DISTANCE DECAY REEXAMINED

Authors


  • George F. Rengert is Professor of Criminal Justice at Temple University. He holds an M.A. from The Ohio State University and Ph.D. from The University of North Carolina. A geographer by training, he is one of the founders of the modern field of spatial analysis in criminology. Dr. Rengert is the author or editor of four books and more than one hundred scientific articles and papers.

  • Alex R. Piquero is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Research Fellow in the Center for Public Policy at Temple University, Network Associate with the MacArthur Foundation's Program on Adolescent Research and Juvenile Justice, and Faculty Fellow with the National Consortium on Violence Research. His research interests include criminal careers, criminological theory, quantitative research methods, and the policing of public housing.

  • Peter R. Jones is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Temple University. His research interests include juvenile justice, community-based corrections, as well as policing and outcome-based program evaluation.

  • George F. Rengert is Professor of Criminal Justice at Temple University. He holds an M.A. from The Ohio State University and Ph.D. from The University of North Carolina. A geographer by training, he is one of the founders of the modern field of spatial analysis in criminology. Dr. Rengert is the author or editor of four books and more than one hundred scientific articles and papers.

  • Alex R. Piquero is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Research Fellow in the Center for Public Policy at Temple University, Network Associate with the MacArthur Foundation's Program on Adolescent Research and Juvenile Justice, and Faculty Fellow with the National Consortium on Violence Research. His research interests include criminal careers, criminological theory, quantitative research methods, and the policing of public housing.

  • Peter R. Jones is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Temple University. His research interests include juvenile justice, community-based corrections, as well as policing and outcome-based program evaluation.

Abstract

The “journey to crime,” or the study of the distance between an offender's residence and offense site, has been a subject of study within criminology for many years. Implications arising from such research touches the majority of criminological theories. An overriding conclusion from this line of research is that most crimes occur in relatively close proximity to the home of the offender. Termed the distance-decay function, a plot of the number of crimes that an offender commits decreases with increasing distance from the offender's residence. In a recent paper, Van Koppen and De Keijser raise the concern that inferring individual distance decay from aggregate-level data may be inappropriate. They assert that previous research reporting aggregated distance-decay functions conceals individual variations in the ranges of operation, which leads them to conclude that the distance-decay function is an artifact. We do not question the claim that researchers should not make inferences about individual behavior with data collected at the aggregate level. However, Van Koppen and De Keijser's analysis raises four important issues concerning (1) the interpretation of the ecological fallacy, (2) the assumption of linearity in offender movements, (3) the interpretation of geographic work on profiling, and (4) the assumption of random target selection within a delimited range of operation. Using both simulated and nonsimulated data, we present evidence that reaches vastly different conclusions from those reached by Van Koppen and De Keijser. The theoretical implications of our analyses and possibilities for future research are addressed.

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