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Infectious Burglaries: A Test of the Near Repeat Hypothesis

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 43 Issue: 3 Dated: Summer 2003 Pages: 615-633
Michael Townsley; Ross Homel; Janet Chaseling
Date Published
19 pages
In exploring one aspect of spatial dependence for burglary, this study used epidemiological methods for the study of infectious diseases to explore "near repeat" victimization.
The "near repeat" burglary hypothesis states that proximity to a burgled dwelling increases burglary risk for those areas that have a high degree of housing homogeneity and that this risk is similar to the temporarily heightened risk of becoming a repeat victim after an initial victimization. This study tested this hypothesis on 34 months of police burglary data, primarily in suburbs of southeast Queensland (Australia) that contain homogeneous housing. At the time of the study, the police jurisdiction examined had the sixth highest burglary rate for the State. It was a low socioeconomic area with relatively high levels of unemployment, public housing, poverty, and crime. To quantify housing diversity and identify areas of recent large-scale land development, a real estate agent with experience in the study area was interviewed. All of the recorded burglaries in the jurisdiction between January 1, 1995, and October 31, 1997, were included in the dataset, which consisted of the addresses of burgled properties, as well as the time and data of the burglary. The five main suburbs of the police division were examined for similarity of housing and target vulnerability. Strong evidence was found for the existence of "near repeat" burglaries. Burglaries that occurred in close proximity to recent burglary incidents were observed at higher rates than expected for certain suburbs. One way to conceive of the relationship between housing diversity and target vulnerability is through the infection analogy. Housing diversity is an indicator of how contagious burglary victimization is, in that similar areas allow for the transmission of burglaries; whereas, diverse areas restrict transmission. The most obvious application of these findings is that areas with similar housing should implement a modified version of cocoon neighbor watch (Forrester et al., 1988), aimed at targeting near repeats as well as repeat victimization. Crime prevention strategies should be varied according to the extent of housing homogeneity and should allow for the overall crime rate in the area. 2 figures, 4 tables, and 43 references


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