Understanding Offense Specialization and Versatility: A Re-Application of Rational Choice Theory

Rob Guerette, Rutgers University
Vanja Stenius, Rutgers University

Early efforts toward understanding whether offenders specialize in types of criminal behavior or partake in general offending patterns applied Cornish and Clarke's rational choice theory with the improper assumption that it predicts crime type specialization among offending populations. Moreover, research findings on this issue have led some to conclude that a small degree of specialization exits within a larger backdrop of offending versatility. However, previous methodology is limited in its ability to clearly assess the amount of specialization within specific crime types. Somewhat recently logistic regression has been proposed as a means to more clearly evaluate the extent of specialization. This paper seeks to clarify the application of rational choice theory in understanding offense specialization/generality through the use of a multi-nominal logistic regression method.

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Updated 05/20/2006