, China, unlike most of the world, had experienced the initial spread of COVID-19 domestically, entered a lockdown phase guided by public health measures meant to curb the spread of the virus, and when deemed under control, lifted the associated stringencies enabling the resumption of routine activity by residents,” said Kurland.

Results from the study indicated that the pattern of retail theft incidents dropped significantly after the introduction of public health measures, bottomed-out during the lockdown period at near zero levels, and rebounded after the stringencies ended with an even higher level of incidents.

“The pattern seems intuitive,” notes Kurland, who serves as Director of Research for USM’s National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4). “Retail theft was at a particular level prior to the lockdown, restrictions all but eliminated the freedom of movement by citizens, thus greatly reducing the number of opportunities to engage in retail theft, only to surge above pre-lockdown levels once the measures are lifted.”

Kurland stresses that the research and its findings provide enormous benefits for scientists everywhere. Chief among these:

· No mathematical model existed prior to the work that could describe the resilience of criminogenic ecosystems.

· It enables the comparison of the impact of COVID-19 on criminal (eco)systems across the world. In turn, it allows researchers to compare data from elsewhere and more deeply explore the extent to which the pattern that emerges are generalizable.

· It will enable recommendations to help potentially reduce crime and security-related problems when stringencies are lifted in other locations around the world that remain in place.

Having the work published in an acclaimed journal such as PLOS ONE represents a significant milestone for Kurland and his colleagues who devoted countless hours to the project. Kurland notes that he and Borrion wrote more than 70 drafts in an effort to get the paper exactly right.

“I was really delighted to have our work accepted into such a prestigious journal, in large part because I know that our work will have the potential to reach a broader audience,” said Kurland. “Importantly, it was validating because it reinforced that we are on the right track in our approach to helping build a clearer methodology that, in turn, will lead to a better understanding of crime during disasters.”

Learn more about the research and its findings here:


About PLOS ONE PLOS ONE is an inclusive journal community working together to advance science for the benefit of society, now and in the future. Founded with the aim of accelerating the pace of scientific advancement and demonstrating its value, PLOS ONE believes all rigorous science needs to be published and discoverable, widely disseminated and freely accessible to all. The research published is multidisciplinary and, often, interdisciplinary. PLOS ONE accepts research in more than 200 subject areas across science, engineering, medicine, and the related social sciences and humanities. It evaluates submitted manuscripts on the basis of methodological rigor and high ethical standards, regardless of perceived novelty.