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General Theory Of Spatial Crime Patterns*


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I propose a general theory for examining the spatial distribution of crime by specifically addressing and estimating the spatial distribution of the residences of offenders, targets, guardians, and their respective expected movement patterns across space and time. The model combines information on the locations of persons, typical spatial movement patterns, and situational characteristics of locations to create estimates of crime potential at various locations at various points in time and makes four key contributions. First, the equations make the ideas involved in the theory explicit, and they highlight points at which our current state of empirical evidence is lacking. Second, by creating measures of spatial “potentials” of offenders, targets, and guardians, this theory provides a precise grounding for operationalizing spatial effects in studies of place and crime. Third, the equations provide an explicit consideration of offenders and where they might travel and, therefore, incorporates offenders into crime‐and‐place research. Fourth, these equations suggest ways that researchers could use simulations to predict stable patterns, as well as changes, in the levels of crime at both micro and macro scales. Finally, I provide an empirical demonstration of the added explanatory power provided by the theory to a study of place and crime.