Development and Change

A further complication to establishing the A v C equations is that the way a person commits a crime, and indeed the characteristics of a person, will change over time even if there is a background of consistencies. However, if the basis of these changes can be understood then they can be used to enhance the inference process. In essence, the following five forms of change have been identified.

1. Responsiveness. One important reason for differences between a criminal's actions on two different occasions may be their reaction to the different circumstances they face. By an understanding of these circumstances, and how the offender has responded to them, some inferences about his or her interpersonal style or situational responsiveness may be made that can have investigative implications.

2. Maturation. This is the essentially biological process of change in a person's physiology with age. Knowledge of what is typical of people at certain ages, such as sexual activity, can thus be used to form a view as to the maturity of the person committing the crimes and to the basis for longer-term variations in an individual's criminal activity.

3. Development. The unfolding psychological mechanisms that come with age provide a basis for change in cognitive and emotional processes. One reflection of this is increase in expertise in doing a particular task. Evidence of such expertise in a crime can thus be used to help to make inferences about the stages in a criminal's development that he or she has reached and indeed to indicate the way that person's crimes might change in the future.

4. Learning. Most offenders will learn from their experiences. They will therefore be expected to alter their actions in the light of the consequences of previous actions. An inferential implication of this is that it may be possible to link crimes to a common offender by understanding the logic of how behaviour has changed from one offence to the next.

5. Careers. The most general form of change that may be expected from criminals is one that may be seen as having an analogy to a legitimate career. This would imply stages such as apprenticeship, middle management, leadership and retirement. Unfortunately the criminology literature often uses the term criminal career simply to mean the sequence of crimes a person has committed. It is also sometimes confused with the idea of a 'career criminal', someone who makes a living entirely out of crime. As a consequence much less is understood about the utility of the career analogy for criminals than might be expected. There are some indications that the more serious crimes are committed by people who have a history of less serious crimes and that, as a consequence, the more serious a crime the older an offender is likely to be. But commonly held assumptions, such that serious sexual offences are presaged by less serious ones, does not have a lot of empirical evidence in its support.

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