The Importance of Time and Place Contextualization in Criminological Research

Kenneth J. Litwin, University of Michigan - Flint

ABSTRACT
The importance of contextualizing research is well known, yet remains under emphasized and under utilized in most contemporary work by criminologists, the present author included. Particularly, the social context in which behavior occurs contains time and place specific social forces operating in relation to the phenomena of interest. Therefore, there are three primary reasons why contextualization is crucial: 1) variable significance may vary by place, 2) variable significance may vary by time, and 3) contextual details expand knowledge of phenomena. Thus, replication fo research in a variety of temporal-local contexts is more than mere methodological exercise, it is social scientific necessity to enhance knowledge. This paper presents the results of analyses of factors related to a police performance measure in: 1) two different cities during the same time period using the same methodology and modeling and 2) one city during three separate time periods. Differences in the statistical significance of several variables across time and place provide evidence for the importance of time and place contextualization in criminological research. Several specific demographic, political, and economic differences are identified to expand current knowledge of one particular police performance measure.

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Updated 05/20/2006