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Use of Maps in Offender Interviewing (From Offenders on Offending: Learning About Crime From Criminals, P 246-272, 2010, Wim Bernasco, ed. - See NCJ-232627)

NCJ Number
Date Published
27 pages

This chapter discusses the use of two types of mapping tasks in offender interviews as a means of gaining insight into the offender's spatial decisionmaking and the behavior that follows from these decisions.


The chapter first reviews the literature regarding the elements of spatial cognition and related decisionmaking, along with options for their measurement. The emphasis in this review is on sketch and cartographic maps. Sketch maps are free-hand drawn maps that are assumed to represent a person's knowledge of his/her physical environment. Cartographic maps are actual maps of a specific geographical area. When presented with a selected map, participants are invited to draw on it in indicating the areas with which they are familiar, their movement patterns, and the features of the environment that influence their spatial decisions. Within the domain of spatial cognition and decisionmaking, at least three phenomena can be studied, the participant's levels of awareness of specific geographical areas, their movements (e.g., distances and routes traveled) and their activity patterns (e.g., distribution of offense locations). The chapter illustrates these issues with findings from a recent study. The study involved interviews with 28 offenders from Dorset in the United Kingdom who had been convicted of property crimes (residential burglary and/or vehicle offenses). Mapping tasks were used with these offenders and a group of nonoffenders for comparison purposes regarding spatial awareness and decisionmaking. The authors conclude that, despite their acknowledged shortcomings, the use of mapping tasks helped further the researchers' understanding of the issues being explored. Not only was useful information obtained from the analysis of the maps, the completion of the mapping tasks enhanced the participants' ability to explain their spatial decisionmaking and increased the validity of the findings regarding such decisionmaking. 8 figures, 2 tables, and 49 references

Date Published: January 1, 2010