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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Complexities of Recorded Crime

The classfication of  recorded crime is complex. I will illustrate this by using the example of "domestic burglary". Burglary is a legal term which in itself is complex and defined in England and Wales by section 9 of the Theft Act 1968. In simple terms it is a theft that occurs whilst trespassing in a premises. If violence is involved then it is an aggravated burglary. Then there are legal definitions around what is and is not an attempted burglary. In legal terms there is no differentiation between domestic and non-domestic burglaries, this is where Home Office crime classifications come in. So a shed burglary in a residential garden is a domestic burglary but a shed burglary in a public garden is a non-domestic burglary. A distraction or deception burglary is classified by the Metropolitan Police Service as burglary artifice. Theft of car keys from a house to steal a car parked outside is a domestic burglary. If the car was stolen without entering the house then it is not a burglary.

My last post I discussed the differences between correlation of domestic burglaries with the IMD in inner and outer London.

The first point to make is that even though the classification of domestic burglary is being compared this includes burglaries of houses, sheds etc., attempted burglaries, aggravated burglaries, burglary artifice, burglaries for cars, high value and low value burglaries. This means that there is no guarantee the nature of the burglaries are exactly the same in inner and outer London. Or even more pertinent the nature of burglaries is the same in higher and lower deprived areas.

Secondly crime commission theories are relevant here too. For a burglary to occur you need the interaction between a likely offender and a premises that they are capable of entering with minimum risk and a commodity to steal that makes their effort worth while. In London with its over 3 million households it only has about 60,000 reported domestic burglaries a year. This means that it only needs about 400 active burglars, commiting an average of 3 burglaries a week for this figure to be acheived.

Thirdly travel to crime theories should also be considered. Most burglars have a modus operandi that works for them. This will involve types of premises they will burgle, time of day and location. The location typically will be within a easy travelling distance from their home or other base but the higher the gain or rarer the desired target the more likely the distance travelled will be greater. Not really a lot different to a hunter/prey scenario.

There is a dynamic here (the Routine Choice Dynamic Theory is something I devised for my M.Phil which I will perhaps outline in a later post) that critically depends on the existance of an active burglar at a location. Therefore information of the locations of active burglars is perhaps equally interesting as where the crimes are occurring.

I could go on mentioning other factors such as drug addiction motivation and the varying performance of police but I will have to save them up for other posts. I will end by concluding that the higher population density and a the greater proximity of more and less deprived areas in inner London compared to outer London probably accounts for at least part of the differences in correlation.

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