International study to catch burglars before they strike

A major international study into understanding where and when burglars decide to offend aims to reduce crime.

The four-year project will analyse offending profiles in Australia, Canada, UK and the Netherlands. It will build a comprehensive model of offender spatial preferences to determine how neighbourhood planning can be used in crime prevention.

Griffith University researcher Dr Michael Townsley says burglary costs the Australian economy about $2410 million annually.

“It dwarfs the costs of all other property crimes and is almost equivalent to the combined dollar costs of homicide, assault and sexual assault,” he said.

He said if researchers could work out how urban form influences offender mobility and what burglars perceive as suitable targets for crime then architects and town planners could play a role in crime reduction.

“We know that rates of crime vary dramatically between neighbourhoods and over time, weekly, monthly, daily and hourly.

“If such variations can be systematically explained this will have implications for crime reduction.”

Researchers will investigate the role public transport systems, street networks and building design play in the production and facilitation of crime.

“The built environment is a critical factor for understanding the forces of offender attraction and impedance,” Dr Townsley said.

“For example, theories of offender mobility would suggest the newly-built CLEM7 tunnel will serve as connector for criminals and crime levels should change.

“But as yet, we don’t know how such crime levels will change. Which areas will increase? What resource allocation should police area commanders contemplate in order to prevent criminal activity?

“These sorts of predictions are beyond the training of local crime analysts, but are possible with discrete spatial choice models.”

The Griffith study will be the first comprehensive analysis of offender mobility that incorporates international comparisons in a systematic fashion.

The project is funded by an Australian Research Council grant.