A sample of 48 active residential burglars and a matched control group of nonoffenders were compared regarding their willingness to commit a burglary at varying levels of certainty of arrest, severity of punishment, and anticipated reward.
Burglars were far more willing than the controls to commit hypothetical break-ins. Offenders were more likely than controls to indicate they would commit burglary, but neither group's decisions were affected significantly by the severity of the threatened penalty on its own. Penalty only had an influence on offender decisionmaking in combination with anticipated gain or perceived risk. Burglars were less willing to offend when the perceived risks were high and the anticipated penalties were severe but were more prepared to commit a burglary when anticipated rewards increased beyond what was proposed initially and the perceived penalties were low. A strong effect emerged for risk of arrest; the decisions of offenders were more affected by risk level than those of controls. 2 notes, 6 tables, and 12 references