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Stick-up, Street Culture, and Offender Motivation

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 37 Issue: 1 Dated: February 1999 Pages: 149-174
Date Published
February 1999
26 pages

Semistructured interviews with 86 active armed robbers explored these offenders' decisionmaking processes in actual settings and circumstances to understand how and why they moved from an unmotivated status to one in which they were determined to commit robbery.


The study was prompted by recognition that motivation is the central, yet arguably the most assumed, causal variable in the etiology of criminal behavior. Criminology's incomplete and imprecise understanding of this construct can be traced to criminology's strong emphasis on background risk factors, often to the exclusion of subjective foreground conditions. The present study was conducted in St. Louis, Mo. Participants were located using a snowball sampling strategy and included 72 males and 14 females. They ranged in age from 16 to 51 years. All had taken part in armed robberies; many had also committed strongarm attacks. Their robbery rates varied widely Results indicated that although the decision to commit robbery stemmed most directly from a perceived need for fast cash, this decision was activated, mediated, and shaped by participation in street culture. Findings indicated that street culture, together with its constituent conduct norms, represented an essential intervening variable that linked criminal motivation to background risk factors and subjective foreground conditions. Figure, footnotes, and 78 references (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: February 1, 1999