Black Swan Legislation

Abstract In the United States, infamous crimes against innocent victims—especially
children—have repeatedly been regarded as justice system ‘‘failures’’ and resulted in
reactionary legislation enacted without regard to prospective negative consequences. This
pattern in part results when ‘memorial crime control’ advocates implicitly but inappropriately
apply the tenets of routine activities theory, wherein crime prevention is presumed
to be achievable by hardening likely targets, increasing the costs associated with crime
commission, and removing criminal opportunity. In response, the authors argue that academic
and public policy discourse will benefit from the inclusion of a new criminological
perspective called random activities theory, in which tragic crimes are framed as rare but
statistically inevitable ‘Black Swans’ instead of justice system failures. Potential objections
and implications for public policy are discussed at length.
Black Swan


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