Predicting Crime Type: The Effect of Individual Characteristics on Patterns of Specialization and Escalation

Todd A. Armstrong, Arizona State University West
Chester L. Britt, Arizona State University West

This research investigates the association between offender background characteristics and patterns of specialization and escalation. Specialization refers to the tendency of an offender to repeat a given offense type. Escalation refers to the tendency to switch from a less serious offense to a more serious offense. Constructs included were: age, age at onset, race, family environment, alcohol and drug abuse, gang membership, child abuse, school performance, and prior aggression. The specific research questions addressed by the analysis were: 1) do offender background characteristics effect patterns of escalation and specialization, and 2) do age and race have time varying effects on patterns of escalation and specialization?

To answer the research questions four conceptually distinct multinomial logit models were estimated. Model 0 was a načve model that assumed the probability of each type of crime is fixed across arrests. Model 1 took into account information on the arrest number (i.e., first second, etc.). Model 2 included offender background characteristics in addition to the arrest number. Model 3 included interaction effects of age at time of arrest and race with arrest number. Results indicated that behavioral and social correlates of crime had a substantial impact on patterns of specialization and escalation.

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Updated 05/20/2006