Exploring the House Burglar's Perspective: Observing and Interviewing Offenders in St. Louis, 1989-1990 (ICPSR 6148)

Published: Mar 10, 1994

Principal Investigator(s):
Richard Wright, University of Missouri-St. Louis. Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Scott H. Decker, University of Missouri-St. Louis. Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06148.v1

Version V1

These data investigate the behaviors and attitudes of active residential burglars, not presently incarcerated, operating in St. Louis, Missouri. Through personal interviews, information was gathered on the burglars' motivation and feelings about committing crimes, peer pressure, burglary methods, and stolen goods disposal. Respondents were asked to describe their first residential burglary, to recreate verbally the most recent residential burglary they had committed, to discuss their perceptions of the risk values involved with burglary, and to describe the process through which they selected potential targets for burglaries. In-depth, semistructured interviews lasting from one and a half to three hours were conducted in which participants were allowed to speak freely and informally to the investigator. These interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim, and some were later annotated with content-related markers or "tags" to facilitate analysis. Information was also elicited on age, race, sex, marital status, employment status, drug history, and criminal offense history.

Wright, Richard, and Decker, Scott H. Exploring the House Burglar’s Perspective: Observing and Interviewing Offenders in St. Louis, 1989-1990. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1994-03-10. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06148.v1

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (89-IJ-CX-0046)

1989 -- 1990

1989 -- 1990

This dataset is a machine-readable text file containing verbatim answers to interviewers' questions. For reasons of confidentiality, names have been removed. Profanity has been deleted as well.

The goal of this project was to learn more about the behaviors and attitudes of active residential burglars not presently incarcerated. Interviewers asked questions on six main topics: (1) What types of needs motivated the burglar: psychological or financial, urgent or long-term? (2) To what degree did threat of arrest or punishment influence criminal behavior? (3) What constitutes a good residential target for burglary? (4) What methods are used to gain entrance to a home? (5) Which areas in a home are searched first and what items are most sought after? and (6) How are stolen goods disposed of?

In-depth, semistructured interviews lasting from one and a half to three hours were conducted in which participants were allowed to speak freely and informally to the investigator. These interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim into a machine-readable text file, and some were later annotated with content-related markers or "tags" to facilitate analysis. Participants were typically paid 25 dollars for their time.

The study employed a "snowball" sampling technique, whereby offenders known to the investigators were asked to refer other active offenders who, in turn, were asked to refer still more active offenders until a suitable sample size was attained. To keep the sample from containing a disproportionately high number of offenders who had been previously apprehended, no referrals from law enforcement or other criminal justice personnel were used. All 105 individuals who agreed to an interview were included in the sample. Of the sample, 87 were male and 18 were female, 72 were Black and 33 were white, and 27 were juveniles. At the time of interview, 21 of the subjects were on probation, parole, or serving suspended sentences.

Active (not presently incarcerated), residential burglary offenders in St. Louis, Missouri.

individual

personal interviews

machine-readable text

Information is included on demographic characteristics of offenders such as age, race, sex, marital status, and employment status. Each respondent's drug and criminal history records are also provided. Other questions relate to the opinions and feelings of the subjects, e.g., how a likely burglary target is defined, what characteristics each looks for in such a target, what motivation the respondent feels before committing a crime, what, if any, deterrents exist, and how deterrents affect the respondent's criminal actions. Additional items cover how crimes are actually carried out by the offender, including what types of items are first on the list of valuables to steal, how long the offender spends inside the residence, and whether the respondent "cases" the residence before the burglary.

Not applicable.

None

1994-03-10

1994-03-10

Notes

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

NACJD logo

This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.