Searching For Influential Actors in Co-Offending Networks: The Recruiter

Ashley Englefield, Barak Ariel


The co-offending literature research has recently unraveled the possible existence of a specific class of offenders commonly referred to as a “recruiter”: one who recruits others who are younger or less experienced for the purpose of offending. Yet the available evidence has focused on small or non-representative samples, and has supplied a limited conceptual scope for explaining how instigation takes place within co-offending groups. We provide evidence from population-level arrest records over eight years in Sacramento, California, is presented on 251,285 criminal charges (n=80,245 offenders). Social network analysis to used to study how “crime ideas” are transmitted. We identified 1,092 recruiters, yet this subgroup is responsible for 6% of arrest cases in Sacramento and a disproportionate number of younger and less experienced recruits. The data suggest a pattern of recruitment specialization in specific crime categories and wider age differentials in against-persons rather than property crime categories. We contextualize the findings within Dawkin’s (1976) meme theory as a more robust conceptual framework for explaining how recruitment takes place, why “crime ideas” can be seen as units of imitation, and under which conditions they are subsequently replicated, reproduced, and evolve. Directions for future research are then considered, with an emphasis on crime control initiatives.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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