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Offender Decision-Making: Decision Trees and Displacement

Award Information

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $377,528)

This project explores offender decision-making in regards to crime displacement. In other words, once an offender makes a situational decision not to offend due to a crime control or crime prevention measure, how does he or she evaluate displacement options as available alternatives? This study views offender decision-making as a decision tree with multiple considerations and choices and could ultimately provide insight into the efficacy of crime control and prevention practices, possibly suggesting ways that these could be improved.

Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with a minimum of 200 adult offenders convicted of predatory property or street crime, including theft, burglary, or robbery, who are under the authority of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In the first stage, subjects will be asked about their own experiences in situations where they wanted to commit a crime but chose not to do so because of an existing crime control or prevention strategy. In the second stage, subjects will be given a series of situational vignettes, each describing a prevented crime, followed by four displacement options (spatial, temporal, target, tactical) and a desistance option. The subject will be asked to rank these five options in terms of preference and evaluate them in terms of effort and risk, explaining their reasoning.

Quantitative data from the vignettes include subjects' preferred order of options, risk and effort assessments, and the point at which they decide not to offend. This data would be supplemented by the qualitative data derived from subjects' explanations and personal experiences. Attention will be paid to the use of heuristics, the influence of framing, and other prospect theory explanations for asymmetric decisions and exceptions to rational choice theory.


Date Created: September 12, 2013