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

Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Reale, Kylie
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.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Beauregard, Eric
Thesis advisor: Chopin, Julien
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