An Ecological Analysis of Burglary, Auto Theft, and Robbery Using Hierarchical Linear Methodology: An Investigation of a Strategy for Theoretical Integration.

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Social disorganization theory posits that spatial patterns of crime emerge because neighborhood characteristics contribute to differences in propensity for criminality. Routine activity theory, on the other hand, asserts that spatial patterns emerge due to contextual differences in opportunity for criminal acts. Given that a criminal event requires both a motivated offender and an opportunity, scholars have recently recognized that these two independent traditions are complementary in nature. Spatial characteristics associated with the production of criminality and the creation of opportunity may both be independently associated with the patterns of distribution of criminal events, but when they occur simultaneously in the same location an interaction may occur whereby there is a multiplicative, rather than an additive, effect. This dissertation contributes to the growing body of literature that seeks to integrate these two lines of research on the basis of empirical interaction effects. However, a contentious dilemma has emerged around the choice of an appropriate unit of analysis for the measurement of the concepts involved in these interactions. On the theoretical front, there is general debate as to the role of 'awareness space' versus the role of an emergent milieu of a larger social context. On the methodological front, large units are suspected of introducing error through within unit heterogeneity, while small units are suspected of heightening autocorrelational errors. Through the use of Hierarchical Linear Analysis, this dissertation improves the understanding of these issues by developing multi-level models of robbery, burglary, and auto theft using data from a mid-sized south-eastern city. That is, distinct models for each of these crimes are built which simultaneously measure the associates of crime at relatively micro- and macro-levels of analysis. Both micro- and macro-level social contexts are found to be important to understanding the ecology of street crime, and the influence of micro-level characteristics are found to be contingent on the macro-level environments in which they are nested. The empirical findings in conjunction with the theoretical interpretation of these findings aid the development of an integrated ecological theory of crime and contribute to knowledge about the unique factors that are associated with the specific crimes of burglary, auto theft, and robbery.



sociological, sociology, context, HLM, Hierarchical Linear Methodology, crime, burglary, robbery, auto theft, unit of analysis, ecology, theoretical integration, social disorganization theory, routine activity theory, routine activities theory, space, neighborhood