Problem-Oriented Wildlife Policing

What Are Wilderness Problems?

Wilderness problems are a set of issues that take place in remote areas where land and open water has specific protection levels and use rights. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines seven protected area categories:

  1. strict nature reserves
  2. wilderness areas
  3. national parks
  4. natural monuments or features
  5. habitat/species management areas
  6. protected landscapes/seascapes
  7. protected area with sustainable use of natural resources

Governments, communities, private citizens, or a combination of the three, own and regulate activities on these areas. The environments provide a unique opportunity structure for problems to develop due to:

  • low levels of guardianship
  • an abundance of natural resources
  • the inability of non-human victims to report destructive behaviors
  • the challenge of regulating legal human activities in wilderness areas such as tourism, hunting and other natural resource extraction both on small and large scales
  • conflict over historical and contemporary land rights and uses

Wilderness problems often spill into rural, suburban, and urban areas, especially when products harvested in wild areas are processed, sold and consumed for local and international markets. Elephant poaching is an excellent example of a wilderness problem that spans a wide variety of actors and locations given the international demand for ivory. Conversely, urban demand for illegal narcotics, such as marijuana and methamphetamine, may cause manufacturers/growers to use protected areas for their operations to avoid detection. Knowing how wilderness problems connect to other settings is an important part of analyzing local problems and devising tailored solutions. Building coalitions of partners within, adjacent to, and beyond the borders of protected areas is a crucial part of addressing this set of issues.

Taxonomy of Wilderness Problems (coming soon)

How Can Problem-oriented Policing Help Solve Wilderness Problems?

Problem-oriented policing (POP) is a proven method for solving problems in urban, suburban, and rural settings. Led by the SARA (Scan/Analyze/Respond/Assess) process, POP has helped numerous police agencies around the globe rethink how they deal with persistent problems. Recognizing that agencies have limited resources and mandates, POP encourages them to work more closely with other government agencies, non-governmental organizations, business owners, and private citizens to address problems more effectively.

Applying this approach to wilderness problems enables law enforcement agencies, and other interested organizations such as conservation NGOs, to restructure how they identify and solve problems that threaten the sustainability of ecosystems. Rather than relying solely on deterrence through enforcement, such as arresting offenders, POP looks for ways to reduce opportunities for anti-social behavior by focusing on specific problems, and tailoring prevention solutions to the local context. POP’s focus on prevention is especially important for wilderness problems because enforcement agencies are often disappointed by the courts which see crimes such as poaching, illegal logging, or overfishing as minor offenses. This reality means that when offenders are caught—which they rarely are—their punishments are minimal even when a strong case is presented.

The purpose of the Wilderness Problems portal of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing is to develop and share resources to help practitioners implement a problem-solving approach. 

Resources under Development

The Poaching Diaries

This volume is a collection of wildlife crime scripts from around the world written by practitioners. The objectives of the project are to (a) introduce the crime script methodology to wildlife protection organizations and (b) create a collection of scripts to compare and contrast the modus operandi of offenders committing the same crimes in different contexts.

To contribute a script please see the call for submissions (coming soon).

Wildlife Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 70 Small Steps

This guide will introduce analysts how to think about local crime problems, synthesize information, and produce useful output to direct operations.

Problem Specific Guide: Wildlife Poaching on Federal Lands in the United States

In the tradition of problem-specific guides already available from the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, this guide will help law enforcement agencies structure their thinking and analysis about poaching on federal lands in the United States. The guide synthesizes the academic literature available on this topic and provides a framework for problem solving at the local level.

Interactive Poaching Problem Analysis Module

This ‘game’ exposes wildlife protection organizations to the problem-solving approach using a hypothetical example of poaching in a protected area. Players receive an overview of the problem and then choose data sources to explore it in greater depth. After analyzing the problem, they design tailored solutions that go beyond traditional enforcement.

Content Development

The editor-in-chief, Andrew M. Lemieux, oversees content development for the Wilderness Problems section with support from an editorial board comprising academics and practitioners. If you are interested in developing content, have suggestions for content development, or know of resources already available, please contact the editor-in-chief.

Editorial board (listed alphabetically)

Meredith Gore (Michigan State University)

Johnathan Hunter (Wildlife Conservation Society)

Jennifer Mailley (UK Home Office)

William Moreto (University of Central Florida)

Gohar Petrossian (John Jay School of Criminal Justice)

Robert Pickles (Panthera)

Steven Pires (Florida International University)

Contact Information

Andrew M. Lemieux

Andrew M. Lemieux is a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR). He coordinates the NSCR’s Wildlife Crime Cluster and is a member of the Spatial and Temporal Crime Patterns Cluster. Over the last decade, Andrew has worked with numerous wildlife-protection agencies in Africa and Asia including governmental, non-governmental, and private entities. His work revolves around the collection and use of data for decision-making, with an emphasis on problem solving and situational crime prevention. He has spent considerable time in the field with rangers on the front line of protection efforts and with managers looking for innovative ways to protect their ecosystem. These experiences are what led Andrew to promote the use of problem solving for wildlife protection as a way to find holistic solutions that are mutually beneficial to wildlife and communities.