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Offender Decision-Making: Decision Trees and Displacement

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2017
22 pages
This is the Final Summary Overview of the findings and methodology of a research project that examined a range of alternatives in offender decision-making related to "not offending," using a framework derived from the concept of crime displacement.
"Decision trees" were used to analyze the multi-staged decision-making processes of criminals who are blocked from offending because of a situational crime control or prevention measure. A better understanding of how criminals respond to crime-control and prevention efforts, beyond simple desistance, expands offender decision-making theory and provides insight into the efficacy of crime prevention practices, suggesting new and useful ways to improve them. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 200 adult offenders, either in jail or on probation in 14 counties under the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Offenders were asked about their desistance/displacement decision-making when confronted with a crime-prevention or crime-control measure. Interviews involved both open-ended questions and a series of hypothetical scenarios. Analysis of the interviews was informed by the qualitative data from the subjects' explanations and experiences, so as to reach an understanding of their decisions. Data are provided on offender characteristics and experiences. The analyses of offender experiences, crime-control measures survey, and situational crime vignettes showed a high probability of offender displacement (seeking a less risky or unprotected crime target). Spatial displacement was the most common form of displacement, followed by persist/tactical and target displacement. Confronted with repeated blocked criminal endeavors, most offenders eventually desisted. This suggests that many offenders could be deterred by multiple credible security measures, particularly those that increase the chance of being arrested or identified. Variables in an offender's need and motivation to commit particular crimes are discussed. 5 figures, 3 tables, and project publications being prepared

Date Published: December 1, 2017