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Offending, Co-Offending, Crime, and the Law Enforcement Response: An Analysis of Individuals and Groups in the NIBRS Data, 2002-2012

Award Information

Award #
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $150,000)

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Graduate Research Fellowship Program
provides awards to accredited universities for doctoral student research that uses criminal justice data or statistical series and focuses on crime, violence, and other criminal justice-related topics.

BJS invests in doctoral education by supporting universities that sponsor students who demonstrate the potential to complete doctoral degree programs successfully in disciplines relevant to the mission of BJS, and who are in the final stages of graduate study.

The ultimate goal of the program is to increase the pool of researchers using criminal justice statistical data generated by BJS, thereby contributing solutions that better prevent and control crime and help ensure the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice in the United States.

Under this award, BJS is funding dissertation research proposed by Pennsylvania State University on behalf of student Brendan Lantz entitled, "Offending, Co-Offending, Crime, and the Law Enforcement Response: An Analysis of Individuals and Groups in the NIBRS Data, 2002-2012."

Crime can be best understood, reacted to, and prevented if it is seen as both the product of social influence within small groups and the consequence of individual decision making. Many offenders commit offenses with others, but research in criminology and criminal justice often treats the group aspect of offending as secondary to other offense characteristics. Whether it is through processes of learning and social exchange, or through processes of collective behavior, individuals act differently in the context of a group.

The focus of the proposed research project is on how the co-offending group and the individual offender operate interdependently to produce different offenses and outcomes. In addition, the research will investigate how law enforcement responds to these groups of offenders, compared to individual offenders.

The research will use data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) that contain important demographic information on all co-offenders involved in an incident. Using multi-level models that examine the role of the individual offender(s) nested within higher-order co-offending groups, the researcher will disaggregate the impact of both the group context of an offense and the individual offender(s) that compose the group.

The researcher proposes a three pronged analysis of co-offending, offense severity, and the arrest of co-offenders.

1) First, the researcher will draw on theories of group behavior and social exchange to examine the impact that the group context of offending has on offending outcomes.

2) Second, the researcher proposes that the relationship between group offending and offense severity will be conditioned by the characteristics of the co-offender(s) who compose the group. Gender and age dynamics within partnerships are examined particularly closely.

3) Finally, the researcher will examine the relationship between co-offending and arrest.

The results will have implications for the methodological approach to analyses involving co-offenders; theoretical accounts of offending in the presence of other group members, and; will serve as a building block for future research on the relationship between group crime and arrest. Finally, the proposed project has several strengths: (1) it relates to more general theories of social psychology, group behavior, and criminal offending, (2) it makes specific predictions about how group crime may impact offending outcomes, with falsifiable hypotheses, and (3) it can usefully examine the relationship between group offending and arrest.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 30, 2015