Photo: Steven-Hille-3506

Where offenders commit crimes

Photo: Steven-Hille-3506

Where offenders commit crimes

Why do crimes occur where they do? Answering this question requires an innovative project aimed at understanding offenders’ decisions on where to commit crime. Crime takes place where attractive opportunities for crime overlap with awareness spaces of individuals motivated to commit crime. While previous research has focused on attractive opportunities, offenders’ awareness of these opportunities has been grossly neglected. This project remedies this lack of knowledge. Building on prior research, I introduce two innovations. First, I extend previous theory and measurements of offenders’ awareness space by including not only residential histories, but also locations of offenders’ schools, workplaces, leisure activities, close family members’ and friends’ homes, and prior crime locations. Second, I study both solved and unsolved crimes.
The project entails two closely linked and innovative data collections: (a) large-scale data collection of police records on offenders and their offences, combined with municipal records on offenders’ and their close family members’ residential histories; (b) primary data collection among offenders themselves. The Online Activity Space Inventory Survey [OASIS] asked offenders where and when they committed solved and unsolved crimes; locations of their current and past homes, schools, workplaces, leisure activities, and family members’ and friends’ homes. Discrete spatial choice models are employed to assess the impact of awareness space and attractive opportunities on crime location choice.
This project was funded by an NWO Vidi 2012 grant, no. 452-12-004.

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Stijn Ruiter
Professor / Senior Researcher

Trained as a quantitative sociologist, specialised in geographic and environmental criminology, interested in understanding why crime happens where and when it does and rigorous testing of its explanations.