Journal of Experimental Criminology

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 215–240 | Cite as

Repeat burglary victimisation: a tale of two theories

  • Shane D. JohnsonEmail author


Research consistently demonstrates that crime is spatially concentrated. Considering repeat burglary, studies conducted across a variety of countries and for different periods of time demonstrate that events also cluster in time. Two theories have been proposed to explain patterns of repeat victimisation. The first suggests that repeat victimisation is the consequence of a contagion-like process. If a home has been burgled on one occasion, the risk to the home is boosted, most likely because offenders will return to exploit good opportunities further (e.g. to steal replaced items or those left behind). In contrast, the second suggests that repeat victimisation may be explained by time-stable variation in risk across homes and a chance process. Different offenders independently target attractive locations for which risk is flagged. Understanding the contribution of the two explanations is important for both criminological understanding and crime reduction. Hitherto, research concerned with repeat victimisation has adopted a top-down methodology, analysing either victimisation or offender data. In this paper, results are reported for a simple micro-simulation experiment used to examine patterns of victimisation under conditions where the contributions of both theoretical mechanisms are varied. The findings suggest that increasing the heterogeneity of target attractiveness can generate spatial concentrations of crime not dissimilar to those discussed above, but that a contagion-like process is (also) required to generate the time course of repeat victimisation. The implications of the findings are discussed.


Burglary Computer simulation Power-law Repeat victimisation Theory testing 



The author would like to thank the Ordnance Survey and Merseyside police for supplying the data used in this research. Thanks also go (in alphabetical order) to Wim Bernasco, Kate Bowers, Henk Elffers, John Eck, Ken Pease, Jerry Ratcliffe, Aiden Sidebottom, Mike Townsley and three anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of this paper. This research was supported by a British Academy research grant (award number LRG-45507), an International Collaborative Network grant from the British Academy, and additional funding from UCL Futures, NSCR and the Research Incentive Fund at Temple University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime ScienceUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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