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«Document Title: Correlates of Specialization and Escalation in the Criminal Career: Summary Report Author(s): Chester L. Britt Document No.: 182217 ...»

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The author(s) shown below used Federal funds provided by the U.S.

Department of Justice and prepared the following final report:

Document Title: Correlates of Specialization and Escalation in

the Criminal Career: Summary Report

Author(s): Chester L. Britt

Document No.: 182217

Date Received: May 4, 2000

Award Number: 97-IJ-CX-0020

This report has not been published by the U.S. Department of Justice.

To provide better customer service, NCJRS has made this Federallyfunded grant final report available electronically in addition to traditional paper copies.

Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S.

Department of Justice.

Correlates of Specialization and Escalation in the Criminal Career: Summary Report Submitted to National Institute of Justice U.S. Department of Justice f 8 10 Seventh Street N. W, Washington, D.C. 2053 1 Chester L. Britt Program in Crime, Law and Justice Department of Sociology Pennsylvania State University 21 1 Oswald Tower University Park, PA 16802 This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Do offenders specialize in a single crime type or cluster of similar crime types? Do offenders increase the seriousness of their criminal offenses over the course of their criminal careers? Blumstein et al. (1986, 1988) and LeBlanc and Frechette (1989) have suggested that at the onset of the criminal career, offenders will tend to commit a wide variety of offenses.

However, as offenders age, and gain more experience in committing criminal acts, they should become more proficient at some crimes and should be increasingly likely to repeat those crimes

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are also expected to increase the severity of the crimes they commit across their criminal careers, ultimately specializing in a more serious type of crime. The reasoning here is similar: offenders

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crime) may be more willing to commit a more serious, and presumably more complicated type of crime, because they have acquired the requisite skills for less serious and less complicated

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example, offenders may move from committing relatively less serious property crimes to relatively more serious property crimes, move from committing less serious violent crimes to more serious violent crimes, or move from committing property crimes to violent crimes. In each case, the offender is seen moving from a relatively less serious crime type to a relatively more serious crime type, but is hypothesized to do so after first gaining experience in

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committed by an offender at two consecutive points in time will often be quite similar. What has This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

varied in this research is the apparent strength of the relationship between successive crime types. Perhaps one of the most important factors to influence the strength of the evidence for specialization has been the age of the offender. The evidence for offense specialization is weakest among juvenile offenders, where research focusing on juvenile arrest sequences has often found a weak relationship between crime types (Bursik, 1980; Cohen, 1986; Davis, 1992;

LeBlanc and Frechette, 1989; Nevares et al., 1990; Rojek and Erickson, 1982; Wolfgang et al., 1972, 1987). Other work focusing on juvenile offender samples has found stronger evidence of specialization, but it has often been limited to a small number of property theft and status (e.g., runaway) offenses (Farrington et al., 1988; Kempf, 1987; Lattimore et al., 1994; Paternoster et

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specialization appears in studies that use data on adult arrest histories, where Blumstein et al.

(1 988) found evidence of specialization in fraud and violent offenses, Brennan et al. (1 989)

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criminal offending. The published research, thus far, has failed to present a consistent picture of how strong the evidence is for any escalation among criminal offenders. Similar to the research on specialization, there is very little evidence of increasing severity of criminal offenses among juvenile offenders (Davis, 1992; LeBlanc and Frechette, 1989; Tracy et al., 1990; Wolfgang et al., 1972). Although limited, there appears to be weak to moderate evidence of escalation among

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This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

escalation. The overall effect of race is unclear. For example, Bursik (1980) found weak overall evidence for specialization in his sample of juvenile offenders, but found significantly different crime sequences for white and black youths. Lattimore et al. (1 994) similarly found different offense patterns for white, black and Hispanic youth, while Britt (1 996) found different patterns of specialization for white and black adult offenders. Wolfgang et al. (1972), Tracy et al. (1990) and Blumstein et al. (1988), however,.found similar patterns of specialization among white and

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background characteristics on the likelihood that offenders specialize or escalate their offending over time. Comprehensive reviews of the research on the correlates of crime and delinquency show that a constellation of personal background characteristics (e.g., personality and behavioral indicators) and social characteristics (e.g., family and peer relationships) will affect the likelihood that an individual commits criminal acts (see, e.g., Blumstein et al., 1986; Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990; Wilson and Herrnstein, 1985). What remains unclear, and is the focus of this research, is how these kinds of offender characteristics may influence patterns of offending

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This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Chronic Offender Study by Haapanen and Jesness (1994), which was obtained from the ICPSRs National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. The youth who participated in this study were housed under the supervision of the California Youth Authority (CYA) in the 1960s. The youth were interviewed before and during (immediately prior to release) their supervision by the CYA. The CYA was able to obtain extensive background, behavioral, social, and psychological information

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detained at the Preston facility (N=1,715). Haapanen and Jesness later obtained detailed arrest histories for these juvenile offenders by checking records from the California Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation in 1978 and records from the FBI in 1980. Preliminary analyses of this data revealed this information to be relatively complete and that most of the

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adolescent correlates of adult crime affect the likelihood of specialization and escalation patterns in similar ways. In order to test the hypotheses presented above, extensive background and arrest history data are necessary, and the Earlv Identification of the Chronic Offender data set appears to meet these needs. Haapanen (1990) has analyzed these data in regard to how adolescent correlates of criminal behavior influence repeat offending in adulthood, but he did not investigate how adolescent predictors of crime influenced crime type sequences. Thus, the following analyses will extend Haapanen's work by testing a multivariate model of specialization and escalation, rather than a predictive model of chronic or repeat offending.

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This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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burglary, other property (e.g., larceny, forgery, motor vehicle theft), drug and alcohol, and other miscellaneous offenses, consistent with the offense categories used by Lattimore et al. ( 1 994).

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maladjustment, aggression, alienation, withdraw], anxiety, repression, and asocial index. All seven scales are components to the Jesness Inventory (Haapanen and Jesness, 1994).

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Restricting the sample in this way permits a test for specialization and for escalation among a group of offenders who were clearly more active offenders. Another benefit to restricting the sample to offenders with at least ten arrests is that it increases the chances that these criminal activities were pursued over an extended time period, which is important for testing hypotheses

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This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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in offense types over time, the arrest information for each of the ten arrests is pooled, so that the dependent variable is type of crime (as measured above), and predicted by characteristics of the offenders. Pooling the data in this way results in 9 3 5 0 person observations (935 offenders with 10 arrests each). After establishing a naive baseline model of specialization and of escalation, three substantively meaningfu.I models are estimated: Model 1 is conceptually equivalent to prior research on specialization and escalation and takes into account only information on the arrest number (i.e., first, second, etc.); Model 2 includes offender background characteristics in addition to the arrest number; and, Model 3 includes interaction effects of age at time of arrest and race with arrest number to test hypotheses related to whether age and race have time-varying effects on the likelihood of committing different types of crime. The predicted probabilities from

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This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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specialization and escalation in the criminal career. Although a small, but growing, body of research has shown adult offenders tend to specialize in (repeat) the same crime type and/or to This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.



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