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Specialization and Seriousness During Adult Criminal Careers

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1988
43 pages
Focusing on crime-type switching between successive arrests, this study analyzed the evolution of adult criminal careers to detect systematic patterns in the mix of crime types during a career.
The data analyzed covered the arrest histories of 32,197 adults (age 17 or older) arrested during the 4-year period 1974-77 for any of the six most serious index crimes (other than larceny) in the Detroit Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area or in the remaining Southern Michigan region. The basic tool for the analysis of switching patterns was the crime-type-switch transition matrix. By focusing on the changes in offense types between successive arrests, transition matrices introduce some controls for varying numbers of arrests across offenders. Based on the observed elevated levels of repeat arrests for the same crime type, some specialization was found in all crime types for adult offenders. These specialization levels were similar across races and jurisdictions, especially within the same State. Specialization was highest in drugs and fraud (especially among white offenders) and in auto theft (especially among black offenders). Adult offenders in all jurisdictions exhibited tendencies toward increased switching among offenses within a cluster and decreased switching between these clusters. Overall, the analyses of offense-type switching over successive arrests for adult offenders provide some support for the presumed worsening of offending during criminal careers. 13 tables, 4 figures, 37 references.

Date Published: January 1, 1988