Ravenous Wolves Revisited: A Systematic Review of Offending Concentration

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Crime concentration, Offending, Systematic review, Meta-analysis

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Background: Numerous studies have established that crime is highly concentrated among a small group of offenders. These findings have guided the development of various crime prevention strategies. The underlying theme of these strategies is that by focusing on the few offenders who are responsible for most of the crime, we can prevent the greatest amount of crime with the fewest resources. Nevertheless, there has been no systematic review of the many studies, so it is possible that the accepted understanding among researchers and practitioners is based on a few prominent studies that are misleading. Further, we do not know how concentrated crime is among offenders, given the variety of ways researchers report their findings. This paper systematically reviews this literature and uses meta-analysis to determine how confident we can be that crime is concentrated among a few offenders.

Methods: We first systematically reviewed the literature and found 73 studies on the concentration of crime among offenders. From those studies, we identified 15 studies on the prevalence of offending and 27 studies on the frequency of offending that provided data suitable for analysis. We then performed a meta-analysis of those studies to examine how crime is concentrated among the worst offenders and how that concentration varies between different types of offenders.

Results: We found that crime is highly concentrated in the population and across different types of offenders. Little variation in concentration exists between youths and adults or between American offenders and those from other countries. We found more variation between males and females in the concentration of offending, though we believe this may be due to the more limited data on female offenders.

Conclusions: The systematic review and meta-analysis we present here is the first study of its kind on offending concentration. This is an important step in closing this gap in the crime prevention literature, but we encourage making updates to this systematic review as new literature becomes available, and using alternate methods of summarizing these studies that could challenge these findings.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Crime Science, v. 6, art. 10