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Residential burglars and urban barriers : a quantitative spatial study of the impact of Canberra's unique geography on residential burglary offenders


This is a report on a project funded by the Criminology Research Council. The original title of the project, in the name of Jeremy Ratcliffe, was 'Prolific urban criminals and urban barriers : a quantitative spatial impact study of the ACT's unique geography on recidivist property crime offenders'. The study investigates the question of whether residential burglars are inhibited by suburb boundaries and urban barriers (such as major road systems and vegetation strips) in their choice of suburbs to target. Data on individuals charged with burglary, along with the offence location, were provided by the Australian Federal Police (ACT Region) for the A.C.T. for 1999 and 2000. The journey-to-crime burglary patterns of over 300 offender/offence records (from home address to targeted location) were plotted on a Geographical Information System (GIS). The majority of offenders in the study travelled across more than one suburb boundary in their journey to crime (travelling offenders). Furthermore, those offenders that stayed more local to their home address (marauders) were not inhibited in their travel plans, and there is no statistical evidence that these offenders favoured their own suburb over other neighbourhoods that were within their travel range. The statistical findings show that Canberran burglars follow an expected distribution of target selection based on simple geographical opportunity that is unaffected by urban barriers. The findings suggest that physical characteristics of suburban boundaries are not a factor in target selection and that the significant dual carriageways and wide vegetated areas that are characteristic of Canberra do not inhibit residential burglars.

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