Understanding Social Factors Associated with the Geographic Distribution of Non-Violent Sex Crimes in a Southern California County
Vega, Anthony Raymond
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Macro-criminologists often try to understand the relationship between community characteristics and violent crimes or property crimes, but less attention has been given to explaining sex crimes, especially non-violent sex crimes. This study uses a mixed method design to understand the ecological characteristics associated with non-violent sex crimes. The quantitative study uses crime incident data, demographic data, regional data, and negative binomial regression analysis to examine to what extent three different criminological theories, social disorganization theory, routine activities theory, and crime pattern theory, help explain the geographic distribution of non-violent sex crime between 2010-2012 in a southern California county. The qualitative study uses newspaper articles from 1965-2015, in-depth interviews, and grounded theory to analyze how the media, law enforcement, and local organizations work together to influence the framing and discussion concerning deviant sexual behavior in a southern California county. A key quantitative finding suggests using measures from all three theories, specifically residential instability, suitable target rate, and connectivity, provides the most comprehensive explanation of the geographic distribution of non-violent sex crimes. Also, another key quantitative finding indicates that past crime from 2007-2009, specifically past non-violent sex crime, violent crime, and property crime, is significantly associated with the geographic distribution of non-violent sex crime incidents from 2010-2012. A key qualitative finding indicates the way non-violent sex crimes are viewed has shifted from primarily moral condemnation prior to the mid-1980s to a more general social condemnation of deviant sexual behavior that is claimed to decrease people’s quality of life. Additionally, another qualitative finding indicates law enforcement, local organizations, and the media have a cyclical relationship formed by informal and formal communication with each other that likely impacts which crime incidents make it into official crime data on non-violent sex crimes. While results demonstrated the usefulness of macro-level criminological theories to explain a variety of crime types, the findings of this dissertation show the importance of expanding criminological research beyond well-examined violent and property crime to include non-violent sex crimes to better inform criminology scholars and policy makers about these heavily stigmatized but little understood crimes.