Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Where and When: A Profile of Armed Robbery by Location

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Where and When: A Profile of Armed Robbery by Location

Article excerpt

In 2010, approximately 5,000 individuals and organisations reported being the victim of armed robbery (Borzycki & Fuller 2014). After assault and sexual assault, armed robbery is the third most common violent crime reported; a trend that has remained consistent over the last 10 years (AIC 2013). However, armed robbery is unique when compared with other types of violence due to its overlap with property crime. Specifically, while armed robbery involves the use or threat of force or violence, the primary purpose is to deprive the individual or organisation of their property (Pink 2011). A such, an incident of armed robbery can have both immediate and long-term psychological and economic ramifications for the victim. Therefore, the prevention of armed robbery remains a key focus of business groups, as well as law enforcement agencies.

In order to develop effective crime prevention strategies, it is necessary to acknowledge the heterogeneous nature of armed robbery. Incidents of armed robbery can vary depending on whether the victim was a person or an organisation, whether the offender was armed with a knife, firearm or other weapon, or whether the offence occurred on the street or in a commercial premise (Borzycki & Fuller 2014; Mouzos & Borzycki 2003). Therefore, understanding the qualitative differences between incidents is vital in order to avoid implementing ineffective and generic approaches to armed robbery prevention.

Previous profiles of armed robbery have almost exclusively focused on the offender. Research conducted in Australia and overseas has examined the characteristics and motivations of offenders in order to explain the variations in robbery (see Gabor et al. 1987; Matthews 2002; Mouzos & Borzycki 2003; Nugent et al. 1989; Walsh 1986). However, while such an approach has merits as an investigative tool, it is limited in its presentation of armed robbery more generally. Specifically, these profiles fail to appropriately capture the influence of the environment and the victim on the offender. It would therefore be useful, when looking to prospectively prevent crime, to broaden this focus and incorporate not just the offender but also vulnerabilities associated with particular victims and/or locations.

The aim of the current research is to develop overarching profiles of armed robberies based on the locations in which they occur. The four profiles reflect the ways locations and their environments interact with the offender to shape the nature of the armed robbery incident. The purpose is to provide a better understanding of the unique vulnerabilities associated with each category that may then assist practitioners implementing crime prevention across the different locations.

Profiling armed robbery

The decision to profile incidents by location has its foundations in a routine activity theory (RAT) of crime (Cohen & Felson 1979). At its core, RAT proposes that crime occurs when three elements converge at the same time and in the same geographical location - the presence of a motivated offender and a suitable target, as well as the absence of a capable guardian. RAT underscores many crime prevention initiatives, where the primary aim is to manipulate one or more of these elements, therefore rendering an offence less likely to occur.

Until now, armed robbery classifications have focused almost exclusively on characterising different offenders and their motivations. Early work by Gabor et al. (1987) identified four types of Canadian robbers-chronic, professional, intensive and occasional offenders. The groups were distinguished predominately by the frequency of their offending. Chronic and professional offenders had longer careers and committed a high volume of robberies (more than 20 over the course of the career). However, these two groups could be differentiated from each other by their level of planning and the level of diversification into other crimes. Specifically, professionals planned more and were less likely to diversify. …

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