SciCombinator

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Concept: Theft

313

Winning a competition engenders subsequent unrelated unethical behavior. Five studies reveal that after a competition has taken place winners behave more dishonestly than competition losers. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that winning a competition increases the likelihood of winners to steal money from their counterparts in a subsequent unrelated task. Studies 3a and 3b demonstrate that the effect holds only when winning means performing better than others (i.e., determined in reference to others) but not when success is determined by chance or in reference to a personal goal. Finally, study 4 demonstrates that a possible mechanism underlying the effect is an enhanced sense of entitlement among competition winners.

Concepts: English-language films, Demonstration, Cultural studies, Human behavior, Theft, Dishonesty, Intrinsic value

250

Bicycle theft is a serious problem in many countries, and there is a lack of evidence concerning effective prevention strategies. Displaying images of ‘watching eyes’ has been shown to make people behave in more socially desirable ways in a number of settings, but it is not yet clear if this effect can be exploited for purposes of crime prevention. We report the results of a simple intervention on a university campus where signs featuring watching eyes and a related verbal message were displayed above bicycle racks.

Concepts: University, Crime, Campus, Theft, Robbery

33

Objectives. We explored differences in criminal convictions between holders and nonholders of a concealed handgun license (CHL) in Texas. Methods. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) provides annual data on criminal convictions of holders and nonholders of CHLs. We used 2001 to 2009 DPS data to investigate the differences in the distribution of convictions for these 2 groups across 9 types of criminal offenses. We calculated z scores for the differences in the types of crimes for which CHL holders and nonholders were convicted. Results. CHL holders were much less likely than nonlicensees to be convicted of crimes. Most nonholder convictions involved higher-prevalence crimes (burglary, robbery, or simple assault). CHL holders' convictions were more likely to involve lower-prevalence crimes, such as sexual offenses, gun offenses, or offenses involving a death. Conclusions. Our results imply that expanding the settings in which concealed carry is permitted may increase the risk of specific types of crimes, some quite serious in those settings. These increased risks may be relatively small. Nonetheless, policymakers should consider these risks when contemplating reducing the scope of gun-free zones. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print November 15, 2012: e1-e6. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300807).

Concepts: Crime, Conviction, Criminal law, Firearm, Concealed carry in the United States, Crimes, Assault, Theft

28

Kleptomania is characterized by repetitive stealing behavior and has been associated with deleterious unwanted outcomes including forensic contact and increased rates of suicidal behavior. Very few trials have been conducted to investigate pharmacological treatment options for this neglected condition. Memantine is an NMDA-receptor antagonist that has shown promising results in the treatment of other behavioral addictions and substance addictions. Twelve individuals with kleptomania received memantine (10 mg/day, titrated to 30 mg/day maximum depending on clinical response and tolerability) over the course of 8 weeks, in an open-label trial. The effects of treatment were quantified using well-validated measures and select neurocognitive tests (last observation carried forward analyses). Kleptomania disease severity scores decreased across all measures considered, and 11 (91.7%) of the participants met the responder criteria (35% improvement on the primary effectiveness measure plus CGI improved/very much improved; significant improvements were also observed in terms of mood, anxiety, and disability scores along with a significant improvement in stop-signal response inhibition. Memantine was generally well tolerated. This study shows the effectiveness of memantine in reducing urges to shoplift and shoplifting behavior along with improving impulsivity, mood, anxiety, and psychosocial functioning.

Concepts: Better, Scientific method, Psychology, Improve, Bipolar disorder, Human behavior, Theft, Shoplifting

23

One of the most basic predictions of almost any model of crime is that individual time preferences matter. However, empirical evidence on this fundamental property is essentially nonexistent. To our knowledge, this paper provides the first pieces of evidence on the link between time discounting and crime. We use a unique dataset that combines a survey-based measure of time discount rates (at age 13) with detailed longitudinal register data on criminal behavior spanning over 18 y. Our results show that individuals with short time horizons have a significantly higher risk of criminal involvement later in life. The magnitude of the relationship is substantial and corresponds to roughly one-third of the association between intelligence and crime.

Concepts: Scientific method, Sociology, Economics, Data, Crime, Criminology, Criminal justice, Theft

14

The New York Police Department (NYPD) under Operation Impact deployed extra police officers to high crime areas designated as impact zones. Officers were encouraged to conduct investigative stops in these areas. City officials credited the program as one of the leading causes of New York City’s low crime rate. We tested the effects of Operation Impact on reported crimes and arrests from 2004 to 2012 using a difference-in-differences approach. We used Poisson regression models to compare differences in crime and arrest counts before and after census block groups were designated as impact zones compared to census block groups in the same NYPD precincts but outside impact zones. Impact zones were significantly associated with reductions in total reported crimes, assaults, burglaries, drug violations, misdemeanor crimes, felony property crimes, robberies, and felony violent crimes. Impact zones were significantly associated with increases in total reported arrests, arrests for burglary, arrests for weapons, arrests for misdemeanor crimes, and arrests for property felony crimes. Impact zones were also significantly associated with increases in investigative stops for suspected crimes, but only the increase in stops made based on probable cause indicators of criminal behaviors were associated with crime reductions. The largest increase in investigative stops in impact zones was based on indicators of suspicious behavior that had no measurable effect on crime. The findings suggest that saturating high crime blocks with police helped reduce crime in New York City, but that the bulk of the investigative stops did not play an important role in the crime reductions. The findings indicate that crime reduction can be achieved with more focused investigative stops.

Concepts: Crime, Criminal law, New York City, Police, Felony, Assault, Theft, Misdemeanor

7

Crime is a major threat to society’s well-being but lacks a statistical characterization that could lead to uncovering some of its underlying mechanisms. Evidence of nonlinear scaling of urban indicators in cities, such as wages and serious crime, has motivated the understanding of cities as complex systems-a perspective that offers insights into resources limits and sustainability, but that usually neglects details of the indicators themselves. Notably, since the nineteenth century, criminal activities have been known to occur unevenly within a city; crime concentrates in such way that most of the offenses take place in few regions of the city. Though confirmed by different studies, this concentration lacks broad analyses on its characteristics, which hinders not only the comprehension of crime dynamics but also the proposal of sounding counter-measures. Here, we developed a framework to characterize crime concentration which divides cities into regions with the same population size. We used disaggregated criminal data from 25 locations in the U.S. and the U.K., spanning from 2 to 15 years of longitudinal data. Our results confirmed that crime concentrates regardless of city and revealed that the level of concentration does not scale with city size. We found that the distribution of crime in a city can be approximated by a power-law distribution with exponent α that depends on the type of crime. In particular, our results showed that thefts tend to concentrate more than robberies, and robberies more than burglaries. Though criminal activities present regularities of concentration, we found that criminal ranks have the tendency to change continuously over time-features that support the perspective of crime as a complex system and demand analyses and evolving urban policies covering the city as a whole.

Concepts: City, Sociology, Crime, Criminal law, Crimes, Theft, Robbery, Piracy

5

Research in environmental sciences has found that the ergonomic design of human-made environments influences thought, feeling, and action. In the research reported here, we examined the impact of physical environments on dishonest behavior. In four studies, we tested whether certain bodily configurations-or postures-incidentally imposed by the environment led to increases in dishonest behavior. The first three experiments showed that individuals who assumed expansive postures (either consciously or inadvertently) were more likely to steal money, cheat on a test, and commit traffic violations in a driving simulation. Results suggested that participants' self-reported sense of power mediated the link between postural expansiveness and dishonesty. Study 4 revealed that automobiles with more expansive driver’s seats were more likely to be illegally parked on New York City streets. Taken together, the results suggest that, first, environments that expand the body can inadvertently lead people to feel more powerful, and second, these feelings of power can cause dishonest behavior.

Concepts: Environment, Natural environment, New York City, Environmental science, Occupational safety and health, Feeling, Theft, Ergonomics

4

We sought to clarify the etiological contribution of genetic and environmental factors to total criminal behavior (CB) measured as criminal convictions in men and women, and to violent (VCB), white-collar (WCCB) and property criminal behavior (PCB) in men only.

Concepts: Genetics, Environment, Sociology, Crime, Conviction, Criminal law, Violent crime, Theft

3

Some law enforcement officials and other observers have asserted that theft is the primary source of guns to crime. In fact, the role of theft in supplying the guns used in robbery, assault, and murder is unknown, and current evidence provides little guidance about whether an effective program to reduce gun theft would reduce gun violence. The current article analyzes publicly available national data on gun theft together with a unique data set for Chicago. The results tend to support a conclusion that stolen guns play only a minor role in crime. First, publicly available data are used to calculate that thefts are only about 1% of all gun transactions nationwide. Second, an analysis of original data from Chicago demonstrates that less than 3% of crime guns recovered by the police have been reported stolen to the Chicago Police Department (CPD). If a gun is reported stolen, there is a 20% chance that it will be recovered, usually in conjunction with an arrest for illegal carrying. Less than half of those picked up with a stolen gun have a criminal record that includes violent offenses. Third, results from surveys of convicted criminals, both nationally and in Chicago, suggest that it is rare for respondents to have stolen the gun used in their most recent crime. The data on which these results are based have various shortcomings. A research agenda is proposed that would provide more certainty about the role of theft.

Concepts: Crime, Criminal law, Police, Firearm, Gun, Crimes, Theft, Robbery