Where offenders choose to attack: A discrete choice model of robberies in Chicago

Wim Bernasco*, Richard Block

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Why do robbers choose a particular area to commit an offense? Do they rob close to home? Do they search for areas with suitable and attractive targets? What keeps them away from certain areas? To answer these questions, a model is developed of how robbers choose target areas. The model draws on various theoretical and empirical traditions, which include environmental criminology, journey to crime research, gang research, and social disorganization theory. Testing the model on cleared robbery cases in Chicago in the years 1996-1998, we demonstrate that robbery location choice is related to characteristics of target areas, to areas where offenders live, to joint characteristics of the resident and target areas, and to characteristics of the offenders themselves. The presence of illegal markets and other crime generators and crime attractors make areas attractive for robbers, whereas collective efficacy seems to keep them out. Distance as well as racial and ethnic segregation restrict the mobility of offenders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-130
Number of pages38
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • Chicago
  • Criminal target choice
  • Discrete choice
  • Journey to crime
  • Robbery
  • Social barrier


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