Digitalizing Crime Prevention Theories: How Technology Affects Victim and Offender Behavior


  • Sheena Lewis Northwestern University
  • Dan A Lewis Northwestern University


In the last thirty years, two main theoretical traditions in crime prevention literature have emerged: 1) the victimization perspective, which considers the victim, offender, and environment, and 2) the social control perspective, an alternative view that considers the role that community and family members play in informally influencing the moral values of potential offenders. Both of these theories have been used to inform crime prevention techniques by focusing on modifying the behavior of potential victims and the motivations of potential offenders. While both the social control and victimization perspectives have been used to discuss criminal behavior and crime prevention, neither acknowledge the role that technology plays in the lives of those that may commit crimes or be victimized. In this paper, we attempt to “digitalize” theories of crime prevention. By digitalize, we mean to understand how technology use influences the lives of both potential offenders and victims. We explore the theoretical foundations of both the victimization and social control perspectives and discuss their limitations as a result of not considering how technology influences information-seeking practices and communication routines. We argue that examining technology use is essential to crime theories that are used to help understand and predict criminal behavior, and we propose modifications to each framework to increase their effectiveness in predicting criminal behavior and practical application.

Author Biographies

Sheena Lewis, Northwestern University

Ph.D. Candidate, Technology and Social Behavior

Dan A Lewis, Northwestern University

Professor, School of Education and Social Policy Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research