When Do Offenders Commit Crime? An Analysis of Temporal Consistency in Individual Offending Patterns

Abstract

Objectives. Building on Hägerstrand’s time geography, we expect temporal consistency in individual offending behavior. We hypothesize that a repeat offender commits his offenses at similar times of the day and similar days of the week. In addition, we expect stronger temporal consistency for crimes of the same type and for crimes committed within a shorter time span. Method. We use police-recorded crime data on 38,592 repeat offenders who committed 192,180 offenses between 1996 and 2009 in the greater The Hague area in the Netherlands. We develop a Monte Carlo permutation test that compares the observed level of temporal consistency for each offender to the temporal consistency that would be observed if a random offender would have committed the crimes. Results. Repeat offenders show strong temporal consistency: they commit their crimes at more similar times of day and days of the week than expected. Moreover, the observed temporal consistency patterns are indeed stronger for offenses of the same type of crime and when less time has elapsed between the offenses, especially for offenses committed within a month after the prior offense. Discussion. This study provides evidence that offenders have recurring daily and hourly rhythms that shape their temporal crime pattern. These findings might prove valuable for improving predictive policing methods and crime linkage analysis as well as interventions to reduce recidivism.

Publication
Journal of Quantitative Criminology, accepted for publication