Once a Thief, Always a Thief? The Effects of Prior Offending and Routine Activities on Criminal Offending Over the Life Course

Paul Nieuwbeerta, NSCR Netherlands Institute for the Study
Arjan A. Blokland, NSCR
Karin Wittebrood, Social en Cultural Planning Office

This study focuses on the effects of prior criminal offending and patterns of routine actiities on the risk of committing crimes in two types of crime: personal and property crimes. It is examined to what extent individuals who have once been an offender suffer a higher risk of subsequent offending and to what extent this relationship can be explained by a real effect of prior offending (state dependence) or by patterns of routine activities (heterogeneity). Where earlier studies usually tested these hypotheses by comparing persons over a small period, the present paper tests them by looking at the changes during the course of life histories. Two datasets are analysed: data from a nationally representative self-report survey administered in the Netherlands in 1996 to 1,939 individuals aged 15 years or older and official data on criminal histories of a nationally representative sample of 4,000 people convicted in the Netherlands in 1977. Both datasets contain data on marital, fertility, residential, and employment histories -- indicating patterns of routine activities -- and histories of criminal offending. Logistic multilevel models were used in the analysis of the data. The results of the analyses suggest that the relationship between prior and future offending is partly due to state dependence, but more largely to heterogeneity in the population.

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Updated 05/20/2006