The Engineering of Social Control: The Search for the Silver Bullet
Published in J. Hagan and R. Peterson, Crime and Inequality, 1995, Stanford University Press.

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By Gary T. Marx

We want to get the human out of the loop. --Federal Aviation Administration security official
Science is on our side. --Spokesperson for Monsanto Chemical Corporation, on controversy over genetically altered hormone that increases milk production   We don't need a sociologist, we need an engineer to solve our problems. --Phone company employee
With style, efficiency, high principle, and no unintended consequences, the Lone Ranger was always victorious. His silver bullet trademark is an apt. metaphor for the hype accompanying current technological efforts to control crime and deviance.

In considering current developments and trends in the study of social control, I have suggested the idea of the "maximum security society" (Marx1981, 1987, 1988); with clear indebtedness to Bentham and Foucault I have found it useful to note some parallels between control themes found in the maximum security prison and the broader society.1

The maximum security society is made up of six subcomponents: the engineered, dossier, actuarial, suspicious, self-monitored, and transparent societies.

George Orwell equated Big Brother with the harsh reality of a boot on a human face. The concept of the maximum security society is meant to characterize some softer social-control processes that have increased in importance and sophistication in recent decades, as the velvet glove continues to gain ascendancy over the iron fist. In contemporary society these forms of control are uncoupled and the former is clearly dominant-using the creation and manipulation of culture through the mass media, therapeutic and labeling efforts, the redistributive rewards of the welfare state, the use of deception (e.g., undercover techniques and informers), and the engineering away of infractions.

In this chapter, I expand on the notion of the engineered society.2 The inventors and builders of the first locks, safes, moats, and castles were of course engaged in the physical engineering of social control.

Today we see a continuation of the professionalization and specialization of social control that grew in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as new disciplines and laws appeared and the state expanded. What is new are the scale and scientific precision of those efforts and a willingness to experiment. The ratio of humans to machines as monitors and controllers continues to decrease. Controls of a remote nature have become more prominent. The cost of control per unit watched or per unit of information has decreased, and more objects and areas are probably subject to control efforts. In addition, controllers, with their specialized knowledge and sophisticated data collection techniques, are increasingly in a position to know things about subjects that the subjects do not know about themselves. Developments in electronics, computerization, artificial intelligence, biochemistry, architecture, materials science, and many related fields have led to a thriving technically based social-control and crime prevention industry.

Much traditional social analysis has unfortunately treated technology as if it were irrelevant or simply an epiphenomenon. Certainly technology is developed and applied in a social context. Decisions about what technology to develop and how to use it are socially determined based on military and commercial concerns, among others. More specifically, concerns about crime, terror, substance abuse, AIDS and other health issues, productivity, and the ironic vulnerabilities that come with our reliance on complex, interdependent technological systems (nuclear power, computer networks) help account for the development anduse of extractive technologies over the past decade.

Yet technology offers new possibilities and in doing so also helps shape decisions. The increased prominence of social control through engineering is related to the availability of sophisticated and relatively inexpensive technology. If it is true that where there is a will there is a way, it is also often true that where there is a way there is a will.

Any mapping of the means by which contemporary social order is produced must give significant attention to this important topic. It in turn is a part of the broader topic of the impact of technology on society. But it offers a particularly fruitful context in which to study traditional issues of social theory and deviance and social control, as well as issues of public policy.

In the engineered society, the goal is to eliminate or limit violations by controlling the physical environment. Ideally, problems are simply designed away; when that isn't possible, deterrence is created by reducing the gain or making identification and apprehension likely. Why bother with the unpleasantness of victimization and the messiness and cost of locating violators when you can prevent violations instead? The criminal justice system is perceived as an anachronism whose agents serve only to shoot the wounded after the battle is over.

A distinction can be made between solutions involving primary, hard, direct prevention efforts (see strategies 1 and 4 following), which make the offense literally impossible to carry out, and secondary, soft, indirect prevention efforts, in which the goal is to deter. From the standpoint of social controllers the former is far superior-the physical environment is altered so that the offense cannot be carried out.

This is contrary to the mechanisms and ethos studied by Foucault (which focused on the mind of the offender and sought to transform the soul). With primary engineering strategies, it is not necessary to affect the will or calculation of the potential rule breaker. The subjective orientations of the actor (whether based on calculation, a content-filled socialization, or a contentless discipline) are simply ignored. The social- engineering example of castration as a device to control sexuality clearly contrasts with appeals to virtue to accomplish the same end. With the primary engineering strategies, the historically important reliance on the will and choices of the violator are sidestepped. Messing with the human will can be a messy business. Apart from the ethical issues, it's expensive and outcomes are uncertain. As the continuing presence of violations suggests, the endeavor always fails to some degree. From the control perspective it is far better to find technical means for making the violation impossible. But as will be noted later, for many reasons that is often not possible. Hence we see a series of secondary engineering strategies (2, 3, 5, and 6 following), which aim to affect the will.

In addition, the goal is to eliminate or reduce the role of human agents. As a federal official responsible for airline security said, "We want to get the human out of the loop." Humans are prone to inattention, fatigue, error, and corruption. They can work only for limited time periods, under severely restricted environmental conditions, and they may talk back to the bosses and organize.

The more traditional goal of deterrence is achieved by affecting the calculations of potential violators through devaluing and insulating potential targets and increasing the certainty that violations and violators will be discovered. What cannot literally be prevented may nonetheless be deterred, by eliminating the gain or by ensuring the apprehension of the violators.

I discuss six social-engineering strategies and some of their techniques and then consider some implications for theory and policy. In the best academic (although not policy) tradition, I come with questions, not answers.

Six Social-Engineering Strategies

Target Removal

The logic of prevention is clearest and most effective when a target is removed. Something that is not there cannot be taken. The move toward a cashless society is one example of target removal. Merchants who accept only credit or debit cards, or whose registers never have more than $10 in each, are unlikely to be robbed, and public phones that accept only credit cards are unlikely to be broken into. Furniture built in to the wall cannot be stolen, and that bolted or welded to the floor is unlikely to be. Aerials that retract into the car's fender cannot be vandalized, and automobile wheels without hubcaps offer no temptation. Subways and bus exteriors with graffiti-resistant metals are difficult to deface. With new switching technology, telephones can be programmed to allow only incoming calls (and from certain numbers at that-e.g., to block a repeat crank caller) or to prevent the dialing of certain outgoing calls (e.g., long distance, dial-a-joke, dial-a-porn). Many library computers are configured so they can be used only for searches and not for e-mail or word processing. Drug eradication programs involving spraying, burning, and natural pesticides also fit here. The large pepper grinders carried by waiters in some restaurants appeared in response to widespread theft of the small grinders that once were on the tables.

Automated billing using bar codes and optical scanners on computerized cash registers (as at some supermarkets), intended to eliminate both error and employee theft (e.g., achieved by entering a lower price), is a related form of target removal.3 In the welfare system, personal "smart cards" are replacing money and coupons, which increasingly can be used only to purchase approved food and other services directly.

A number of urban schools have created dress codes banning signs of gang affiliation and expensive clothes and jewelry. For example, students may be prohibited from wearing shirts and hats that indicate membership in nonschool organizations. Restrictions on how individuals present themselves may deter theft and eliminate symbolsthat can provoke assault.

Target Devaluation

The goal of target devaluation is to reduce or eliminate the value of a potential target to anyone but authorized users. The target remains, but its uselessness makes it unattractive to predators. Examples of devalued targets include products that self-destruct (some car radios when tampered with) or that leave dear proof of theft (exploding red dye packs that stain money taken in bank robberies). Some computer chips are coated with a chemical that destroys the clip if an effort is made to remove the coat. Encrypted messages can be freely sent over unprotected phone lines; anyone can intercept them, but absent the decryption code, the information is gibberish. The use of telephones, computers, and even television sets can be restricted to those with an access card, password, or the appropriate biometric pattern (e.g., handprint, fingerprint, handwriting, retinal, or voice). Items can be marked with something that makes them undesirable or impossible to use unless they are "cleansed" using a process controlled by those doing the marking. For example, to thwart the theft of live Christmas trees, some farmers spray them with a substance that causes the trees to give off a terrible odor once taken inside a house. Before a legitimate sale the spray is neutralized. "White-out" (the substance we knew well before word processing) offers another olfactory example of target devaluation. To prevent youths from sniffing it to get high, the manufacturer added mustard seed oil, which has an unpleasant odor. Some stores and shopping malls concerned about disorderly congregations of teenagers play classical music, which teenagers typically scorn.

In the case of stolen information, two authors consider the frightening possibility of brainwashing the offender with drug-induced amnesia so that the stolen information is forgotten by the offender (Montgomery and MacDougall 1986).

There is a device that, via cellular phone, can remotely cut off the engine of a stolen car. Another system, called Auto Avenger, is triggered if the door is opened while the engine is running. If not disengaged by a hidden switch, the engine will shut down after a few minutes and the system tells the thief he has fifteen seconds to get out or face a 50,000-volt shock.

Target Insulation

Target insulation is probably among the oldest of techniques for preventing violations. In the nineteenth century, some armories were built with gates designed so that the more a crowd outside pushed in on them, the tighter the gates closed (Fogelson 1989). Although the target remains, it is protected. We can separate perimeter-maintaining strategies such as fences, walls, moats, guards, and guard dogs from more specific protections such as safes, chastity belts, and placing goods in locked cases, chaining them to immovable objects, and hiding them. Recent developments in architecture and electronics offer new possibilities. There are efforts to create sanitary zones in cities where access is rigidly controlled. "Skywalks" linking downtown buildings shield their occupants from life on the street. Sections of more than 20 cities in the United States and Canada are now knit together in this fashion. In Calgary, 6 miles of skywalks connect 110 buildings. In St. Paul and Minneapolis, 65 city blocks are connected.4 Simpler devices are one-way doors that go from enclosed, presumably secure areas to unsecured areas such as streets. For example, in some urban parking lots the exit door can be opened only from inside the lot. The goal is to channel all those who enter through a central entrance that is under surveillance. In many areas of the world, high-voltage towers wear "concrete pants" to protect against dynamite charges.

Transportation may be designed to exclude certain categories of people. Robert Moses is said to have built the parkways that led to green areas outside Manhattan with bridges that were too low for buses to get under (Caro 1974). The goal was to keep out lower-income people who would have to rely on public bus transportation. Decisions about where to locate subway stations may be made with the same goal in mind (e.g., the decision not to extend the subway to Georgetown in Washington, D.C., or to Lexington in the Boston area).

Improved locks and vaults, antitheft interlock systems for automobiles, and architectural barriers-bank buildings without first-floor windows and with "bandit barriers," the bullet-resistant glass or Plexiglas that prevents thieves from vaulting the counter-are other obvious examples of target insulation. To enter some banks in Europe, a customer first presses a button to enter a small chamber with a locked door and then is screened for metal and perhaps chemicals (in the future a video scan comparing faces with those in a suspect file might be used); if nothing suspicious is discovered, a green light flashes, the customer pushes a button, and the door to the bank opens. To leave, a reverse procedure must be followed, presumably to detain or deter any thief who manages to slip in.

Access to a building may be restricted by encryption and other codes. Thus in some large apartment complexes one no longer presses the buzzer next to the name and number. Indeed there may be no name or number. Instead, a visitor must enter a code to make the doorbell ring; the occupant may then converse with the visitor through an intercom and decide whether to admit him or her. A similar device can be obtained to screen telephone calls, such that only those with an access code can get through.

A related form of target insulation involves deception to make it appear that engineering solutions are in place, when in fact they aren't. Thus trompe l'oeil graphics may use paintings of bars on windows that at a distance look real. Flashing lights and a fake control panel, along with a decal warning that an alarm system is in operation, may be an inexpensive ploy to deter burglars. One such system (Theft Stop), which sells for $19, "creates an illusion that your home is well-protected by an expensive alarm system. Its constantly flashing lights and realistic digital keypad set on a rugged polystyrene case give the impression of high-tech circuitry." For only $9.95 one can even purchase "Man's Best Friend . . . a sound-activated electronic device that emits the forceful, intimidating barks of an enraged bulldog. Recorded on a maintenance-free microchip." Temptation may be reduced by disguising opportunities. A variety of ordinary household items with hollow interiors, from books to cans with well-known shaving cream and hairspray labels, are available for hiding valuables. A different variety of deceptive target protection is a macho-looking anti- carjacking mannequin companion that sits on the passenger's side of a car and appears to be a driving companion.

Offender Incapacitation

A classic strategy, offender incapacitation renders the potential offender harmless. There are a variety of "immobilizers," "restrainers," and "containers" that seek to prevent violations by weakening the potential offender's will or ability to commit the offense. These may act directly on the body by permanently altering it and making certain offenses impossible- psychosurgery for the violent, literal or chemical castration for sex offenders, and the practice in some Middle Eastern countries of cutting off the hands of pickpockets. Excessively aggressive behavior may be treated with tranquilizers. Drugs such as Depo-Provera may be used to reduce the sex drive. A variety of synthetic forms of progesterone are being used to block male sex hormones; remote physiological monitoring of those convicted of a crime of violence might lead to the release of chemicals in the body at the sign of a state of arousal (e.g., a peptide implant to lower the serotonin level that is related to aggression).

More indirectly, through operant conditioning a negative association with a given undesirable form of behavior may be created. After ingestion of a substance such as antabuse, an unpleasant physical reaction (gagging or vomiting) follows when alcohol is consumed. The morphine derivative trexan prevents heroin users from getting high. Methadone is used to get persons off heroin.

Nicotine patches worn on the skin have been successful in helping people to stop smoking. Abusive mothers and those who abandon their children have been subjected to sterilization or the implantation of birth control devices that last up to five years.5 A variety of restraining or blocking devices exist, from straitjackets to nets fired over persons considered to be dangerous. Japanese police used two steel cages to contain protectors throwing firebombs and stones in response to the expansion of Tokyo's Narita airport. The police used cranes to lower the cages over towers occupied by the demonstrators. There are many other crowd-control devices, including slippery substances, tear gas, and pepper spray.

Other incapacitation efforts deal not with the body of the offender but with the instrumentalities used or involved in the offense. The goal is to render something that is essential to the violation useless. Prohibitions on the possession of weapons are an example. The use of a car can be blocked by installing an anti-drunk- driving interlock system featuring a breath analyzer attached to the automobile ignition system, or by installing clamp locks on the tires of a car whose owner owes traffic or other fines. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, anyone who attaches a bicycle to a handrail on a ramp for the handicapped may find a campus police chain and lock attached to it. If a $25 fine is not paid within a day, the police remove the device, impound the bicycle, and impose a $50 fine. There are devices that limit the speed of trucks and buses; "dead man" controls on vehicles such as trains require that the driver exert steady force by foot at all times while driving. Hypodermic syringes that can be used only once have been advocated as a way of stopping the spread of AIDS. Pay telephones that don't accept incoming calls or that have been converted to a rotary dial tone (which won't accept the tone signal from a pager) have been designed to prevent drug dealers from using the phones.

There are also general environmental manipulations directed at all persons within their purview. This tactic's categorical application carries the assumption that everyone is a potential offender. For example, subliminal messages may be incorporated in music played at a department store ("stealing doesn't pay," accompanied by a siren and the slamming of a jail door) or on the radio as part of an antismoking campaign. There are computer programs that permit workers to call up subliminal images (e.g., a mountain stream and the words "I am calm"). But one can also imagine programs that workers have no control over, with messages such as "work faster" or "don't join the union."

Environmental psychologists have theories about how color, light, and spatial arrangements may affect behavior, although the result is not direct incapacitation. They have advocated the increased use of Plexiglas instead of bricks and bars, better lighting, and less crowded cells as ways of reducing prison problems. Soft pastel colors are thought to have a calming effect.

Even smells may have subtle effects. In contrast to the use of smell as a deterrent, the Japanese have found that pleasant aromas reduce stress (the smell of a fresh forest) or have a rejuvenating effect (lemon and jasmine). The Shiseido Cosmetics Corporation has an "aromatic engineering program" to pump various scents into the air conditioning systems of office buildings and factories. Dietary engineering is a related area.

Offender Exclusion

Also among the oldest means of social engineering, offender exclusion is the opposite of target insulation. The offender, rather than the potential target, is restricted. Capital punishment is the most extreme form of this strategy. Other examples are exile, prison, curfews, and mobility restrictions (such as house arrests or restraining orders). At the group level, the creation of red light and drug districts away from residential areas (as in Amsterdam and Zurich) is also based on the idea of exclusion. In short, the goal of offender exclusion is to keep potential offenders away from persons or environments that may tempt them to commit violations.

Electronic location devices have recently made individual exclusion easier. These can send a message through telephone lines or transmit radio signals. In one system, if the person leaves the approved area, the signal is interrupted and a central computer notified. In a less expensive system, a probation officer makes unannounced visits to the vicinity with a receiver to see that the appropriate signal is being transmitted, indicating that the person has not left home. There will soon be an inexpensive satellite system for locating people, just as there now is for vehicles. In addition to indicating whether a person stays in a confined area, the technology can be used to send a warning that an individual is in a prohibited area (thus, abused spouses and schools have receivers that trigger an alarm if the banished person is close by).

Programs to combat truancy fit here. Whereas schools are only occasionally thought of as prisons, cities such as San Jose and Oklahoma City, which have started aggressive antitruancy programs to keep children in school, have seen a decline in burglaries (at least during school hours) (New York Times, Oct. 11, 1990).

In the twenty-first century we may well see new forms of "transportation"-but rather than to an undesirable location on earth, exile may be under the sea or to outer space. the ultimate exclusion may be genetic screening: persons believed to have a biological predisposition to undesirable behavior simply never appear-they aren't born. This screening could be voluntary or mandatory.

Offense, Offender, and Target Identification

When it is not possible, or when it is too expensive, to actually prevent a violation, it is at least possible to know it took place, know what happened, and perhaps to know who did it. The goal of identification is to document the occurrence of the violation and identify or even trap the violator.

Various sensors and alarms fit here. One recent invention is a battery-powered luggage alarm that fits inside a zippered purse or suitcase. When the zipper is opened an alarm goes off. A similar device does the same if a drawer, door, or briefcase is opened.

Another expanding area involves immobilization or seizure strategies. Given the great difficulty of protecting physical premises in the face of modern explosives, one system involves a super-glue that spreads onto the floor after an explosion. Persons may be able to get into a building, but the human flypaper makes it impossible for them to get out.

In an effort to combat the installation of chips that permitted free viewing of premium cable TV channels, a New York cable company sent an electronic signal that destroyed the illegally installed chips and caused the screens to go blank. When subscribers called to complain, they were told to bring their cable boxes in. These were then used as evidence in court. This clever tactic combines remote immobilization and self-identification.

Other remote identification and audit systems include computers on trucks that record details of speed, braking, shifting, etc.; ink and paper products laced with trace elements that help identify forged documents; means of showing on which photocopying machine a copy was made; a French system for spraying works of art with an invisible substance that has a distinctive odor a dog can identify years after the theft; the various password and biometric access devices for entry to buildings, rooms, or computer files (it is rumored that in one thumbprint system, if the print doesn't match, a giant robotic arm comes down and clasps the interloper's arm until a guard arrives). In some areas realtors are using electronic lock boxes (with access controlled by a personal code) to replace lock boxes containing keys on the doors of houses that are for sale. The system was developed after a Virginia realtor was charged with burglarizing houses for sale by using the standard master key previously used to gain access to the lock boxes.

Other examples are fluorescent dusting and various devices that permit the recipient of a telephone call to know where the call is coming from. A recent commercial product (DrugAlert) is a spray to detect traces of drugs on any household item. The item is wiped with a white paper towel, which is then sprayed. If drug traces are there, specific colors will appear (e.g., turquoise for cocaine, reddish-brown for marijuana). Police in New Hampshire have used this spray on the driver's licenses of people they have stopped. For an additional $299 the "Auto Avenger" will draw attention to a stolen car by releasing a plume of brightly colored smoke.

Tops on grocery items that fail to pop up when opened indicate that the goods may have been tampered with. Various personal truth technologies (polygraph, drug test, graphology, computer matching) seek to both discover infractions and verify accounts. It may even be possible to identify a person at a much later date using the DNA residue from saliva on the back of a stamp or a sealed envelope.

A more general form of identification is the stigmatic mark of the "scarlet letter," which gives evidence of past violations. A mark that is hidden or not seen will not necessarily stop an offense, but a visible mark may forewarn attentive potential victims to avoid certain persons or places. Although we no longer brand a T on the foreheads of thieves or require adulterers to wear scarlet A's, there are some modern-day equivalents. In some jurisdictions convicted drunk drivers must have special identifying license plates or signs on their cars. The requirement that individuals carry their records, or that these be checked, is equivalent. In some jurisdictions sex offenders are required to take out newspaper ads accompanied by photographs with warnings that they have been convicted of particular crimes; or their pictures may be prominently displayed around playgrounds.6

Another form of offender identification simultaneously identifies and punishes. There is a proposal to electrically shock those under house arrest if they attempt to leave and, if they succeed in leaving, to increase the voltage the farther they stray (Stephens and Tafoya 1985). An extreme version of this tactic was depicted in the film Running Man, in which prisoners had to wear collars that exploded if they went beyond a specified perimeter. Collars are available for pets that give a shock if the animal goes beyond a given area or does not respond to a call to come.

Questions for Theory and Research

In calling attention to the increased significance of social control through engineering, I am left with far more questions than answers:

Figure 10.1. Threat of crime, degree of industrialization, and democratic traditions

Among democracies, how do distinctive national characteristics affect the extent and form of social engineering? Have the United States, Germany, and Great Britain taken it farther and faster than Italy, France, and Spain? What are the implications of a Napoleonic tradition or the experience of fascism? Does a society such as the United States, where the Bill of Rights severely limits search and seizure, place greater reliance on technical means?

How do the various subsocieties of the maximum security society relate to each other? Is there a general "modernization" syndrome of soft repressiveness where engineering goes along with a high degree of suspiciousness, dossiers, predictive models, self-control, and transparency? Or are these functional alter. natives in the sense that where there arc engineering mechanisms that work, fewer of the other forms are found?

Are there predictable cycles wherein emphasis on engineering increases, decreases, and increases again?

How do the discovery and invention of control techniques relate to their application? Are the patterns the same as for other areas, such as the economy or medicine?

What is the interaction between the perceived need for a social-control application and the availability of entrepreneurs to provide the technology? Can we delineate the explanatory power or causal role of the technology per se (it can fundamentally alter the context by creating new realities) without falling into a naive technological determinism?

How do the instrumental and symbolic or political aspects interweave? How ineffective or inefficient does a means have to be for controllers to conclude that it should not be used, regardless of its possible symbolic worth? Some recent examples whose effectiveness has been questioned include the polygraph, "star wars," and the $1 million bomb detectors that the Federal Aviation Administration has mandated to be installed at 40 high-risk airports around the world.

The six "ideal types" of social-engineering strategy discussed combine a number of dimensions. While this discussion aids in descriptive classification, it also muddies some important distinctions. Another approach would be to specify dimensions and use them to create typologies. Among some major dimensions are:

A focus on broad environmental changes or on changes directly involving victims or offenders

Whether changes are voluntary or involuntary

Whether changes are visible or invisible

A focus on the target or the offender

A focus on the offense or the offender

To eliminate a target or render it useless to an offender

To eliminate or render useless an instrumentality of violation

To control access into or out of a system

Use of electronic, physiological, or chemical means

Efforts directed at a specific individual or generally

Emphasis on literal prevention or increased certainty of identifying violations and violators

Emphasis on controlling persons or events

Some Implications of Technological Controls for Equity

Consistent with the theme of this volume and its focus on issues of crime and inequality, let us first consider some implications of technological controls for questions of equity. I will then discuss further issues raised by the conflicting goals and unintended consequences of techno-fixes as well as the possibility of technology neutralization.

There is no clear answer to what the strategies and possibilities described here imply for equity. At least three broad positions can be identified. I view these on a continuum. The first position, in an exaggerated Marxist-Orwellian vein, views these developments critically. They occur in a context of marked inequality. The engineering of social control reflects and is designed to protect the status quo. In a version of the rich becoming richer, the more privileged become more secure and the poor less secure. A laFoucaultandHabermas, the technology becomes ever more powerful and intrusive and colonizes new areas. The Leviathan state is just around the corner, or the decade. Big government and large corporations gain power not only because they design the technology but because they have the resources to use it.

The opposite of this view is an optimistic boosterism-the idea that progress can be achieved through techno-salvation. In a society where consensus and shared interests are assumed, the technologies are designed to protect us all and are seen to be essentially neutral with respect to social class. If anything, better crime control will help the poor the most because they are the most likely to be victimized. Fixed physical responses that eliminate discretion also eliminate the potential for corruption and discrimination. The video surveillance camera and heat-sensing devices do not differentiate between social classes. Data are democratically gathered from all within their purview. Accountability is thus increased and the prior ability of those with power to shield their behavior is lessened by electronic trails and tales.

A third, and I think more compelling, "realistic view" falls between these two. It recognizes that either position could in principle be correct, but it sees the current reality as being messy and contradictory. There is nothing inherent in the technology that pushes it toward or away from equity. Rather, equity depends on the context and uses of the technology. This view stresses that societies are divided and power is not homogeneous. Contradictory social and moral trends are ever present. Yes, there is a kind of radical egalitarianism associated with the broad sweep of electronic technology. But the technology develops out of social contexts that are very unequal. Conflicts in values make it difficult to reach clear moral positions. The ideas of neutralization and game perspectives are also useful here: There are legitimate moves and countermoves in a free-market economy. A moving and jagged path, rather than a one-way march forward or backward, is the best model.

There are four important questions to ask when considering the implications of engineered control for equity: How does the control affect: (1) a person's chances of being put in settings in which social conditions are associated with increased risk of becoming an offender? (2) a person's chances of being victimized? (3) the chances of equal discovery across violations and violators with varied characteristics? (4) a person's chances of receiving equal treatment once a violation comes to the attention of the criminal justice system? These involve four different types of equity.

The effects of technology on equity are certainly not uniform. In general, technology cannot alter the unequal social circumstances associated with many types of offending. It is not designed to do that. To the extent that engineered solutions with their potential for access to past records and effective public communication create permanent stigmatization of offenders, the initial inequality associated with life chances may be increased.

With respect to one's chances of being a victim, to the extent that relatively effective technical solutions are treated as commodities (absent subsidies for the poor), technology may well serve to increase the victimization of the poor as crime is displaced. Those who can afford the technology (e.g., sophisticated antitheft tracking devices for automobiles and gated communities) will be able to avoid crime; those who cannot will continue to be victimized.

However, equity in the discovery of offenses may well be enhanced by the vacuum cleaner-like sweep of many technologies and their indifference to questions of race, gender, and class. There is some irony in the fact that, because of technology, the actions of elites are more visible than they have ever been; the more privileged leave electronic trails as the price for participation in the consumer society. Computer records and other forms of electronic data greatly increase the chances of discovering the violations of higher-status persons.

Similarly, there may be increased equity in processing those who are arrested. For example, the documentary record from videotaping arrest procedures may deter abusive control practices. When it does not, it may at least give greater credibility to the accounts of lower-status persons. If information-gathering technologies arc widely available (e.g., to journalists and activist groups), government accountability, and by extension equal treatment, may be increased.

The commodification and privatization of justice may at the same time limit equality of treatment in some cases. To the extent that the corrections options available to a person are dependent on that person's ability to pay (as electronic home monitoring is in some jurisdictions), inequality in sentencing increases. Equity in the discovery and processing of offenses may also decline as a result of the spread of private police, who in many ways are less accountable and have more discretion than public police. Lower status and powerless groups are not in a position to hire equivalent private control agents with technological arsenals.7

Conflicting Goals

In the long run, most techno-fixes are likely to work no better than ideological fixes. Human situations are too dynamic and complicated, and irony and unintended consequences are always waiting at the door when Max Weber's ghost knocks.

One issue is that there are usually multiple goals, and obtaining one may make it more difficult to obtain another. What keeps some people out keeps other people in. I illustrate with two tragic examples: (l) Fortified walls and high steel-frame fencing in the British Hillsborough soccer stadium terraces were installed to help control soccer hooliganism. But they were a major factor in the deaths of 93 fans who could not escape from the penned-in area and were crushed when the crowd surged forward. (2) In a fire in London's King's Cross subway station, 30 persons lost their lives because of deadly fumes from chemicals used in an anti-graffiti paint.

The installation of new bomb detectors based on thermal neutron analysis has been held up because of concerns that they may leak radiation and lead to lawsuits. Heavy window gates or gates with double key cylinders intended to keep burglars out may keep others in, with fatal consequences if there is a fire (devices that can be opened only from the inside without a key are more expensive). One bulletproof glass system will stop repeated bullets from a 9-millimeter gun, yet it has the drawback that the window cannot be rolled down. Bulletproof vests will not stop a knife, and the vest that protects against a knife will not stop a bullet.

Efforts to combat theft and fighting by imposing school dress codes can conflict with the First Amendment right to freedom of expression. However noble the goal, the application of such categorical standards conflicts with the idea that people should be judged by their behavior, not their potent al behavior or their appearance.

To require a felon released from prison to have a sign on his home and automobile saying, "Dangerous Sex Offender, No Children Allowed," may keep potential victims away. Yet it also conflicts with the goal of reintegrating violators into society once they have paid their debt.

In commercial settings where impulse-buying and access to merchandise are important, attaching expensive leather coats to a rack with a cable and lock reduces the likelihood that someone will walk off with one, but it also prevents a customer from trying one on and buying it impulsively. Electronically tagging items in retail stores achieves the same goal with less negative symbolism.


Another problem with technology is that it can be "neutralized." Even silver bullets tarnish. Humans are wonderfully clever at finding ways to beat technical or social systems when they have an incentive to do so. Erving Goffman's masterful essay on total institutions in Asylums illustrates this. To take but one example, the car interlock with a breath analyzer to prevent drunk driving can be beaten by releasing "clean" air saved in a balloon into it. When the technical system literally can't be beaten (as with encryption), then the human context in which it is embedded can sometimes be manipulated. My favorite computer crime story involves one of the largest such crimes ever perpetrated. The company had state-of-the-art security devices that were technically unbeatable. Yet a thief managed to steal millions of dollars. How? He had an affair with the woman who was responsible for the codes needed to gain access to the system. In one of the more bizarre incidents of testing mania, a competitor for the U.S. diving team passed his drug test, but the test determined that he was pregnant. A retest revealed the same thing. What happened? Using a catheter, he had substituted his girlfriend's urine for his own.

In a free-market economy most high-tech developments are also available to offenders. Thus the level of play may be improved but without a clear victory for control agents: Bulletproof vests protect criminals as well as authorities; criminals may also encrypt their communications; and a dog in heat is a wonderful antidote to a guard dog.

An important strand of the history of deviance and social control involves responding to violations with technical solutions. There is a little-studied dialectic wherein new solutions offer new challenges to violators, which in turn create a need for new solutions by social controllers. In addition to studying cultural techniques of neutralization, there is a need for studies of technologies and countertechnologies in this regard. A considerable amount of the history of deviance and social control can be understood by looking at the field as an endless spiral of violations, social-engineering responses, new violations, and new responses.

Unintended Consequences

A new series of offenses has appeared-what are called derivative second-order offenses. An example is the response of Canadian police to a radar detector used by speeders. Police have turned to "the interceptor," which detects the radar detectors of citizens by emitting a sharp buzzing noise and flashing red light when aimed at a car with a radar detector. Citizens get tickets for possession and face confiscation of the devices, whether or not they were speeding.

The old meter boxes that measured use of home electricity could be made to run backwards by running a magnet across them. these are now designed with an antimagnetic component. However, when meters began being installed inside houses, theft of power was made easier for those who knew what to do. Now the meter is located between the line and the house, making tampering more difficult.

A related issue involves the energy and resources that may be required to avoid predation. A police detective notes, "Some people park their car, and they take the radio out, then they take the hubcaps off, and remove the steering wheel. There's got to be a point where you stop and say, 'this has gotten ridiculous.'"

Ironically, security may become lax in some areas because it is assumed that a machine is on the job. Technology may offer a false sense of certainty. A Los Angeles man sentenced to house arrest and required to wear an electronic surveillance bracelet shot and killed his estranged wife. She had not reported his threats to police because she thought she was safe as long as he had the bracelet on.

Errors may occur. A problem for many police departments is the large number of false alarms caused by everything from credit card errors to system breakdowns. Credit card errors occur even with new means of signature verification. Although signature verification is a technique that might seem completely reliable, signatures are not perfectly consistent over time. If the computer standards are too rigid in verifying signatures, people will be rejected who should be authorized; if they are too flexible, forgers will not be caught.

There are dangers of escalation when ever-more-powerful means of protection require ever-more-powerful means of neutralization. In his "Star Wars" speech, former President Reagan argued that only techno-fixes could help us avoid war. The response to nuclear weapons after World War II was to build bigger bombs and bomb shelters, not to seek other, more peaceful, solutions. The armaments race between police and criminals in the United States has something of this quality. In many police departments automatic weapons and 9-mm pistols are now standard.

Another significant unintended consequence lurks in the potential for increased violence (whether out of anger, preventive motives, or as a means of gaining information) once an offender discovers that a target has been fortified or devalued. For example, a frustrated thief may respond to a car with a self-destructing sound system by firebombing the car. The radio is not taken, but the car is destroyed. An English colleague reports that improved armored-car alarms have reduced robberies but may have also made them more deadly, because thieves may attempt to kill the guard before the alarm button can be pressed.

One factor in the spread of "carjackings" in parking lots and on city streets and highways appears to be the increased difficulty of breaking into and "hot-wiring" cars with security systems. Another is the desire to avoid damaging the car by pulling it apart and hot-wiring it. The more problematic nature of breaking into alarmed cars and starting them without keys has led to a change of tactics. Rather than displacing the violation, the supposed deterrent causes it to escalate (Marx 1981).

In a related fashion, the use of access codes for appliances may mean that crimes of burglary are converted to crimes of robbery or kidnapping, as thieves confront property owners and coercively demand not only the property, but the code to make it work. People who take their car radios with them after parking their cars now risk having the radios stolen from their persons.

After the Irish Republican Army left bombs in rubbish bins at train stations in London, some stations eliminated the bins, but they soon found themselves "ankle deep in litter." An unintended consequence of requiring drunk drivers and child molesters to identify themselves may be vigilante attacks and harassment of these people, as well as secondary effects from labeling and stigmatization. Publicizing the names of those arrested for drunk driving or soliciting prostitutes may lead to unwarranted inferences about guilt before trial.

Some efforts may be equated with the phenomenon of iatrogenic effects in medicine. It may be possible to cure one problem but not without creating another. For example, it may be possible to cure someone of heroin addiction only by addicting him or her to methadone (some heroin addicts stay outside the health-care system because they regard methadone as more addictive than heroin)

Technofixes also create the possibility of displacement. A ''problem'' may simply be relocated. The move to a cashless society may reduce conventional robberies while encouraging the spread of computer crimes. In response to the movement of crime from one Los Angeles neighborhood to another, one officer said, "It's like squeezing Jell-O-it squirts out in other places." A variety of grates and barriers have been developed to keep the homeless away from heating vents and entrances to subway systems. To stop the homeless from sleeping on benches, the benches may be removed. These tactics do nothing to solve the problem of homelessness, but they may move it somewhere else (e.g., people will sleep on the ground). Considered more generally, displacement techniques focus on symptoms rather than causes-akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic instead of looking for icebergs.

Sometimes we assume that actions are taken for instrumental reasons when in fact a more important goal is expressive. For example, many of the target insulation and devaluation techniques, such as devices to protect cars, assume that the thief's goal is to steal an antenna or hubcaps. But to the extent that expressive motives are present, then such actions may make little difference (Katz 1988). Simplistic thinking may be involved. For example, although removing a man's testicles will reduce his sex drive, it may increase his already-present hostility toward women and society. Even without castration, many rapists are already sexually dysfunctional and may commit sexual assault without sex. Rape may occur involving objects such as sticks.

Another issue is whether techno-fixes will swamp or overload the system with more offenses and offenders than it can handle. Will more infractions be discovered than can be processed? Are there times when it is best not to know that a violation has occurred? Is it desirable to permanently stigmatize someone or to take away all possibility of a second chance? If the penalty for an offense is a permanent change to the body or a permanent public record, the offender may have no chance to change or reform. Such offenders, in response to the denial of opportunity and in anger, may become dependent on the state and increase their antisocial behavior.

Robert Frost wrote a poem that asks whether fences keep others out, or those inside within.8 The question is well put in a play by Keith Redden (Life During Wartime), in which a seller of home security devices asks, "How do you protect yourself in this world that seems so chaotic, without building walls so that you're cut off from the entire world?" Similar questions regarding entry and exit can be asked about the entry chambers into banks. What happens to the person in the booth if there is a fire, an earthquake, or a power outage?

There is the problem of punishment without trial in the case of devices that do bodily or material harm. Such devices include homemade antiburglar devices that fire a gun or a crossbow when triggered by an intruder, barbed wire, electrified fences, perimeter walls with jagged glass embedded on the top, and spikes that protrude from parking lot exits.9 Leaving aside the fact that some people may actually deserve the punishment they receive from these devices, one can also imagine scenarios in which innocent people are harmed (e.g., a passerby who is shot by a homemade burglar alarm after seeing a fire and rushing in to help, or a foreigner unfamiliar with the parking lot spikes who mistakenly drives over them in the wrong direction). In the same vein, one wonders whether the antitheft device that delivers the 50,000-volt shock to the driver of a stolen car could be lethal to a person with a weak heart, or if it could fail and deliver a much larger shock that would be lethal to anyone.

The cost to the owner of property may be great if a system malfunctions. Owners as well as thieves may be unable to use a car. Should an encryption code be destroyed or lost, the data will be lost to their proper owner as well as to interlopers. Fire alarms with ink packets that get on the hands of those who send the signal may help in deterring or identifying those who would send false alarms, but they also stain the hands of legitimate users. The removal of public benches denies others as well as loiterers a place to sit. The double- edged sword can also be seen in the impact of control techniques on the controllers: In an ironic twist of universalism, there is a highly effective crowd-control device that causes a loss of bowel control-yet because it affects controllers as well as targets, it has not been widely adopted. And Richard Nixon, in secretly tape recording others, also taped himself.

In eliminating the choice to break a rule and the negative aspects of rule violation, we also eliminate some of the positive aspects. The privilege of breaking rules (or at least a de facto policy of nonenforcement) can be an important social resource (Marx 1981). Thus much innovation is initially seen as deviance. Perhaps the social order would become less creative and dynamic, if more orderly, if social-engineering solutions were widespread.

What kind of a society would we have if order depended primarily on technical means of blocking violations? First, what would happen when the system, or elements of it, went down, as it invariably would at some point?

A social order based on techno-fixes is likely to be even more fragile than one based on overt repression. Second, even if order could be effectively maintained, what kind of a society would it be from a moral standpoint? Voluntarism and consensual behavior are central to our notion of the dignity of the individual. The regimentation involved in technical solutions to social conflicts and problems is hardly appealing. We would become more like robots than humans, and the definition of what it means to be human would certainly change. The film Cyborg gives us a hint of that. A society in which order is maintained through technology rather than through legitimacy presents new challenges to theorists, as well as to activists.

There is the danger noted by Leo Marx of valuing technological developments as ends in themselves, apart from a broader vision of the good society (L. Marx 1987). Technical solutions seek to eliminate negotiation and compromise and point us away from examining social conditions that generate violations, some of which could and should be changed.

In this chapter my intent is neither to deny the seriousness and costs of contemporary crime problems nor to deny the efficacy of many situational interventions.l0 There is much to be said for prevention and actions that will preclude involvement of the formal criminal justice system. Yet the search for the silver bullet represents a failure to look for the deeper causes of disorder. It is like swatting mosquitoes instead of draining the swamp (though given the ecological importance of swamps, draining them is a questionable goal). It is an individualistic rather than a communal solution and ignores the value of community and responsible individual behavior. Used wisely, technical solutions have a place. But in matters of criminal justice the Lone Ranger will always be the only one with the silver bullet.

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1. An alternative formulation for organizing the self and the social environment is suggested by Pizzorno (1991). Four modes of achieving order based on coercion or inducement and short- and long-term effrects are identifed: leviathan, market, discipline, and value integration.

2. The transparent society is treated in G. Marx (1981, 1987, 1988) and elements of the dossier society in Marx and Reichman 1984 and Laudon 1986.

3. Strictly speaking, this isn't target removal; it is discretion elimination. The possibility for theft remains if an item is simply not rung up, although video cameras are intended to identify and deter such action.

4. See for example, Time, Aug. 1, 1988 and Whyte 1985.

5. A related aspect is the increased availability of technical birth control protections. Thus as a first, the city of Cambridge, Mass., passed a law requiring that condom-dispensing machines be placed in public places such as hotels, bars, and movie theaters. In a controversial plan, the superintendent of New York schools has advocated giving out birth control devices in schools. Though of a different order, there is even a patch worn on the upper arm that provides increased testosterone to men desiring it.

6. The goal of such public notices is presumably to warn others to stay away from the offender, but they also may be intended to have some deterrent value by humiliating the offender. Advertisements or posters also may increase the likelihood of apprehension if the offender commits another violation; for example, a condition of probation may be that the person stay away from a given area.

7. For a striking example of the class nature of recent efforts to achieve security through architecture and space-age military technology, seeDavis's 1990 account of Los Angeles and its future.

8. The unintended consequences of the electronic monitoring movement more general are considered in R. Corbett andG. Marx (1991).

9. For example, a thief in Mobile, Alabama, was killed in a trap set by a homeowner. The trap consisted of two hunting rifles in separate locations. One pointed down a staircase. The rifle fired when the thief stepped on a wire rigged to the trigger. A neighbor called police when he heard a shot fired and then entered himself; fortunately the second gun did not fire athim (New York Times, Dec. 28, 1989).

10. See, for example, Clarke 1992 and Birbeck and LaFree 1993.

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Corbett, R. and Marx, G. 1991 "No Soul in the New Machine: Technofallacies in the Electronic Monitoring Movement." Justice Quarterly 8, no. 3: 399-414.

Davis, M. 1990. City of Quartz. New York: Random House.

Laudon, K. 1986. Dossier Society. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Marx, G. 1981. "Ironies of Social Control: Authorities as Contributors to Deviance Through Escalation, Nonenforcement and Covert Facilitation." Social Problems 28, no. 3: 221-46.

-1988. Undercover: Police Surveillance in America. Berkeley: University of Califoria Press. Marx, G. and N. Reichman. 1984. "Routinizing the Discovery of Secrets," American Behavioral Scientist 27, no. 4: 423-52.

Pizzorno, A. 1991. "On the Individualistic Theory of Social Order." In P. Bourdieu and J. Coleman, eds., Social Theory for a Changing Society, Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

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