A psychological approach to deterrence: The evaluation of crime opportunities

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Abstract

Maintains that potential criminals make a few simple comparisons and partial examinations of crime opportunities. It is also argued that the relevant data for studying responses to crime opportunities are individual judgments rather than aggregate statistics. 36 adult and 43 juvenile male Ss (median ages 27 and 15 yrs, respectively), offenders and nonoffenders, evaluated 3 outcome gambles consisting of 4 dimensions: (a) the probability of a successful crime, (b) the money obtained if successful, (c) the probability of capture, and (d) the penalty if caught. Ss based their judgments primarily on a single dimension, although dimensional preferences varied greatly across Ss. Only minor differences existed among the types of Ss. Money was the most important dimension, followed by penalty, probability of success, and probability of capture. These findings support the proposed approach and suggest that making crime less profitable in comparison to noncrime opportunities may have stronger effects on crime rates than increasing the likelihood and severity of punishment. (18 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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