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Criminal Expertise and Offender Decision Making: An Experimental Study of the Target Selection Process in Residential Burglary

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 32 Issue: 1 Dated: (February 1995) Pages: 39-53
Date Published
15 pages
An experimental group of active residential burglars participated in an experiment designed to explore the environmental cues that burglars use in selecting targets and the extent to which such offenders possess specialized cognitive abilities or expertise that would facilitate the selection process.

The experimental group and 35 nonoffenders were shown photographs of houses and asked which would be attractive targets for burglary. The subjects were then given a surprise recognition test in which physical features of some of the houses had been changed. The most important findings from this study were that active criminals focused on a different mix of environmental cues than did the controls and these burglars demonstrated better recognition memory performance for such cues relative to the nonoffenders. The specialized knowledge displayed by the burglars could not be accounted for by sex, age, race, or socioeconomic status but seemed to be acquired through experience. The nonoffender group proved that law-abiding citizens sometimes have a misconception of what is and is not important in preventing residential burglary. 3 tables, 3 figures, and 13 references

Date Published: January 1, 1995