Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

Formal Evaluation of the Impact of Barriers and Connectors on Residential Burglars' Macro-Level Offending Location Choices

Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

Formal Evaluation of the Impact of Barriers and Connectors on Residential Burglars' Macro-Level Offending Location Choices

Article excerpt

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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An extensive body of research indicates that offenders' choice of burglary location is influenced by distance from offender residence, individual characteristics of offenders, and a range of environmental factors. However, little attention has been given to the potential mediating effects of physical barriers and distance-decreasing connectors on macro-level offender location choice. To address this situation, the current research utilises a discrete spatial choice approach to investigate the influence of physical barriers (such as rivers, and major roadways) and connectors (such as train lines) on macro-level residential burglary target selection in Perth, Western Australia.

Previous Approaches to Investigating Target and Location Vulnerability

The first major type of research methodology investigating burglary choice has focused on target vulnerability. These studies have made use of a diverse range of techniques and the geographic resolution of analysis has ranged from the micro to the macro. For example, at a micro-level, some studies have made use of offender interviews or ethnomethodology to investigate how burglars choose particular targets (as summarised by Nee & Taylor, 2000). On the other hand macro-level studies have (a) focused on broader target characteristics (such as the suburb affluence, social cohesion, etc.); (b) examined individual household, dwelling, and block characteristics within neighbourhoods (e.g., Smith & Jarjoura, 1989) and (c) also utilised increasingly sophisticated analyses of victimisation surveys that have simultaneously incorporated individual and area-level factors (e.g., Tseloni, Osborn, Trickett, & Pease, 2002). These approaches to understanding burglary choice are not without their limitations. Ethnomethodological studies have provided insight into the decision-making process that leads to discrimination between targets within a local area, but they have largely ignored the question of broad location choice (spatially and temporally). On the other hand, victimisation survey analyses have provided valuable information about general target vulnerability, but they have not been able to include offender information in the modelling process (e.g., Rountree & Land, 2000; Sampson & Groves, 1989; Simcha-Fagan & Schwartz, 1986).

These limitations are at least partially addressed through the journey-to-crime studies that utilise official records of apprehended offenders to model movement and broad area selection (e.g., Gabor, 1984; Hesseling, 1992; Rhodes & Conly, 1981; Smith, 1976; Turner, 1969). This class of studies examines distances between burglary targets and offender residence and has established the existence of patterns of distance-decay (such that the likelihood of offending decreases as the distance away from the point of origin increases) and has demonstrated this factor interacts with characteristics of the offender, the target, and victim-offender relationship (e.g., Rhodes & Conly, 1981; Wiles & Costello, 2000; Wright & Decker, 1994). …

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