A Time for a Crime: Temporal Aspects of Repeat Offenders’ Crime Location Choices


Objectives This article examines to what extent repeat offenders’ crime location choices are conditional on the timing of the offenses within the week and within the day. Extending crime pattern theory, we argue that offenders acquire time-specific rather than general knowledge of their environment. We hypothesize that offenders are more likely to offend in previously targeted areas at similar than at different days and times. Methods Data on 12,639 offenses committed by 3,666 repeat offenders in the Netherlands are analyzed using discrete spatial choice models. Results Offenders are most likely to offend in areas they already targeted before at similar parts of the week and similar times of the day, especially when the previous offense was committed on exactly the same weekend day or weekday and at the same hour of day. Offenders are less likely to return to previously targeted areas at different times of the week and day, and least likely to offend in areas they never targeted before. The effects were stronger for the same than for different types of crime. Conclusions Assessing cyclic time patterns in crime location choice not only enhances our understanding of spatial criminal decision-making, but could also improve predictive policing methods.

Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 55(4):538-568