John McCluskey — College of Liberal Arts
Robbery is a terrifying but fascinating subject for laypersons and scientists alike. McCluskey's recent research examined the differences in coercion used by street robbers and commercial robbers in one precinct of Detroit, Michigan. Data were collected from official police reports, coded, and analyzed with findings illustrating that variations in contemporary robbery resembles the picture developed by 40 years of prior research. The key findings indicated that gun use by robbers reduces physical coercion during the commission of the robbery and street robberies are more likely to involve physical coercion when compared to commercial robberies. Not content with understanding only how robbery outcomes vary across types of events, McCluskey and his collaborators began wondering how crime solutions, or clearances, might vary across urban geography. To that end, he and his colleagues began to explore neighborhood effects on robbery (and burglary) clearance, more simply the arrest of an offender responsible, in Rochester, NY and San Antonio, TX. Certain neighborhood characteristics such as percentage living in poverty, unemployment rate, and proportion of single parent families, which are indictors of concentrated disadvantage, are often conceived of as predictors of less vigorous police effort and less cooperation from citizens. Thus one would hypothesize that in highly disadvantaged neighborhoods the clearing of a robbery or burglary, based on an arrest, would be significantly less likely when compared to neighborhoods with lower levels of disadvantage. Contrary to this expectation the research findings indicate very little variation in clearance rates across neighborhoods with different levels of disadvantage in either city.
These unexpected results have sparked future research ideas. McCluskey and his colleagues intend to spend more time understanding what police detectives do and explore variations in their investigative approaches to solving robberies and burglaries. One focal point for this research, for example, will be an in depth examination of serial, or repeat, commercial robberies in San Antonio. The research team is currently collecting data to determine how serial commercial robbery patterns are identified, the ways detectives develop information across patterns, and successful methods of offender apprehension.