Crime in Context: Utilizing Risk Terrain Modeling and Conjunctive Analysis of Case Configurations to Explore the Dynamics of Criminogenic Behavior Settings

AuthorJeremy D. Barnum,Leslie W. Kennedy,Eric L. Piza,Joel M. Caplan
DOI10.1177/1043986216688814
Date01 May 2017
Publication Date01 May 2017
SubjectArticles
/tmp/tmp-172UkONbSTtOPE/input 688814CCJXXX10.1177/1043986216688814Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeCaplan et al.
research-article2017
Article
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2017, Vol. 33(2) 133 –151
Crime in Context: Utilizing
© The Author(s) 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/1043986216688814
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Conjunctive Analysis of Case
Configurations to Explore the
Dynamics of Criminogenic
Behavior Settings
Joel M. Caplan1, Leslie W. Kennedy1,
Jeremy D. Barnum1, and Eric L. Piza2
Abstract
Risk terrain modeling (RTM) is a geospatial crime analysis tool designed to diagnose
environmental risk factors for crime and identify the places where their spatial
influence is collocated to produce vulnerability for illegal behavior. However, the
collocation of certain risk factors’ spatial influences may result in more crimes than
the collocation of a different set of risk factors’ spatial influences. Absent from
existing RTM outputs and methods is a straightforward method to compare these
relative interactions and their effects on crime. However, as a multivariate method
for the analysis of discrete categorical data, conjunctive analysis of case configurations
(CACC) can enable exploration of the interrelationships between risk factors’ spatial
influences and their varying effects on crime occurrence. In this study, we incorporate
RTM outputs into a CACC to explore the dynamics among certain risk factors’
spatial influences and how they create unique environmental contexts, or behavior
settings, for crime at microlevel places. We find that most crime takes place within
a few unique behavior settings that cover a small geographic area and, further, that
some behavior settings were more influential on crime than others. Moreover, we
identified particular environmental risk factors that aggravate the influence of other
risk factors. We suggest that by focusing on these microlevel environmental crime
contexts, police can more efficiently target their resources and further enhance
1Rutgers University–Newark, Newark, NJ, USA
2John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City, NY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Joel M. Caplan, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University–Newark, 123 Washington Street, Newark,
NJ 07102, USA.
Email: joel.caplan@rutgers.edu

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Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 33(2)
place-based approaches to policing that fundamentally address environmental features
that produce ideal opportunities for crime.
Keywords
risk terrain modeling, conjunctive analysis, behavior settings
Risk terrain modeling (RTM) is a geospatial crime analysis tool designed in accor-
dance with the principles of environmental criminology and risk assessment (Caplan,
Kennedy, & Miller, 2011). The basic process involves incorporating features of the
environment, such as bars, schools, and public transportation stops, into assessments
of crime vulnerability at places. The vulnerability of places to crime increases due to
the collocation of criminogenic features that create conditions that are conducive to
crime (Kennedy, Caplan, Piza, & Buccine-Schrader, 2016). Together, these qualities
of places allow crime to emerge, concentrate, and persist (see McGloin, Sullivan, &
Kennedy, 2012), leading to chronic crime areas (Sherman, 1995). The objective of
RTM is to create actionable spatial intelligence to aid in the development of tailored
interventions and the allocation of resources to effectively address the spatial dynam-
ics underlying crime problems (Kennedy, Caplan, & Piza, 2011).
Risk-based policing involves identifying environmental risk factors for a specific
crime in a specific jurisdiction and then understanding how those factors work together
to facilitate the problem at hand (Caplan & Kennedy, 2016). RTM guides this “contex-
tual approach” to policing through theoretically grounded empirical analysis that diag-
noses environmental risk factors for crime and determines the places where their
spatial influences are (co-)present throughout a jurisdiction to produce vulnerability
for offending. However, missing from the current outputs of RTM methods and statis-
tical validation tests is an easy way to explore the relative interactions of risk factors
at places and their potentially varying aggravating or mitigating effects on crime. In
other words, the collocation of certain risk factors’ spatial influences may result in
more crimes than the collocation of a different set of risk factors’ spatial influences
.
Identifying these interactions and their outcomes helps to develop a sense of what to
expect at different places and informs police strategies that are based on environmen-
tal contexts that create opportunities for crime.
As a multivariate method for the analysis of discrete categorical data (Miethe, Hart,
& Regoeczi, 2008), a conjunctive analysis of case configurations (CACC) enables
comparison of distinct combinations of risk factors’ spatial influences. It describes the
interrelationships between the spatial influences of risk factors and their varying
effects on different outcomes, such as crime occurrence. Incorporating RTM outputs
into a CACC provides a better understanding of the dynamics among certain risk fac-
tors and how they create unique environmental contexts that have implications for
behavior. This approach is based on the work of Roger Barker (1968), who suggested
that there was a direct relationship between human activities and their surrounding
environments that can be codified through the identification of patterned behavior that

Caplan et al.
135
is observable in specific behavior settings. In identifying specific features of the envi-
ronment, Barker encouraged the consideration of how they combined to form social
contexts in which predictable behavior outcomes would occur. This approach can be
demonstrated in operational terms in the idea of the environmental backcloth sug-
gested by Brantingham and Brantingham (1995), who proposed that features of the
environment come together in time and space to create settings for crime by working
as attractors and generators of illegal behavior. The construct of behavior settings
allows us to examine how multiple risk factors in the environment combine to create
unique settings in which crime can occur (Popov & Chopalov, 2012). Studying behav-
ior settings with RTM and CACC allows us to make more detailed assessments of the
origins of crime and strategies that can be used to reduce it.
We begin by describing the process of building a risk terrain model for 1 year of
robbery incidents in Glendale, Arizona. We then present the results of the risk terrain
model, including the most problematic environmental risk factors for robbery and
their spatial influences. Next, we demonstrate how the outputs of our risk terrain
model can be meaningfully incorporated into a CACC to construct and explore unique
behavior settings for robbery. The behavior settings for robbery are displayed within
a data matrix and are characterized by the combinations of unique sets of risk factors’
spatial influences. These behavior settings are discussed with regard to their particu-
lar outcomes on robbery occurrence. The article ends by considering the implications
of the current work for public safety practitioners and potential avenues of further
research.
Understanding Behavior Settings
The concept of behavior settings originated from work by Roger Barker and Richard
Wright (1951), who observed that the behavior of children appeared to be more sys-
tematically related to their surroundings rather than the characteristics of the children
themselves (Wicker, 1979). A behavior setting may be defined as a “bounded, self-
regulated and ordered system . . . that interact in a synchronized fashion to carry out
an ordered sequence of events” (Wicker, 1979, p. 12). According to Wicker (1987, p.
614, as cited in Groff, 2015), behavior settings themselves may be thought of as
“small-scale social systems” with social and physical components that interact to
establish and sustain the setting’s essential functions. Behavior settings frame human
activity within its “objective, perceptual context” (Schoggen, 1989, p. 1). The idea of
behavior settings is rooted primarily within the field of ecological psychology but has
been utilized in various applications within criminology and criminal justice (Bernasco,
Bruinsma, Pauwels, & Weerman, 2013; Groff, 2015; Hart & Miethe, 2015; Taylor,
1997).
Our analysis of behavior settings is based on the identification of distinct combina-
tions of environmental risk factors, such as bars, schools, or public transportation
stops, that have been shown to relate to certain crime outcomes (e.g., see Bernasco &
Block, 2011). We are able to identify risk factors with RTM and also locate them on a
map. But, it would be helpful to be able to explain what we would expect to happen in

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Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 33(2)
those locations, given how the risk factors interacted. Following Roger Barker’s origi-
nal conception of behavior settings, we suggest that an interaction of bars, schools, and
bus stops is different from one with bars, public housing, and parks. But in what way
are they different; that is, why is it important to know this in terms of actionable
responses to the crime problems that might occur in these locations? To answer this
...

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