When Do Offenders Commit Crime? An Analysis of Temporal Consistency in Individual Offending Patterns


Objectives: Building on Hägerstrand’s time geography, we expect temporal consistency in individual offending behavior. We hypothesize that repeat offenders commit offenses at similar times of day and week. In addition, we expect stronger temporal consistency for crimes of the same type and for crimes committed within a shorter time span. Method: We use police-recorded crime data on 28,274 repeat offenders who committed 152,180 offenses between 1996 and 2009 in the greater The Hague area in the Netherlands. We use a Monte Carlo permutation procedure to compare the overall level of temporal consistency observed in the data to the temporal consistency that is to be expected given the overall temporal distribution of crime. Results: Repeat offenders show strong temporal consistency: they commit their crimes at more similar hours of day and week than expected. Moreover, the observed temporal consistency patterns are indeed stronger for offenses of the same type of crime and when less time has elapsed between the offenses, especially for offenses committed within a month after the prior offense. Discussion: The results are consistent with offenders having recurring rhythms that shape their temporal crime pattern. These findings might prove valuable for improving predictive policing methods and crime linkage analysis as well as interventions to reduce recidivism.

Journal of Quantitative Criminology