The Phenomenology of Specialization of Criminal Suspects

Michele Tuminello, Christofer Edling, Fredrik Liljeros, Rosario N Mantegna, Jerzy Sarnecki

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A criminal career can be either general, with the criminal committing different types of crimes, or specialized, with the criminal committing a specific type of crime. A central problem in the study of crime specialization is to determine, from the perspective of the criminal, which crimes should be considered similar and which crimes should be considered distinct. We study a large set of Swedish suspects to empirically investigate generalist and specialist behavior in crime. We show that there is a large group of suspects who can be described as generalists. At the same time, we observe a non-trivial pattern of specialization across age and gender of suspects. Women are less prone to commit crimes of certain types, and, for instance, are more prone to specialize in crimes related to fraud. We also find evidence of temporal specialization of suspects. Older persons are more specialized than younger ones, and some crime types are preferentially committed by suspects of different ages.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64703
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


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