Thursday, January 03, 2008

CRIMINOLOGY Abstracts, Part One

From the latest Criminology, Vol. 45, No. 4:

Richard Rosenfeld; Robert Fornango
The Impact of Economic Conditions on Robbery and Property Crime: The Role of Consumer Sentiment
pp. 735-770

Despite its long history in criminology, research on the relationship between macroeconomic conditions and rates of common crime remains limited. That is in part because many analysts doubt that any systematic relationship exists and in part because of disagreement with regard to the validity of the indicators typically used to measure economic conditions. We argue in this article that good theoretical reasons exist to expect macroeconomic effects on crime rates, but many theories imply that collective perceptions of economic hardship should have effects on crime that are independent of those more "objective" economic indicators. To evaluate this argument, we examine the relationships between the Index of Consumer Sentiment and regional robbery, burglary, larcenty, and minor vehicle theft rates in the United States between 1970 and 2003, which was a period of large swings in both consumer sentiment and instrumental crime. Controlling for several factors thought to influence temporal variation in crime rates, we find that consumer sentiment had significant effects on robbery and property crime rates over the period that were largely independent of the effects of unemployment and economic growth. We also find that consumer sentiment accounted for a sizable fraction of the crime decline during the 1990s and yields reasonably accurate predictions of changes in the four offenses in 2004 and in two of hte four offenses in 2005. We conclude that the effects of collective economic perceptions should become an important focus of future research on crime trends.

Pamela Wilcox; Tamara D. Madensen; Marie Skubak Tillyer
Guardianship in Context: Implications for Burglary Victimization Risk and Prevention
pp. 771-804

Survey data from 4,227 Seattle residents nested within 100 "neighborhoods" (census tracts) were analyzed to discern interrelationships between various dimensions of individual-level and neighborhood-level guardianship. We focused on four dimensions of guardianship--physical (target hardening), personal (home occupancy), social (informal control), and natural (surveillance through environmental design)--at both individual and neighborhood levels. A multilevel opportunity, theoretical framework guided hypotheses, which suggests that each of the four dimensions of individual guardianship would be related more negatively to burglary as each of the four dimensions aggregate guardianship increased. Multilevel logistic regression analysis revealed support for many of such hypothesized moderating effects of aggregate guardianship. More specifically, 6 of the 16 possible interaction effects were statistically significant at the .05 level and an additional 3 interaction effects were significant at the .10 level. In particular, individual-level target hardenting, place management, and natural surveillance were related negatively to burglary as neighborhood-level target hardening increased, as neighborhood-level informal social control increased, and as neighborhood-level natural surveillance increased.

Nicole Rafter
Somatotyping, Antimodernism, and the Production of Criminological Knowledge
pp. 805-834

This study analyzes the work of William H. Sheldon, the psychologist, physician, and advocate of the study of body types. It investigates how he arrived at his much-repeated finding that a correlation exists between mesomorphy (a stocky, muscular body build) and delinquency and how his ideas were validated and perpetuated. It reviews what Sheldon actually said about the causes of crime; identifies his goals in searching for a relationship between body shape and criminality; explains how he found audiences for his biological theory at a time when sociological approaches dominated criminology; and attempts to understand the current criminological ambivalence about the scientific status of Sheldon's work, despite its discreditation decades ago. I argue that the tripartite structure of Sheldon's thought attracted three different audiences--methodologists, social scientists, and supporters--and that it encouraged the supporters to fund his research without reference to the critiques of the social scientists. I also argue that somatotyping was part of a broader antimodernist reaction within internation scientific communities against the dislocations of twentieth-century life. To understand the origins, acceptance, and maintenance of criminological ideas, we need a historical perspective on figures of the past. Positivism may inform us about what is true and false, but we also need to know how truth and falsity have been constructed over time and how the ideas of earlier criminologists were shaped by their personal and social contexts.

Margit Wiesner; Deborah M. Capaldi; Hyoun K. Kim
Arrest Trajectories Across a 17-Year Span for Young Men: Relation to Dual Taxonomies and Self-Reported Offense Trajectories
pp. 834-864

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of different operationalizations of offending behavior on the identified trajectories of offending and to relate findings to hypothesized dual taxonomy models. Prior research with 203 young men from the Oregon Youth Study identified six offender pathways, based on self-report data (Wiesner and Capaldi, 2003). The current study used official records data (number of arrests) for the same sample. Semiparametric group-based modeling indicated three distinctive arrest trajectories: high-level chronics, low-level chronics, and rare offenders. Both chronic arrest trajectory groups were characterized by relatively equal rates of early onset offenders, which indicates, therefore, some divergence from hypothesized dual taxonomies. Overall, this study demonstrated limited convergence of trajectory findings across official records versus self-report measures of offending behavior.

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