Criminal Consistency and Investigative Inference

Donna Youngs, University of Liverpool
David Canter, University of Liverpool

The possibility of drawing inferences about an offender's likely characteristis from his/her behaviour in a crime depends upon some degree of consistency in criminal behaviour. The question of whether criminals are consistent or not is confused by a lack of clarity on how any such consistencies may exist. The present study of the self-reported offending behaviour patterns of 185 convicted young offenders indicates little support for the conceptualisation of criminal consistency in terms of the stereotypical ideas about specialists. Rather, broad relative consistencies relating to Bandura's (1986) fundamental human incentives are identified. Partial Order Scalogram Analysis of the offenders' activity across these Material, sensory and Power gain styles of crime reveals offending patterns that vary in both the type and degree of consistency. With regard to type of consistency, the key distinction is between involvement in either Sensory or Power style, while Material offending plays a more central role, featuring in the majority of offending patterns. The implications oof this odel of criminal consistency for the investigative inference process are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006