Stigmergy meets Jane Jacobs

The bringing of these two literatures together is long overdue. The British Journal of Criminology, Volume 61, Issue 2, March 2021, Pages 414–433: “Bringing the ‘many eyes’ theory of swarm intelligence into conversation with Jacobs (1961) notion of ‘eyes on the street’, we examine the impact social and mobile media may have on community crime prevention initiatives, given their influence on the nature, reach and speed of information diffusion among members of community groups. While, on the one hand, social and mobile media enable many ‘eyes on the street’ to meet on the screen, this can generate hyperconsciousness of crime that is conducive to ‘suspicion creep’—a widening of the parameters of suspicion among members of a group. As we detail in the final findings section on stigmergy, this suspicion creep is amplified by a reliance on first-order crime prevention measures: activities that primarily aim to reduce crime. When self-organized through stigmergic systems, direct crime prevention activities, such as neighbourhood patrols, have a tendency toward positive feedback, for they lack feasible negative feedback mechanisms. This issue is less likely to affect second-order crime prevention measures: activities that prevent crime as an indirect by-product of pursuing other social aims. Such crime prevention initiatives have greater scope to be stigmergic but not stigmatic—i.e. to enjoy the benefits of stigmergic self-organization without increasing exclusionary and hypervigilant sentiments”.