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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Time/Space Considerations in Violent Crime Research

Time/Space Considerations in Violent Crime Research

Lemiux and Felson approach the study of violent crime victimization from the perspective of time spent per person per activity, including location. Their research complements location based, or “hot spot” studies; they contend that “no national study has yet collected sufficient lifestyle detail to meet the challenge offered by lifestyle and routine activity theories.” ( Lemiux and Felson, 2012, p. 637). One question they present addresses the function of studying rates by population as opposed to opportunity structures. Issues such as population transiency and the proportion of the population that spends time in relatively dangerous areas are ignored in population-based study. Lemiux and Felson make the counter-point that “people spend very unequal amounts of time in different activities, thus distorting estimates of how much risk one activity generates compared to another.” (2012, p. 638)
Their methodology meets this issue by defining the person-hour as “a useful measure for
determining how much time individuals or a population spends in a specific place or activity.” (Lemiux and Felson, 2012, p. 638) Time adjustment measurements can present a different perspective then can tally counts and population-based rates. To quantify the person-hour, data was drawn from both American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) ; in part because “both use a stratified, multistage sampling strategy and weight estimates to the
national level” (Lemiux and Felson, 2012, p. 639) Some data reconciliation was performed; NCVS data that included the activities of Americans living outside the USA was removed to adjust to ATUS , and series offenses were likewise removed. The researchers reported their data as follows:

We report rates as the number of violent victimizations per 10 million person-hours. These rates can be used to (a) determine which activity is the most dangerous hour for
hour, (b) compare the relative danger of one activity to another, (c) make comparisons
among demographic groups, and (d) make future international and longitudinal compari-
sons as time use and victim surveys continue to develop.
(Lemiux and Felson, 2012, p. 639)

The results of the study show different results then risk assessments based on incident-based reporting. Some activities become much riskier when adjusted for time; the risk for victimization based on incident counting is the lowest for transit to and from school, and yet when adjusted for person-hours, becomes the riskiest activity an American can take part in. In contrast, participating in “Other activities at home” presents the second highest amount of risk when basing the assessment on incident reporting and conversely the second least risky activity when adjusted for time spent. There is not an inverse correlation to risk levels when adjusting for time spent in activity. For example, sleeping is the second least risky activity in incident based counting, and moves to the least riskiest activity when adjusted for time. “Overall, it is evident that time adjustment provides different results and offers a unique way to estimate the risk of violence linked to particular categories of activity” (Lemiux and Felson, 2012, p. 646)
The methodology used allowed Lemiux and Felson to respond to the issues they raised. By adjusting for the time spent in activity located either in “hot spots”, or outside of relatively safer and controlled environments (such as in transit between locales/activities), they were able to asses the risk of victimization by activity. This also allowed comparisons of risk by activity and by demographics.
One interesting facet of the research revealed the higher risk involved in transit from activity to activity when adjusted for time. On a scale of 1 to 10, from least risky to most risky activity, the “To, from school” activity rated as the most risky activity with a score of 9. The second most risky activity was “To, from work” with a score of 8. As Lemiux and Felson chose data based upon it's weight to the national scale, then the medium sized city of Austin, Texas shares with the nation the highest risk of victimization during transit between activities.
Lemiux and Felson discuss the efforts made to recognize the victimization of school attendees during transit, and suggest further study of victimization based on different types of commute, such as public transportation versus privately owned vehicle. One policy recommendation resulting from their study would be the removing of restrictions on citizens for carrying weapons of self-defense and better training for dealing with self-defense situations. Unfortunately, the vast area that would need to be covered by the preventive patrolling of commuter transit would be a strain on law enforcement resources, except in the area of public transit. Finally, Lemiux and Felson stress that time-adjusted risk assessment is not the only factor worth discussing, but they do contend “that the person-hour gives us a more precise way to think about and measure exposure to risk of violence, based on the time people
spend in various activities or locations”(2012, p.650)


Lemieux, A. M., & Felson, M. (2012). Risk of violent crime victimization during major daily activities. Violence and Victims, 27(5), 635–655. Retrieved July 19, 2014 from http://search.proquest.com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/1081338409?pq-origsite=summon

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