Article

The usefulness of past crime data as an attractiveness index for residential burglars

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  • Aomori Prefectural Police Head Quarter
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Abstract

This study examines the effects of neighbourhood attractiveness on the residential burglar's crime location choice process using a discrete choice model. We show that past crime data are an important index of a neighbourhood's attractiveness and can be combined with other attractiveness indices adapted from previous studies. We used data from 369 solved cases committed by 70 offenders and related these data to 1,134 areas (500 m grid cells) in Sendai City, Japan. The results showed that residential burglars were attracted to the following potential locations for crimes: (a) areas in proximity to his or her own residence; (b) areas having many or at least a higher proportion of residential burglaries in the past; (c) areas having many residential units; and (d) areas having a higher proportion of single‐family dwellings. The results confirm the validity of past crime data as an index of a neighbourhood's attractiveness for residential burglary.

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... Investigating how offenders select criminal target areas is one of the main themes in criminology. Many studies have shown that offenders are likely to select areas close to where they live or have lived [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16] because they are more familiar with such areas and tend to identify suitable targets easily [2,4]. However, the journey-to-crime distances from the offender's residence to the criminal site is related to various factors, including crime scenes [4,14], offender characteristics [6,[8][9][10][11], and neighborhood-level characteristics such as population density [1,13,16]. ...
... Bernasco and Nieuwbeerta [3] were the first to use this modeling approach to examine criminal location choices; they found that residential burglars were more likely to choose target zones with many residential units, as well as zones near to where they lived. Likewise, many other studies have indicated that zones that contain many potential targets provide more opportunities for motivated offenders to select a suitable target [7,12,17]. For instance, Hanayama et al. [7] used data on Japanese residential burglaries and found that the number of residential burglaries in the past served as an index of attractiveness for residential burglars. ...
... Likewise, many other studies have indicated that zones that contain many potential targets provide more opportunities for motivated offenders to select a suitable target [7,12,17]. For instance, Hanayama et al. [7] used data on Japanese residential burglaries and found that the number of residential burglaries in the past served as an index of attractiveness for residential burglars. Another advantage of conditional logit modeling is that it allows the differences of spatial choice preferences among offenders to be incorporated into a model [5,12]. ...
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... Attributes of locations (such as the number of potential crime targets present), of offenders (such as their age or level of criminal expertise) or of location-offender combinations (such as the location's distance from the offender's home), are input as predictor variables and the outcome variable is categorical: which of the possible locations was chosen for crime commission (e.g., Bernasco and Nieuwbeerta 2005;Long et al. 2018;Frith 2019)? To date, over thirty studies have applied discrete spatial choice modelling (DSCM) to crime data (see Ruiter, 2017 and subsequent studies e.g., Bernasco 2019; Hanayama et al. 2018;Long et al. 2018;Song et al. 2019). Their results have provided significant insights with implications for theory and practice in terms of crime investigation, prediction, and prevention (Bernasco 2019;Curtis-Ham et al. 2020) but there is potential to expand the research agenda further (Ruiter 2017;Curtis-Ham et al. 2020). ...
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Previous research evaluating burglars’ offending location choices has produced mixed findings about the influence of physical barriers and connectors on offender movement patterns. Consequently, this article utilises the discrete spatial choice approach to formally evaluate the impact of barriers and connectors on residential burglars’ macro-level offending location choices. Data from Perth, Western Australia, demonstrated that physical barriers and connectors exert significant influence on offender decision-making at this level, and that the influence of impermeable barriers increases with proximity of these obstacles to the offender’s point of origin. These findings provide formalised evidence for the independent importance of physical barriers and connectors in offender movement and are discussed with respect to current environmental criminology theory.
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Although it is now well established across diverse samples that the frequency of offending ‘decays’ as distance from the home/base increases, it remains unclear what form of decay function best characterises this relationship. Different forms of decay function reflect different patterns and rates of decrease in the likelihood of offending as distance from the home/base increases. These different patterns imply rather different underlying psychological processes. Therefore, considerations of the particular function characterising distance decay elucidate explanations of offender spatial behaviour. To bring to light the possible psychological and behavioural processes inherent in offending distance decay, the present study examined the fit of logarithmic, negative exponential, and quadratic decay functions to the distribution of the distances travelled to offend by a sample of 70 prolific burglars from the UK. It is argued that these functions are consistent with the operation of perceptual processes of magnitude estimation, friction or effort effects, and the influences of cost-benefit assessments, respectively. The results indicate that offending distance decay patterns most closely fit the logarithmic function, consistent with Stevens' perceptual processes of distortion in magnitude estimation, whilst not ruling out additional processes relating to the increased effort required in travelling greater distances to offend. Because most geographical profiling systems are built upon the distance decay function, the impact of utilising the different forms of function on the accuracy of geographic profiles was also assessed utilising ‘search cost’ calculations. The results showed little impact of applying different decay functions. Thus, whilst the decay function does have important theoretical implications for understanding offender spatial behaviour, it is noted that the particular variant used does not significantly impact on the effectiveness of geographical profiling systems as they currently exist. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Using data on residential burglaries and residential burglars in The Hague, this study addresses the issue of whether solitary offenders choose their target areas differently from the way offender groups do. It is hypothesised that, in general, burglars are attracted to neighbourhoods that are nearby their homes, nearby the city centre, affluent, physically accessible, and characterised by social disorganisation. In addition, differences between solitary burglars and co-offending burglar groups regarding the strength of these criteria are assessed. The results support the postulated relevance of physical accessibility and proximity to the offenders' homes for both single offenders and co-offending groups. However, solitary burglars and burglar groups seem to agree on what constitutes an attractive target area, because no evidence for the postulated differences between them is found. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
This study assesses the effects of attractiveness, opportunity and accessibility to burglars on the residential burglary rates of urban neighborhoods, combining two complementary lines of investigation that have been following separate tracks in the literature. As a complement to standard measures of attractiveness and opportunity, we introduce and specify a spatial measure of the accessibility of neighborhoods to burglars. Using data on about 25, 000 attempted and completed residential burglaries committed in the period 1996–2001 in the city of The Hague, the Netherlands, we study the variation in burglary rates across its 89 residential neighborhoods. Our results suggest that all three factors, attractiveness, opportunity and accessibility to burglars, pull burglars to their target neighborhoods.
Article
Many studies have shown that distributions of the distances that offenders travel in the commission of their offences are typically characterised by a decay function. However, there are few empirical comparisons of the different mathematical functions which may characterise such distributions. Further, there has been little consideration of what different forms of function may reflect about the underlying factors and psychological processes governing this aspect of the journey to crime. With the increasing use of geographical profiling systems which incorporate decay functions into their calculations, it is particularly of value to explore the most appropriate mathematics for describing the frequencies of crime journeys and to determine the impact of different decay functions on the effectiveness of a geographical profiling system. A two-stage study was therefore carried out using data derived from 96 US serial killers. In the first stage three different decay functions were examined, in terms of the extent to which they fitted a distribution of the distances travelled to offend for the sample; logarithmic, in accordance with Steven's ‘Power Law’ for distance estimation; negative exponential as an estimate based on the ‘friction’ generated by journeys; and quadratic, which reflects key principles found from journey to crime research. A ‘control’ function, simple negative linear, was also tested against the data. It was found the logarithmic function provided the closest approximation to the journey to crime distances of offenders in the present sample (R2 = 0.81, p < 0.001), suggesting that distance estimations may be an important part of the explanation for the length of the crime trips that offenders make. In the second stage, all four functions were utilised within a geographical profiling system (Dragnet) and their impact on the search cost for locating an offender established for the whole sample. In general it was found that the search cost function, which relates the proportion of the sample to the search cost, was positively monotonic with a distinct change in gradients around 58% of the sample, indicating that the software was producing useful results in the majority of cases. However, although the logarithmic function produced the best results overall, and the linear function the worst, as hypothesised, no significant differences between the search costs were found when each of the different functions was utilised. The implications for the robustness of the software and the possible influence of the low precision of the raw data are discussed. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Why do robbers choose a particular area to commit an offense? Do they rob close to home? Do they search for areas with suitable and attractive targets? What keeps them away from certain areas? To answer these questions, a model is developed of how robbers choose target areas. The model draws on various theoretical and empirical tra-ditions, which include environmental criminology, journey to crime research, gang research, and social disorganization theory. Testing the model on cleared robbery cases in Chicago in the years 1996–1998, we demonstrate that robbery location choice is related to characteristics of target areas, to areas where offenders live, to joint characteristics of the resident and target areas, and to characteristics of the offenders them-selves. The presence of illegal markets and other crime generators and crime attractors make areas attractive for robbers, whereas collective efficacy seems to keep them out. Distance as well as racial and ethnic segregation restrict the mobility of offenders.
Article
Many offenses take place close to where the offender lives. Anecdotal evidence suggests that offenders also might commit crimes near their former homes. Building on crime pattern theory and combining information from police records and other sources, this study confirms that offenders who commit robberies, residential burglaries, thefts from vehicles, and assaults are more likely to target their current and former residential areas than similar areas they never lived in. In support of the argument that spatial awareness mediates the effects of past and current residence, it also is shown that areas of past and present residence are more likely to be targeted if the offender lived in the area for a long time instead of briefly and if the offender has moved away from the area only recently rather than a long time ago. The theoretical implications of these findings and their use for investigative purposes are discussed, and suggestions for future inquiry are made.
Article
We begin by describing some of the mathematical foundations of the geographic profiling problem. We then present a new mathematical framework for the geographic profiling problem based on Bayesian statistical methods that makes explicit connections between assumptions on offender behaviour and the components of the mathematical model. It also can take into account local geographic features that either influence the selection of a crime site or influence the selection of an offender's anchor point. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
The outcome of German serial murderer spatial decision making was measured as the straight-line distance (km) between murderer home locations and each crime location (i.e. body recovery location). Geographic and series development data, as well as information on age, intelligence, motive, marital status, employment status, and mode of transportation of 53 German serial murderers was collected from police and prosecution service files and judicial verdict records. Potential effects of the aforementioned factors on spatial decisions were assessed. Results showed that 63% of the murderers lived within 10 km of their crime locations. Home-to-crime distance was negatively correlated with murderer age and positively correlated with murderer IQ score. Results also showed that the mode of transportation used by murderers had an effect on their spatial decisions. Results are discussed in terms of understanding serial murderer spatial decision-making and implications for police investigations. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Recent research has demonstrated that burglary clusters in space and time, resulting in temporal changes in crime hotspot patterns. Offender foraging behavior would yield the observed pattern. The offender as forager hypothesis is tested by analyzing patterns in two types of acquisitive crime, burglary and theft from motor vehicle (TFMV). Using a technique developed to detect disease contagion confirms that both crime types cluster in space and time as predicted, but that the space–time clustering of burglary is generally independent of that for TFMV. Police detections indicate that crimes of the same type occurring closest to each other in space and time are those most likely to be cleared to the same offender(s), as predicted. The implications of the findings for crime forecasting and crime linkage are discussed.
Article
Crime has long been thought to be intimately associated with the physical environment in which it occurs. Theoretical and empirical developments over the past 20 years demonstrate that this relationship is complex and varies substantially at different levels of spatial and temporal resolution. Research on the distribution of property crimes in time and space resonates with research on the target selection processes of offenders to suggest that crime is strongly related to aggregate elements of the perceived physical environment: nodes, paths, edges and an environmental backcloth. The relationship between crime and the physical environment is mediated through individual awareness and action spaces. This implies a series of research issues and crime control policies for future exploration.
Article
Traditionally, researchers have employed statistical methods to model crime. However, these approaches are limited by being unable to model individual actions and behaviour. Brantingham and Brantingham (1993) described that in their opinion a useful and productive model for simulating crime would have the ability to model the occurrence of crime and the motivations behind it both temporally and spatially. This paper presents the construction and application of an agent-based model (ABM) for simulating occurrences of residential burglary at an individual level. It presents a novel framework that allows both human and environmental factors to be simulated. Although other agent-based models of crime do exist, this research represents the first working example of integrating a behavioural framework into an ABM for the simulation of crime. An artificial city, loosely based on the real city of Leeds, UK, and an artificial population were constructed, and experiments were run to explore the potential of the model to realistically simulate the main processes and drivers within this system. The results are highly promising, demonstrating the potential of this approach for both understanding processes behind crime and improving policies and developing effective crime prevention strategies.
Article
This research evaluates the usefulness of applying functional distance measures to criminal geographic profiles using mathematically calibrated distance decay models. Both the travel-path (i.e., shortest distance) and temporally optimized (i.e., quickest travel time) functional distance measures were calculated based on the impedance attributes stored within a linearly referenced transportation data layer of several parishes in Louisiana. Two different journey-to-crime distance decay functions (i.e., negative exponential, and truncated negative exponential) were mathematically calibrated for “best fit”, based on the distribution of distances between homicide crime locations and offender’s residences. Using the calibrated distance decay functions, geographic profiles were created for a localized serial killer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A probability score was calculated for every point within the study area to indicate the likelihood that it contained the serial offender’s residence. A comparison between the predicted (highest probability score) and the actual residence of the serial offender determined the predictive value and procedural validity of functional distance metrics.
Article
Predicting when and where crimes are likely to occur is crucial for prioritizing police resources. Prior victimization is an excellent predictor of risk. Repeat victimization, when it occurs, tends to occur swiftly after an initial incident. The predictive power of prior victimization is greater than that of other analysed variables (see Budd 1999). Self-evidently, prior victimization yields no prediction about properties as yet unvictimized. This article, using data about the crime of domestic burglary, contends that research should seek to realize the predictive potential to be gained from both pre-and post-victimization factors. One of the advantages of crime reduction through the prevention of repeats is that it offers a constant (and, it is hoped, declining) rate of events that trigger preventive action, and hence a natural pace for preventive work. In that spirit, postvictimization prevention should, as well as targeting the victimized home, also protect other properties that are similar with respect to the dimensions used by burglars in target selection. The central purpose of the research here reported is to identify the ways in which it is prudent to allocate crime reduction resources in the wake of an offence and across time and location relative to the burgled home. We analysed police-recorded crime burglary data for the county of Merseyside. Using statistical techniques developed to study the transmission of disease, we first confirmed that burglaries do cluster in space and time. The operational payoff of this result is that a residential burglary flags the elevated risk of further residential burglaries in the near future (1-2 months) and in close proximity (up to 300-400 metres) to the victimized home. Put simply, the burglary event should trigger preventive action that is not restricted to the burgled home. The data enable prospective burglary hot-spotting.
Article
Introduction Modeling travel behavior is a key aspect of demand analysis, where aggregate demand is the accumulation of individuals' decisions. In this chapter, we focus on "short-term" travel decisions. The most important short-term travel decisions include choice of destination for a non-work trip, choice of travel mode, choice of departure time and choice of route. It is important to note that short-term decisions are conditional on long-term travel and mobility decisions such as car ownership and residential and work locations. The analysis of travel behavior is typically disaggregate, meaning that the models represent the choice behavior of individual travelers. Discrete choice analysis is the methodology used to analyze and predict travel decisions. Therefore, we begin this chapter with a review of the theoretical and practical aspects of discrete choice models. After a brief discussion of general assumptions, we introduce the random utility model, which is the most c
The burglary as clue to the future: The beginnings of prospective hot-spotting
  • Johnson
Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice
  • W. Bernasco
Burglary victimization in England and Wales, the United States and the Netherlands
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