Criminology - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Criminal expertise and sexual violence: An examination of the crime-commission process

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2022-03-25
Supervisor(s): 
Eric Beauregard
Julien Chopin
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

Some criminologists have argued that offending does not require special skills and that people who commit crime are not very good at what they do. Conversely, the criminal expertise perspective suggests that some people develop offense-related competencies that allow them to make better, more intuitive decisions during a crime. Criminal expertise is argued to manifest into observable and overt actions across the pre-crime, crime, and post-crime phases, such as a higher degree of planning, a better ability to control their victim, and taking steps throughout the crime to reduce the risk of police detection. Adopting this approach, the present thesis utilized multivariate analyses to examine the crime-commission processes among a series of sexual-theft crimes. Drawing on the expertise literature on burglary, and rational decision-making studies of sexually motivated burglary, Chapter 1 hypothesized that sexual burglary would involve a more skilled or “expert” crime-commission process compared to sexual robbery. Results confirmed this hypothesis, indicating that sexual burglary involved a more sophisticated modus operandi oriented towards detection avoidance. Building off these findings, Chapter 2 used latent class analyses to examine the novice to expert continuum within each of these offense domains. Results found domain-specific experts in sexual burglary and sexual robbery, intermediate subgroups that shared similar transferable skills across the two domains (i.e., “overlapping expertise”), and novice subgroups with unskilled and opportunistic crime-commission processes. Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 addressed whether offenses associated with detection avoidance can be used as proxies for criminal expertise. Chapter 3 compared the crime-commission process of serial offenders to novices (i.e., offenders without a previous criminal history). Results indicated that compared to novices, serial offenders have a more versatile skillsets in violent offending (pre-crime and crime phases) but did not engage in a high level of detection avoidance strategies post-crime. Lastly, Chapter 4 compares the crime-commission process of offenders who were detected by police (solved) and unapprehended offenders (unsolved). Findings showed that offenders who stole fetish items, did not leave semen at the crime scene, and engaged in the fewest number of sexual acts were the most likely to remain unapprehended. Taken together, findings show support for criminal expertise in sexual offending, the expert to novice continuum, and the notion of overlapping expertise. Implications for theory, crime prevention and intervention are discussed.

Document type: 
Thesis

Identifying information useful for cyber-attacks against Canadian critical infrastructure in online discussion forums

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-06-30
Supervisor(s): 
Richard Frank
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

Critical infrastructures (CI) are connecting their systems to networks at an increasing rate, providing the opportunity for malicious actors to conduct cyber-attacks against these companies. In an attempt to understand the threats facing Canada’s CI, information collected from online discussion forums was analyzed to discover frequently targeted CI companies and locations in Canada, the types of information shared within these forums, and who the main authors are in sharing threat-related posts. After analyzing IP addresses collected from 20 online discussion forums, the province of Quebec was identified as a hot-spot for cyber-threats, while the information and technology sector was targeted most frequently among sectors. A thematic analysis of posts containing keywords revealed that information useful for conducting cyber-attacks against CI is being shared within these forums. Lastly, findings from this study found two authors may be considered high-threat, in that the majority of their posts were threatening towards CI.

Document type: 
Thesis

The criminal governance, geography, and network features of extortive offences in El Salvador

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-12-14
Supervisor(s): 
Martin Bouchard
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

This thesis studies offender choices associated with extortive offences in El Salvador, Central America. Super gangs like MS-13 and Barrio 18 have turned extortion into one of the most important impediments for economic development in various countries of the isthmus. The control, influence, and prevalence of the illicit organizations found in Latin American contexts such as El Salvador, are rare. Criminal actors take advantage of the state’s poor governance to rule over large portions of the territory, sometimes establishing secret deals with official authorities to legitimize their power. Yet, little is known about the impact these circumstances have on offender decision-making. Borrowing from political science, the studies in this thesis turn to the criminal governance framework to capture the conditions faced by extortionists during three separate periods in El Salvador’s recent history and examine their impact over offender decisions. The findings suggest that closer partnerships between illicit organizations and state agents remove constraints and add incentives that provide offenders with more options, but that these effects are mediated by features associated with crime groups and the contexts in which they operate. Using these results, this thesis proposes a preliminary conceptual model of offender choices in extortion under criminal governance.

Document type: 
Thesis

Fathers investing in fatherhood: A qualitative examination of contemporary fathering in fatherhood groups in Canada

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-08-12
Supervisor(s): 
Joan Brockman
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

The existing literature and research on fathers in movements demonstrate differing approaches to understanding fatherhood, men’s engagement in the family pre/post separation, family law, and fatherhood/fathers’ rights activism. However, these approaches often fail to address the experiences of fathers, as well as fatherhood activists and movements, that exist outside the narrative created by the fathers’ rights-based approaches and pro-feminist responses that currently dominate the dialogue surrounding the issues of fatherhood movements/groups and the rights of fathers. Based on this problematization of the existing frameworks for and examinations of fatherhood movements, this two-part study examined the social engagement and experiences of fathers who belong to fatherhood groups across Canada, with a strong focus on British Columbia (BC). Phase one was an investigation of the parallel fathers’ rights movement (FRM) and involved fatherhood movement (IFM) Canada-wide. I conducted a qualitative content analysis of these two discourses through their online presence and activism, such as blogs, websites, and online resources. Phase two dovetailed off this analysis through in-depth interviews with fathers engaged in the FRM and IFM in BC, including a few fathers who reside outside of BC but were active in national groups engaged in this province. Together, the two phases provide an examination of fatherhood and fatherhood movements within a critical masculinities framework. This analysis highlights the privilege inherent within fatherhood groups and the exclusionary politics within these movements that resulted in the absence of the voices of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) and marginalized fathers (e.g., fathers of low-socioeconomic status). Further, this research reflects on these fathers’ beliefs that they face disadvantage in family law proceedings, and problematizes and challenges their claims of bias, discrimination, and oppression. The concluding analysis also demonstrates the privilege, power, oppression, and inclusion/exclusion within fatherhood groups, movements, and discourses overall. Ultimately, this study captured men’s nuanced experiences with fatherhood and parenting pre/post separation, within the current socio-legal and familial contexts.

Document type: 
Thesis

More than a riot: Understanding the role of the police in crowd disturbances and moving toward a theory of police behaviour

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-05-21
Supervisor(s): 
Garth Davies
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

Civil protests. Music concerts and festivals. Sporting events. Parades and other large-scale celebrations. While these events differ in terms of their purpose, they are fundamentally all the same: they draw large crowds of people into public spaces, and, in the interest of maintaining public safety, they all require the presence of the police to monitor and manage the behaviours of individual crowd members. Even though most of these large-scale public gatherings are peaceful, crowds’ proclivity towards violence and destruction appears to be on the rise (Kaplan et al., 2020; Reid, 2020). According to the predominant theories and research on crowds and public-order policing, the manner in which the police respond to the crowd may play a role in influencing whether or not a crowd event ends peacefully (e.g., Wahlstorm, 2007). However, the inability of these theories and studies to account for discrepancies in the effectiveness of police approaches to crowd management across different events suggests there may be more to it than merely the police response that impacts the outcome of a crowd event. Using data collected from a sample of Vancouver police officers following the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, this dissertation explores some of the nuances associated with the policing side of crowd events in three separate, yet related studies. Focusing specifically on the events that transpired during the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, the first two studies explore police perceptions of the utility of the Meet-and-Greet crowd management strategy, and the potential influence the police officers themselves had on the effectiveness of this strategy during the riot. Examining police perceptions of the broader climate of policing around the time of the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, the final study explores the potential role that contextual factors play in shaping the policing of large-scale public events. By highlight some of the challenges and obstacles officers face when policing crowds, these studies may assist in deepening our understanding of public-order policing. This dissertation will outline some of practical and theoretical implications stemming from these results, as well as future directions for research focusing on the policing of large-scale public events.

Document type: 
Thesis

The Role of Informal Workers in Online Economic Crime

File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-08-30
Supervisor(s): 
Martin Bouchard
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

(Context) Online economic crime leverages information technologies (IT) for illegal wealth redistribution, such as banking theft. Such crime requires a series of actions, a scheme, to be successful. Informal workers, individuals whose economic activities escape regulations, can be leveraged to execute various tasks surrounding these schemes. However, what these workers represent for online economic crime organizations, and their impact on the reach and sophistication of the crime, has yet to be uncovered. This thesis focuses on understanding the contexts, motivations, and organizations of those behind online economic crime. While doing so, it assesses the role and availability of an informal IT workforce surrounding the crime organization and its likelihood to participate in such criminal schemes. (Methods and Data) This thesis builds on three data sources: (1) 21 semi-structured interviews with experts, (2) a private chat log containing discussions among individuals involved in online economic crime, and (3) two datasets on an informal IT workforce operating on a digital labor platform. A blend of qualitative and quantitative analyses is developed, including inductive thematic analysis, non-parametric statistical hypothesis tests, and group-based trajectory modeling. (Results) The findings illustrate three key contextual factors influencing those behind online economic crime: a lack of legal economic opportunities, a lack of deterrents and the availability of drifting means. Organizations behind online economic crime are found to take various forms, from organized, to enterprise-like, loose networks or communities. They are also characterized by a large sphere of influence given the indispensable workers hired to help with the crime orchestration. Among them, informal workers from the IT sector are found to be particularly important: they represent a pool of potential workers for all legal tasks surrounding online economic crime, and they can be leveraged easily due to digital labor platforms. However, further investigations illustrate that the benefits of hiring informal IT workers may be hindered by high transaction costs, including high hiring, switching, and monitoring costs. Moreover, the likelihood of informal IT workers to participate in crime-oriented spaces is found to be limited. (Conclusion) This study sheds light on the organization of online economic crime and the role of informal IT workers at the periphery. It provides both theoretical and empirical explanations as to why online economic crime is characterized by long reach, in terms of victims, and sophistication. It also offers nuanced concepts (e.g., drifters, informal workforce) to better grasp the organization of online economic crime and the degrees of involvement of those surrounding the crime.

Document type: 
Thesis

Procedural justice and the police's use of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-07-20
Supervisor(s): 
Rylan Simpson
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new responsibilities for police while also introducing new accoutrements by way of personal protective equipment (PPE). This thesis examines the effects of such changes and the role of procedural justice as it relates to public assessments of police and willingness to cooperate with police during the pandemic. As part of the thesis, participants rated images of a police officer using different items of PPE on the dimensions of procedural justice and then answered survey questions about the police more broadly. The findings indicate that participants’ perceptions of procedural justice are positively related to their assessments of police and willingness to cooperate with police. The findings also indicate that participants’ perceptions of procedural justice can be impacted by the police’s use of PPE. The thesis discusses the important practical implications of such findings for police who must continue to manage public perceptions while providing service.

Document type: 
Thesis

There is no going back: The case for starting over with conditional sentences

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-06-28
Supervisor(s): 
David MacAlister
Cheryl Webster
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

The life of conditional sentences of imprisonment in Canada has been, to say the least, turbulent. Introduced in 1996, it was not long before restrictions were placed on their use—first in 2007 and then again in 2012. To add insult to injury, the sanction was found to have essentially failed in meeting its primary objective (of prison reduction) in two studies released in 2019. In many people’s minds, this less-than-stellar performance as a prison alternative signaled the inevitable end to this sentencing option. Yet, despite the many challenges, recent (2021) developments suggest that predictions of its imminent death may have been premature. Indeed, a resurrection of sorts may be on the horizon, brought about either through jurisprudence (Sharma) or legislation (Bill C-22). Having said this, any hope of long-term salvation will require serious analysis of its failings and deep reflection of workable remedies. This study proposes to carry out this task. To this end, it employs a mixed-methods design (quantitative court and survey data as well as qualitative interviews with judges) to explore the use of conditional sentences in British Columbia, the province that appears to have had the least success in terms of using the sanction as a true prison alternative. The many challenges of conditional sentencing (e.g., flawed statutory construction, lack of public education, inadequate funding, etc.), are highlighted through a thematic analysis of the data. The phenomena of net-widening and circumvention are each explored as possible explanations for the apparent stability of imprisonment rates over the decades, notwithstanding dramatic swings in Canadian penal policy. Most notably, the application of conditional sentences to offenders who would not otherwise have been facing jail is linked to a rejection of the sanction as a term of imprisonment and/or its appeal as a form of “robust probation.” The future of conditional sentencing in Canada is considered and an argument is made that simply removing the restrictions introduced in 2012 fails to acknowledge or address the sanction’s many flaws. Indeed, if the challenges of conditional sentencing are not resolved, there may be little reason to believe that the sanction will fare any better than it did in its earlier (pre-2007/2012) life.

Document type: 
Thesis

The Seattle Consent Decree: Excessive or effective force in police reform?

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-06-16
Supervisor(s): 
David MacAlister
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

The main objective of this research project was to evaluate and critically analyze the United States Department of Justice’s (USDOJ) effort to reform the Seattle Police Department through the use of a “Consent Decree,” pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. Section 14141. By examining the history, origin and use of Section 14141 with respect to other jurisdictions in general and Seattle in particular, an understanding of the effectiveness of this externally mandated reform effort emerged. Data compiled from interviews, court filings, public reports and media accounts support the conclusion that substantive, sustainable reform has been achieved as a result of the adoption of the federal Consent Decree between the City of Seattle and the USDOJ, at least as it relates to updated policies and practices involving police use-of-force, “stop and frisks,” and biased policing, as well as investigations of uses-of-force and reviews of those incidents. However, questions remain as to the long-term effectiveness of the reform effort on the culture of the Seattle Police Department and its ability to sustain the reform efforts into the future. Further, the data support that there is great potential for future DOJ externally-imposed reform efforts to be successful if the USDOJ enhances its efforts to engage in a holistic approach to police reform and if the DOJ uses police use-of-force theory in its application and enforcement of Section 14141 investigations, findings and litigation efforts. The research also indicates benefits to USDOJ reform efforts through the creation of a new “Police Reform Section” within the Civil Rights Division to replace the USDOJ’s reliance on its Special Litigation Section to enforce Constitutional policing on a systemic level within the United States.

Document type: 
Thesis

Capital gains: Examining the role of gang members personal networks and criminal careers

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-04-21
Supervisor(s): 
Martin Bouchard
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

Gang membership has been labeled a snare in the life-course. Research has established gang members have greater odds of participating in crime, especially violent crime, and have a greater risk of violent victimization. Additionally, due to the criminogenic nature of gangs, gang members are often disconnected from prosocial peers and institutions. As such, gang members tend to be involved in the criminal justice system longer. Yet, what remains to be unclear is the role of personal networks on the criminal trajectories of gang members. The social structures individuals are embedded in are influential on their behaviors. A key criminological finding is the influence of peers on deviant behaviors. Gangs are first and foremost social groups made up of interconnected members. Therefore, ignoring the social world members embed themselves in, we are missing pieces of information to answer key questions regarding gang membership. In this dissertation, the personal networks of gang members are examined in order to determine whether the size and structure of their networks influence their criminal trajectories. Gang membership brings with it more opportunities to participate in criminal activities, co-offenders, and a “brotherhood”. As a result, there should be an increase in social capital associated with gang membership. Social capital is the resources obtained through social relations. The more social capital gang members have access to, the more advantageous their position within the network. Results revealed during active periods of gang membership, gang members’ networks did have a significant increase in social capital. How members built their networks was related to the length of their gang careers. In addition, by using networks, this dissertation moves beyond the gang label and examines how being embedded within a prison gang may influence the criminal careers of non-gang associates. It was found proximity to prison gang members increased the criminal career length for non-gang associates. Further, network measures were found to have a greater impact on the length of criminal careers than the label of gang member. These results were used to conceptually develop and propose a social capital theory of gang membership.

Document type: 
Thesis