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Role Of The Street Network In Burglars' Spatial Decision‐Making*

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Published online on


Explaining why crime is spatially concentrated has been a central theme of much criminological research. Although various theories focus on neighborhood social processes, environmental criminology asserts that the physical environment plays a central role by shaping people's activity patterns and the opportunities for crime. Here, we test theoretical expectations regarding the role of the road network in shaping the spatial distribution of crime and, in contrast to prior research, disentangle how it might influence offender awareness of criminal opportunities and the supply of ambient guardianship. With a mixed logit (discrete choice) model, we use data regarding (N = 459) residential burglaries (for the first time) to model offender spatial decision‐making at the street segment level. Novel graph theory metrics are developed to estimate offender awareness of street segments and to estimate levels of ambient guardianship, distinguishing between local and nonlocal guardianship. As predicted by crime pattern theory, novel metrics concerning offender familiarity and effort were significant predictors of residential burglary location choices. And, in line with Newman's (1972) concept of defensible space, nonlocal (local) pedestrian traffic was found to be associated with an increase (decrease) in burglary risk. Our findings also demonstrate that “taste” preferences vary across offenders, which presents a challenge for future research to explain.