Adolescent offenders’ current whereabouts predict locations of their future crimes

Wim Bernasco*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Knowing where crime is likely to happen can help prevent it. Here I investigate whether two basic mechanisms of human mobility—preferential return and spatial exploration—explain and predict where offenders commit future crimes. A sample of 843 adolescents reported their hourly whereabouts during four days. In line with findings from other sources and populations, their locations were concentrated and predictable. During the subsequent four years, 70 of the 843 were apprehended for committing one or more crimes. Compared to others, these 70 future offenders had visited slightly more different locations. However, their action radius and the predictability of their whereabouts had been very similar to those who would not become offenders. The offenders perpetrated most of their crimes around places they had visited before, including places where they previously offended. These findings show that the predictability of human mobility applies to offending and to offenders as well, and helps us understand and forecast where they will commit future crimes. They may prove particularly useful in criminal investigations, as they suggest that police should generally prioritize suspects who are familiar with the location of the crime and its environs, either because of their legal routine activities or because of their prior offences.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0210733
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


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