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Juvenile Burglars

NCJ Number
Juvenile and Family Court Journal Volume: 45 Issue: 2 Dated: (1994) Pages: 85-91
P Cromwell
Date Published
7 pages
This article discusses research on juvenile burglars that is part of a larger study of residential burglars and burglary (Cromwell, Olson, and Avary, 1991).
Thirty active burglars in a southwestern metropolitan area of 250,000 population were interviewed extensively over a 16-month period. Although the larger study was primarily concerned with determining the decisionmaking processes and situational cues relied on in selecting burglary targets, the subjects also provided information on their initiation into crime, drug use, co-offenders, techniques for breaking and entering, and marketing their stolen property. The sample was composed of 27 males and three females and was evenly divided between white, black, and Hispanic burglars. The mean age was 25 years; the range was 16-43 years. Most reported they had begun their criminal activity in their mid-teens with one or more older acquaintances. These older youths served as mentors or tutors. The young burglars initially committed the offenses for excitement, fun, or to obtain consumer goods or small sums of money. If the youths persisted in committing burglaries, they either developed to full membership in the older youth gang or went on their own with a group of friends their own age. To become independent it is necessary to locate and develop a business relationship with a "fence" who provides a safe and reliable market for the stolen goods. This is difficult because fences do not usually like to do business with juveniles. Once young burglars begin having spendable income from their crimes, they often begin to purchase and use drugs and alcohol regularly. Although they did not commit their early burglaries to buy drugs, they find that drugs and burglary facilitate each other. Intervention strategies should focus on the associates of juveniles who lead them into crime as well as the supply of drugs that fuels juveniles' need for additional income to buy drugs. Targeting fences may not only deny juvenile burglars a market for their goods but also deprive them of a mentor. 9 references