This study clarifies three important issues regarding situational or opportunity theories of victimization: (1) whether engaging in risk activities triggers violent assault during specific, often fleeting moments, (2) how environmental settings along individuals’ daily paths affect their risk of violent assault, and (3) whether situational triggers have differential effects on violent assault during the day versus night.
Using an innovative GIS-assisted interview technique, 298 young male violent assault victims in Philadelphia, PA described their activity paths over the course of the day of being assaulted. Case-crossover analyses compared each subject’s exposure status at the time of assault with his own statuses earlier in the day (stratified by daytime and nighttime).
Being at an outdoor/public space, conducting unstructured activities, and absence of guardians increase the likelihood of violent victimization at a fine spatial–temporal scale at both daytime and nighttime. Yet, the presence of friends and environmental characteristics have differential effects on violent victimization at daytime versus nighttime. Moreover, individual risk activities appeared to exhibit better predictive performance than did environmental characteristics in our space–time situational analyses.
This study demonstrates the value of documenting how individuals navigate their daily activity space, and ultimately advances our understanding of youth violence from a real-time, real-life standpoint.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Behavioral setting is defined as “the part of the environment which an individual can, at a particular moment in time, access with his or her sense” (Wikström et al. 2010, p. 61).
Out of the 298 study subjects, 123 (41.3%) suffered gunshot wound assault and 175 (58.7%) suffered non-gunshot wound assault. A small number of female subjects (N = 31) were also recruited in the STARS. However, due to the small sample size, we dropped them from the analysis.
Academic associates are individuals who were trained in recruiting patents for clinical studies.
First (12- to 13-year-olds) and fourth (15- to 16-year-olds) graders were included in Averdijk and Bernasco (2015). The first grade in the Netherlands is similar to the seventh grade in the United States; the fourth grade is similar to the tenth grade.
This is particularly meaningful when prior research provides little insight on what constitutes an appropriate control window. This is true of crime and violence; hardly any research has investigated the induction or hazard period associated with situational correlates or triggers of crime and violence and provided useful information on “wash-out periods”. Arbitrary selection of “control” periods can produce substantial bias to parameter estimates (Mittleman and Mostofsky 2014).
We chose our method of plotting a new point on the map only when a subject reported a change in status in terms of location or any of the activities and behaviors mentioned in the next paragraph because it is an efficient way to obtain and document a considerable volume of detailed information from each subject. This significantly shortened the time needed for the mapping exercise and reduced the burden for the participants of recalling irrelevant details (e.g. if a subject was walking alone for a prolonged period of time, only two points need to be recorded).
Our novel approach is different from the space–time budget method, which collects information at fixed intervals about the main activity, the function of the place where the activity was performed, and any persons present in the setting for each hour of the day (Averdijk and Bernasco 2015; Wikström et al. 2012). We move beyond prior research by not saying “please tell me what you did in the first 10 min, and then the second 10 min (or the first hour and second hour) and so on”.
Also, to each path point we attached data about characteristics of the built and social environment that was present at the location. Because those data are comprised of smoothed surface layers, when attached to the minute-specific point data there is considerable autocorrelation, with values of adjacent points being more similar than values of points that are further separated in time (and space). Ten-minute segments adequately address this issue.
We did not check the reverse pattern because it is highly possible that any individual who ever carried a weapon or used substances decided not to conduct those behaviors on that particular day.
The survey asks people in Southeastern Pennsylvania about their health, their medical care, and what it is like to live in their neighborhoods. Interviews were conducted by telephone (landline and cell phone) using a random-digit dial methodology; twenty percent of interviews are conducted with cell phone respondents. For additional details about the survey methodology, please see: http://www.chdbdata.org/household-health-survey.
The spatially smoothing process estimates the value of a variable at any specific point on a surface layer by calculating a weighted average of the values at nearby observed locations or spatially contiguous entities. Smoothing methods are frequently used to improve measurement accuracy and create more robust estimates (Waller and Gotway 2004).
We accessed sunrise/sunset times from the National Weather Service.
As a robustness check, we also created a measure covering both adult family members and other adults known to the subject. Substantively similar findings were obtained. Given that other adults known to the subject have varying levels of responsibility and/or attachment to the subject, we reported results considering adult family members only in this paper.
SEPTA is an acronym for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
The Huber/White/sandwich estimator of variance adjusted for clustering or intra-subject correlation when multiple data points were included for the same participant.
Missing values were assigned to path points with ambiguous answers to the activity field in our GIS-assisted interview for the unstructured activities variable because it was unclear if activities in those settings were structured or not. The most frequent reasons for missing were “none” or an unqualified single-word phrase such as “sitting, standing, walking, running or driving”.
The rates of weapon carrying and substance use in our sample were relatively low partially because some people under police guard were excluded from the study.
Due to the very low rate of weapon carrying at the victimization point during daytime, the regression coefficient could not be estimated.
For example, using a case–control study design, we can examine why some individuals are more likely to be violently assaulted during routine activities and in risky behavioral-settings than others.
Small risks applied to large populations often have greater population level impacts than large risks applied to small populations. In some ways, environments are the consummate small risk.
Zimring (1968), for instance, reported that “the attack data do not reveal substantial differences between fatal attacks using particular weapon forms and serious area, non-fatal attacks involving the same weapon” (p. 736).
It is worth noting that the activities of the day of the assault are not the only activities that matter to one's risk for victimization. Yet, what the participants did yesterday and before was all fixed within subjects and consistent within subjects over the 24-h period when we monitored them.
Given the strong situational relation between victimization and offending reported by prior research (e.g., Averdijk and Bernasco 2015), the E-values do not guarantee that victims’ own role in prior conflict did not play a significant role in leading up to their victimization.
Akers TA, Lanier MM (2009) “Epidemiological criminology”: coming full circle. Am J Public Health 99:397–402
Averdijk M, Bernasco W (2015) Testing the situational explanation of victimization among adolescents. J Res Crime Delinq 52(2):151–180
Basta LA, Richmond TS, Wiebe DJ (2010) Neighborhoods, daily activities, and measuring health risks experienced in urban environments. Soc Sci Med 71(11):1943–1950
Berg MT (2011) The overlap of violent offending and violent victimization: assessing the evidence and explanations. In: DeLisi M, Conis PJ (eds) Violent offenders: theory, research, policy, and practice. Jones & Bartlett, Burlington, pp 17–38
Bernasco W, Ruiter S, Bruinsma GJ, Pauwels LJ, Weerman FM (2013) Situational causes of offending: a fixed-effects analysis of space–time budget data. Criminology 51(4):895–926
Birkbeck C, LaFree G (1993) The situational analysis of crime and deviance. Ann Rev Sociol 19:113–137
Boulton MJ, Trueman M, Chau C, Whitehand C, Amatya K (1999) Concurrent and longitudinal links between friendship and peer victimization: implications for befriending interventions. J Adolesc 22:461–466
Branas CC, MacDonald JM (2014) A simple strategy to transform health, all over the place. J Public Health Manag Pract 20(2):157–159
Branas CC, Richmond TS, Culhane DP, Ten Have TR, Wiebe DJ (2009a) Investigating the link between gun possession and gun assault. Am J Public Health 99(11):2034–2040
Branas CC, Elliott MR, Richmond TS, Culhane DP, Wiebe DJ (2009b) Alcohol consumption, alcohol outlets, and the risk of being assaulted with a gun. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 33(5):906–915
Branas CC, Cheney RA, MacDonald JM, Tam VW, Jackson TD, Ten Have TR (2011) A difference-in-differences analysis of health, safety, and greening vacant urban space. Am J Epidemiol 174(11):1296–1306
Brantingham PL, Brantingham PJ (1993) Nodes, paths and edges: considerations on the complexity of crime and the physical environment. J Environ Psychol 13(1):3–28
Browning CR, Soller B (2014) Moving beyond neighborhood: activity spaces and ecological networks as contexts for youth development. Cityscape 16(1):165–196
Browning CR, Calder CA, Ford JL, Boettner B, Smith AL, Haynie D (2017) Understanding racial differences in exposure to violent areas: integrating survey, smartphone, and administrative data resources. Ann Am Acad Polit Soc Sci 669(1):41–62
Bursik RJ (1988) Social disorganization and theories of crime and delinquency: problems and prospects. Criminology 26:519–552
Clarke RV (1995) Situational crime prevention. Crime Justice 19:91–150
Cohen LE, Felson M (1979) Social change and crime rate trends: a routine activity approach. Am Sociol Rev 44(4):588–608
Cohen LE, Felson M, Land KC (1980) Property crime rates in the United States: a macrodynamic analysis, 1947–1977; with ex ante forecasts for the mid-1980s. Am J Sociol 86(1):90–118
Cohen LE, Kluegel JR, Land KC (1981) Social inequality and predatory criminal victimization: an exposition and test of a formal theory. Am Sociol Rev 46(5):505–524
Cornish DB, Clarke RV (2003) Opportunities, precipitators and criminal decisions: a reply to Wortley’s critique of situational crime prevention. Crime Prev Stud 16:41–96
Cullen FT (1994) Social support as an organizing concept for criminology. Justice Q 11:527–559
Culyba AJ, Guo W, Branas CC, Miller E, Wiebe DJ (2018) Comparing residence-based to actual path-based methods for defining adolescents’ environmental exposures using granular spatial data. Health Place 49:39–49
Decker SH, Van Winkle B (1996) Life in the gang: family, friends, and violence. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Domencich TA, McFadden DL (1975) Urban travel demand: a behavioral analysis. North-Holland, Amsterdam
Dong B, Krohn MD (2016) Escape from violence: what reduces the enduring consequences of adolescent gang affiliation? J Crim Justice 47:41–50
Dong B, Branas CC, Richmond TS, Morrison CN, Wiebe DJ (2017) Youth’s daily activities and situational triggers of gunshot assault in urban environments. J Adolesc Health 61(6):779–785
Felson M (1995) Those who discourage crime. In: Eck JE, Weisburd D (eds) Crime and place: crime prevention studies. Willow Tree Press, Monsey, pp 53–66
Felson M (2002) Crime and everyday life, 3rd edn. Sage, Thousand Oaks
Felson RB, Burchfield KB (2004) Alcohol and the risk of physical and sexual assault victimization. Criminology 42(4):837–860
Felson M, Clarke RV (1995) Routine precautions, criminology, and crime prevention. In: Barlow H (ed) Crime and public policy: putting theory to work. Westview, Boulder, pp 179–190
Felson RB, Savolainen J, Berg MT, Ellonen N (2013) Does spending time in public settings contribute to the adolescent risk of violent victimization? J Quant Criminol 29(2):273–293
Garvin EC, Cannuscio CC, Branas CC (2013) Greening vacant lots to reduce violent crime: a randomized controlled trial. Inj Prev 19(3):198–203
Gover AR (2004) Risky lifestyles and dating violence: a theoretical test of violent victimization. J Crim Justice 32(2):171–180
Haberman CP, Ratcliffe JH (2015) Testing for temporally differentiated relationships among potentially criminogenic places and census block street robbery counts. Criminology 53(3):457–483
Haggård-Grann U, Hallqvist J, Långström N, Möller J (2006) The role of alcohol and drugs in triggering criminal violence: a case-crossover study. Addiction 101(1):100–108
Han SH, Branas CC, MacDonald JM (2016) The effect of a Sunday liquor-sales ban repeal on crime: a triple-difference analysis. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 40(5):1111–1121
Hawley AH (1950) Human ecology: a theory of community structure. Ronald Press Co, New York
Henson B, Wilcox P, Reyns BW, Cullen FT (2010) Gender, adolescent lifestyles, and violent victimization: implications for routine activity theory. Vict Offenders 5(4):303–328
Hindelang MJ, Gottfredson MR, Garofalo J (1978) Victims of personal crime: an empirical foundation for a theory of personal victimization. Ballinger Pub. Co, Cambridge
Hoeben EM, Bernasco W, Weerman FM, Pauwels L, van Halem S (2014) The space–time budget method in criminological research. Crime Sci 3:1–15
Hohl BC, Wiley S, Wiebe DJ, Culyba AJ, Drake R, Branas CC (2017) Association of drug and alcohol use with adolescent firearm homicide at individual, family, and neighborhood levels. JAMA Intern Med 177:317–324
Inagami S, Cohen DA, Finch BK (2007) Non-residential neighborhood exposures suppress neighborhood effects on self-rated health. Soc Sci Med 65:1779–1791
Kendrick K, Jutengren G, Stattin H (2012) The protective role of supportive friends against bullying perpetration and victimization. J Adolesc 35:1069–1080
Kondo MC, Hohl B, Han S, Branas CC (2016) Effects of greening and community reuse of vacant lots on crime. Urban Stud 53(15):3279–3295
Kondo MC, South EC, Branas CC, Richmond TS, Wiebe DJ (2017) The association between urban tree cover and gun assault: a case–control and case-crossover study. Am J Epidemiol 186:289–296
Kornhauser RR (1978) Social sources of delinquency: an appraisal of analytic models. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
Kwan M-P (2013) Beyond space (as we knew it): toward temporally integrated geographies of segregation, health, and accessibility. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 103(5):1078–1086
LaFree G, Birkbeck C (1991) The neglected situation: a cross-national study of the situational characteristics of crime. Criminology 29:73–98
Lauritsen JL (2001) The social ecology of violent victimization: individual and contextual effects in the NCVS. J Quant Criminol 17:3–32
Lauritsen JL, Rezey ML (2018) Victimization trends and correlates: macro- and micro-influences and new directions for research. Annu Rev Criminol 1:103–121
Lauritsen JL, Sampson RJ, Laub JH (1991) The link between offending and victimization among adolescents. Criminology 29(2):265–292
Lauritsen JL, Laub JH, Sampson RJ (1992) Conventional and delinquent activities: implications for the prevention of violent victimization among adolescents. Violence Vict 7(2):91–108
Loughran TA, Reid JA, Collins ME, Mulvey EP (2016) Effect of gun carrying on perceptions of risk among adolescent offenders. Am J Public Health 106(2):350–352
Lowry R, Powell KE, Kann L, Collins JL, Kolbe LJ (1998) Weapon-carrying, physical fighting, and fight-related injury among US adolescents. Am J Prev Med 14:122–129
Lundholm L, Haggård U, Möller J, Hallqvist J, Thiblin I (2013) The triggering effect of alcohol and illicit drugs on violent crime in a remand prison population: a case-crossover study. Drug Alcohol Depend 129(1):110–115
Maclure M (1991) The case-crossover design: a method for studying transient effects on the risk of acute events. Am J Epidemiol 133:144–153
Maclure M, Mittleman MA (2000) Should we use a case-crossover design? Annu Rev Public Health 21(1):193–221
Maimon D, Browning CR (2012) Adolescents’ violent victimization in the neighborhood: situational and contextual determinants. Br J Criminol 52:808–833
Matsueda RL (2017) Toward an analytic criminology: the micro-macro problem, causal mechanisms, and public policy. Criminology 55:493–519
Matthews SA, Yang T-C (2013) Spatial polygamy and contextual exposures (SPACEs) promoting activity space approaches in research on place and health. Am Behav Sci 57(8):1057–1081
McEvoy SP, Stevenson MR, McCartt AT, Woodward M, Haworth C, Palamara P, Cercarelli R (2005) Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study. BMJ 331(7514):428–432
McFadden D (1979) Quantitative methods for analyzing travel behavior of individuals: some recent developments. In: Hensher DA, Stopher PR (eds) Behavioral travel modeling. Groom Helm, London, pp 279–318
Meier RF, Miethe TD (1993) Understanding theories of criminal victimization. Crime Justice 17:459–499
Messner SF, Blau JR (1987) Routine leisure activities and rates of crime: a macro-level analysis. Soc Forces 65(4):1035–1052
Miethe TD, McDowall D (1993) Contextual effects in models of criminal victimization. Soc Forces 71(3):741–759
Miethe TD, Meier RF (1994) Crime and its social context: toward an integrated theory of offenders, victims, and situations. SUNY Press, New York
Mittleman MA, Mostofsky E (2014) Exchangeability in the case-crossover design. Int J Epidemiol 43(5):1645–1655
Morrison CN, Dong B, Branas CC, Richmond TS, Wiebe DJ (2016) A momentary exposures analysis of proximity to alcohol outlets and risk for assault. Addiction 112:269–278
Osgood DW, Wilson JK, O’malley PM, Bachman JG, Johnston LD (1996) Routine activities and individual deviant behavior. Am Sociol Rev 61(4):635–655
Pedersen W (2001) Adolescent victims of violence in a welfare state: sociodemography, ethnicity and risk behaviors. Br J Criminol 41(1):1–21
Pervin LA (1978) Definitions, measurements, and classifications of stimuli, situations, and environments. Hum Ecol 6(1):71–105
Pickett W, Craig W, Harel Y, Cunningham J, Simpson K, Molcho M, Mazur J, Dostaler S, Overpeck MD, Currie CE (2005) Cross-national study of fighting and weapon carrying as determinants of adolescent injury. Pediatrics 116(6):e855–e863
Pratt TC, Turanovic JJ (2016) Lifestyle and routine activity theories revisited: the importance of “risk” to the study of victimization. Vict Offenders 11(3):335–354
Pratt TC, Turanovic JJ, Fox KA, Wright KA (2014) Self-control and victimization: a meta-analysis. Criminology 52(1):87–116
Redelmeier DA, Tibshirani RJ (1997) Association between cellular-telephone calls and motor vehicle collisions. N Engl J Med 336(7):453–458
Rice KJ, Smith WR (2002) Socioecological models of automotive theft: integrating routine activity and social disorganization approaches. J Res Crime Delinq 39(3):304–336
Roncek DW, Maier PA (1991) Bars, blocks, and crimes revisited: linking the theory of routine activities to the empiricism of “hot spots”. Criminology 29(4):725–753
Rose G (1992) The strategy of preventive medicine. Oxford University Press, Oxford
Rothman KJ (1981) Induction and latent periods. Am J Epidemiol 114(2):253–259
Ruiter S, Bernasco W (2018) Is travel actually risky? A study of situational causes of victimization. Crime Sci 7:10
Sampson RJ (2012a) Moving and the neighborhood glass ceiling. Science 337:1464–1465
Sampson RJ (2012b) Great American city: Chicago and the enduring neighborhood effect. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago
Sampson RJ (2013) The place of context: a theory and strategy for criminology’s hard problems. Criminology 51(1):1–31
Sampson RJ, Groves WB (1989) Community structure and crime: testing social-disorganization theory. Am J Sociol 94:774–802
Sampson RJ, Lauritsen JL (1994) Violent victimization and offending: individual-, situational-, and community-level risk factors. In: Reiss AJ Jr, Roth JA (eds) Understanding and preventing violence, vol. 3. Social influences. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, pp 1–114
Sampson RJ, Raudenbush SW, Earls F (1997) Neighborhoods and violent crime: a multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science 277(5328):918–924
Schreck CJ, Fisher BS (2004) Specifying the influence of family and peers on violent victimization extending routine activities and lifestyles theories. J Interpers Violence 19(9):1021–1041
Schreck CJ, Wright RA, Miller JM (2002) A study of individual and situational antecedents of violent victimization. Justice Q 19(1):159–180
Sharkey P (2008) The intergenerational transmission of context. Am J Sociol 113(4):931–969
Shaw CR, McKay HD (1942) Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago
Skogan WG, Maxfield MG (1981) Coping with crime: individual and neighborhood reactions. Sage Publications, Beverly Hills
Smith WR, Frazee SG, Davison EL (2000) Furthering the integration of routine activity and social disorganization theories: small units of analysis and the study of street robbery as a diffusion process. Criminology 38:489–524
Spano R, Freilich JD (2009) An assessment of the empirical validity and conceptualization of individual level multivariate studies of lifestyle/routine activities theory published from 1995 to 2005. J Crim Justice 37(3):305–314
Taylor RB (1997) Social order and disorder of street blocks and neighborhoods: ecology, microecology, and the systemic model of social disorganization. J Res Crime Delinq 34(1):113–155
Tillyer MS, Tillyer R (2016) Race, ethnicity, and adolescent violent victimization. J Youth Adolesc 45:1497–1511
Tillyer MS, Tillyer R, Miller HV, Pangrac R (2011) Reexamining the correlates of adolescent violent victimization: the importance of exposure, guardianship, and target characteristics. J Interpers Violence 26(14):2908–2928
Vander Weele TJ, Ding P (2017) Sensitivity analysis in observational research: introducing the E-value. Ann Intern Med 167(4):268–274
Vaughn MG, Perron BE, Abdon A, Olate R, Groom R, Wu L-T (2012) Correlates of handgun carrying among adolescents in the United States. J Interpers Violence 27(10):2003–2021
Waller LA, Gotway CA (2004) Applied spatial statistics for public health data. Wiley, Chichester
Warr M (2002) Companions in crime: the social aspects of criminal conduct. Cambridge University Press, New York NY
Weisburd D (2012) Bringing social context back into the equation. Criminol Public Policy 11(2):317–326
Weisburd D, Groff ER, Yang S-M (2012) The criminology of place: street segments and our understanding of the crime problem. Oxford University Press, Oxford
Weisburd D, Groff ER, Yang S-M (2014) The importance of both opportunity and social disorganization theory in a future research agenda to advance criminological theory and crime prevention at places. J Res Crime Delinq 51(4):499–508
Wiebe DJ, Guo W, Allison PD, Anderson E, Richmond TS, Branas CC (2013) Fears of violence during morning travel to school. J Adolesc Health 53(1):54–61
Wiebe DJ, Richmond TS, Guo W, Allison PD, Hollander J, Nance ML, Branas CC (2016) Mapping activity patterns to quantify risk of violent assault in urban environments. Epidemiology 27(1):32–41
Wikström P-OH, Sampson RJ (2003) Social mechanisms of community influences on crime and pathways in criminality. In: Lahey BB, Moffitt TE, Caspi A (eds) Causes of conduct disorder and juvenile delinquency. The Guilford Press, New York, pp 118–148
Wikström P-OH, Treiber K (2009) Violence as situational action. Int J Confl Violence 3:75–96
Wikström P-OH, Ceccato V, Hardie B, Treiber K (2010) Activity fields and the dynamics of crime. J Quant Criminol 26(1):55–87
Wikström P-OH, Oberwittler D, Treiber K, Hardie B (2012) Breaking rules: the social and situational dynamics of young people’s urban crime. Oxford University Press, Oxford
Wodtke GT, Harding DJ, Elwert F (2011) Neighborhood effects in temporal perspective: the impact of long-term exposure to concentrated disadvantage on high school graduation. Am Sociol Rev 76(5):713–736
Zanobetti A, Schwartz J (2005) The effect of particulate air pollution on emergency admissions for myocardial infarction: a multicity case-crossover analysis. Environ Health Perspect 113:978–982
Zimring F (1968) Is gun control likely to reduce violent killings? Univ Chic Law Rev 35:721–737
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Dong, B., Morrison, C.N., Branas, C.C. et al. As Violence Unfolds: A Space–Time Study of Situational Triggers of Violent Victimization Among Urban Youth. J Quant Criminol 36, 119–152 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-019-09419-8
- Violent victimization
- Situational triggers
- Routine activities
- Social disorganization
- Spatio-temporal analysis