Criminology theories have long pointed to criminal groups as playing key roles in shaping offending behaviour. While empirical research has refined this link, showing that individuals’ connectivity to criminal groups shapes their offending patterns, few studies have focused on the group as the main unit of analysis. We know little about the factors that lead criminal groups to emerge and even less about what leads them to evolve and persist over time. Focusing on group trajectories, this dissertation presents three studies that examine the evolution of the networks of terrorist organizations. Drawing from detailed network data derived from self-reports and official sources, this study examines the structural properties associated with 1) turning points in a group’s emergence and transition into violence; 2) network formation before and after a major law enforcement intervention; and 3) repeat offending across terrorist attacks. Collectively, findings showed how a group’s network structure is key for amplifying or attenuating their life cycle. However, group trajectories were found to depend not only on subgroups of densely connected offenders, but also leaders who played key roles in bridging the network and regenerating it over time. These results are used to conceptually develop a typology of group trajectories to explain variations in the life-cycles of terrorist organizations.
Traditional longitudinal studies in criminology are not well-equipped to address questions concerning differences between chronic offenders and desisters because (a) these studies sampled from community-based populations where chronic offenders are rarely found and (b) these studies did not include the types of risk factors expected to differentiate chronic offenders from desisters. Indeed, there is a noted lack of research on the offending patterns of youth at the ‘deep end’ of the criminal justice system (Mulvey et al., 2004), and this type of sample is especially critical for studying desistance. Specific attention was given to the manner in which symptoms of psychopathy could be integrated into existing theories of desistance. To facilitate this line of analysis, data from the Incarcerated Serious and Violent Young Offender Study (n = 326) were used to perform three separate analyses using semi-parametric group based modeling (with exposure time accounted for). The three analyses captured chronic, serious, and violent offending trajectories from age 12 to 28. The characteristics of the individuals associated with these trajectories were described in order to better understand risk and protective factors associated with persistence and desistance. Specific attention was given to whether symptoms of psychopathy measured using the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL:YV) were informative of trajectory group association in each of the chronic, serious, and violent offending analyses. Theoretical and policy implications for the desistance process during emerging adulthood are discussed. There is a specific need for continued research using repeated measures of risk and protective factors within samples of high-risk offenders. The substance use literature’s movement from abstinence-only treatment strategies to harm-reduction strategies may provide some helpful guidelines for criminal justice system practitioners distinguishing between high rate offenders recidivating as part of an escalation in the severity of their criminal career versus high rate offenders recidivating as part of a relapse in the desistance process.
Often overlooked in the measurement of crime is the underlying size of offender populations. This holds true for online property crimes involving the sale, purchase, and use of stolen financial data. Despite available data suggesting that such frauds are steadily increasing, the number of actors comprising stolen data markets has yet to be determined. The current study addresses this issue using two related capture-recapture methods—Zelterman’s estimator and its extended covariate adjusted model—to estimate the population sizes of buyers, vendors, money launderers, and facilitators who are active within online marketplaces in a calendar year. Data analysis consisted of samples collected from 3 websites that facilitate financial crimes and frauds. While the observed overlap between marketplaces was rare, results indicate that websites are perhaps not distinct entities, but are better conceptualized as a collective marketplace that is much larger in size than what can otherwise be observed.
This study examines the influence of emotional affect on an offender’s decision-making during a sexual assault event. Based on 507 convicted sexual offenders, regressions were used to assess if emotional affective states lead an offender to utilize excessive levels of physical force and inflict a greater degree of physical injuries during an assault event. Findings indicate that negative emotional states, such as anger, increase the likelihood of an offender using excessive physical force during the assault event. Further findings suggest that negative emotional states also increase the likelihood of the offender inflicting higher levels of victim injury. Results suggest that emotional affect has a narrowing effect on an offender’s decision-making process. The findings also indicate that emotional states prior to the sexual assault event are not significantly associated with either excessive physical force or violent, injurious outcomes. Theoretical and prevention implications are discussed.
Animal cruelty is a significantly under researched topic in Criminology. An exploratory study was undertaken to determine whether there is a link between cruelty offences and other crimes in British Columbia (BC). Data were compiled using open source websites to identify convicted animal cruelty offenders and examine any further criminal convictions. Using the frameworks of the graduation hypothesis and generalized deviance theory, criminal offending patterns and timing of offences were analyzed. Offenders were categorized into two types based on their first animal cruelty offence: active (hands on, violent) and passive (hands off, neglect). Sentencing and demographic outcomes were also examined. Active cruelty offenders were more likely to have criminal records for violent crimes, and have prior and simultaneous convictions. These results are consistent with the generalized deviance theory. Sentencing outcomes revealed that strong penalties for animal cruelty offences are not being utilized by the BC courts.
Drawing from Life Course Theory (LCT) and General Strain Theory (GST), the current study sought to address the development of negative affect in the online context, specifically whether the turning point of entrance into adulthood was associated with a change in sentiment expressed online. A mixed methods approach was employed, whereby 96 individuals were sampled from 3 online Islamic forums, and approximately 3000 posts per user were analyzed over 9 years. Quantitative results display a development in sentiment over time (increasing in negativity) for both minors and adults. Qualitatively, most users displayed a change in overall posting content throughout their time online; but a select few did not display any development – these individuals were the most negative / extreme on the forum. Implications of these findings for research on the role of the Internet in the development of negative narratives and extremism are discussed, as well as avenues for future research.
Independent civilian oversight of police has had rapid growth over the past decade in response to a number of high profile cases of police misconduct and public dissatisfaction with internal police investigations. The dynamics of the oversight process, however, have not been studied. This study examines the oversight of Royal Canadian Mounted Police and municipal police in the Province of British Columbia. This includes the financial cost of oversight, trends in public complaints against the police and the benefits and challenges of the current oversight system. The role of oversight in increasing police accountability, improving public confidence and shifting police behavior is also examined. Thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with persons from oversight agencies, police unions, special interest groups and professional standards units. The findings reveal the cost of police oversight has increased by 93.6% over five years. Municipal police spend more on oversight per year despite having three times less police strength than the RCMP. Major challenges facing the system include timely processing of complaints, the administrative burden of minor complaints, the difficulty in determining return on investment, and the two-tier complaint model within the province.
As the profile of restorative justice in tertiary education grows, this research examines the impact of Canada’s most long-standing undergraduate, restorative justice course. This dissertation documents the genesis of Simon Fraser University’s restorative justice course (RJC) from the perspective of several course developers. The study utilizes established survey and interview methods from the field of transformative learning to evaluate whether RJC students experienced perspective transformation, what they feel facilitated that transformation, the impact of it, and whether the transformation was enduring. The findings indicate that the majority of respondents experienced perspective transformation from retributive to restorative. For many, this transformation involved more than changing views about crime and justice. Students reported transformations of beliefs, feelings, and relationships that led to changes in behaviour with respect to their vocation, volunteer work, education, and personal lives. These transformations were sustained over time and participants provided feedback on how the RJC could play a role in advancing restorative justice beyond the university setting. This study provides concrete recommendations for how restorative justice education can create personal transformations that can move restorative justice from the margins to the mainstream inside and outside of the criminal justice system.
Since the adoption of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) a reduction in youth crime recidivism has prevailed, except for the most serious violent offenders. The purpose of this thesis was to explore whether the absence of mandatory treatment under the YCJA explains why this population of youth are at a high risk to re-offend after judicial intervention. Using a developmental and life-course theory lens, this thesis employed a case analysis, which examined 22 cases from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Through two analyses it was discovered that judicial ideologies and the decision-making processes of judges do not align with the current developmental research that has found individualized, intensive, and validated treatment programs are the best way to decrease the risk of recidivism for this population of youth. Due to their multi-level risk factors, without treatment their chances of recidivism and the likelihood of becoming career criminals increases substantially. Rather, it was found that the majority of youth in this study were sentenced as adults, and the role of rehabilitation was of no importance in the judges’ final decision. This thesis argues for the need of mandated treatment as the current establishment of the Canadian juvenile justice system has been ineffective in dealing with serious violent youth, and will continue to be, unless changes are implemented.
The study monitors the evolution of perceptions and opinions of the terrorist group the Islamic State (ISIS) during its involvement in Syria and Iraq in 2013-2014. Data is drawn from a web-forum discussing current Islamic affairs that followed ISIS as early as September 2013. These data are used to answer the question of whether or not there are opinion leaders facilitating the discussion of violent extremist material. An interrupted time series and ordinary least squares regression are used to address the research question by determining the most impactful events on the thread, and determining the causal role of opinion leaders on the way users connect. Results indicate that the content and success of discussion are most impacted by the involvement of opinion leaders and media related to a specific ISIS event.