Behavioral scripts of urban park offenders: a rational choice perspective on influences of the park setting

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Virginia Tech


This study examined the influence of Iocational factors on offender behavior in four serious and common park offenses: auto burglary, drug sales, indecent exposure by homosexual males, and robbery. Specifically, the study sought 1) to develop prototypical script(s) for each of the four study crimes, and 2) to support or contradict the influence of effort, risk and reward on offender behavior. Using the theoretical bases of opportunity, rational choice, and scripts, behavior of study offenders in 6 U.S. Park Service reservations in Washington, DC was interpreted. A case study strategy was chosen, utilizing participant observation, direct observation, archival records, physical artifacts, and interviews. Data collection occurred between January and March, 1996, with law enforcement personnel serving as the primary information source. Following qualitative analysis that relied upon pattern-matching and explanation-building, results suggested that 1) offenders follow logical sequences of behavior consistent with concept of a script, 2) offenders were found to act rationally, appearing to consider effort, risk and reward, 3) that offenders weight the importance of effort, risk and reward differently across offense types and across the different Acts of the same offense script, 4) that Iocational factors do influence the behavior of offenders, and 5) that offenders utilize Iocational factors that serve to decrease effort and risk, and increase reward.