Can we predict escalation in offending seriousness?

Key points:

There is perhaps an assumption among the general public that offenders tend to escalate in seriousness as they develop in their criminal career. Few criminologists, however, have attempted to understand how seriousness of offending increases, remains stable or decreases over the criminal life-course.

Using the Offenders Index data for England and Wales, Francis and Liu compared different methods to examine whether there are specific sub-groups of offenders with distinct seriousness trajectories. They found one large and two small groups of offenders with distinctive patterns of crime seriousness that vary by age and according to their criminal justice histories.

Growth mixture models provided the best approach for studying escalation in offending seriousness rather than the more usual group-based trajectory models.

This work has important policy considerations in terms of how to identify and selectively target a small group of potentially dangerous offenders who exhibit high escalation in crime seriousness.

Read the research briefing paper in full.


Brian Francis

Jiayi Liu