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Thrill-Seeking Fuels Many First Crimes

teens with guns

MONDAY, March 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to committing first crimes, the thrill of it all is what matters most, new research suggests.

The finding could point to ways to prevent people from becoming habitual offenders, researchers say.

"It's important to understand under what circumstances young people make that initial decision to commit a crime, so we can think about intervention," said study leader Claire Nee. She's a reader in forensic psychology at the University of Portsmouth, in England.

"The role of emotion in driving the desire to commit crime is a much neglected area, and our research indicates it could be key to stopping it in its tracks," she added in a university news release.

The study included younger (average age 20) and older (average age 39) residential burglars who were asked to explain their reasons for robbing someone's home.

While a first burglary is driven by the desire for excitement and the "thrill" of committing an offense, making quick, easy money soon becomes the priority, according to the researchers.

The study was published online recently in the British Journal of Criminology.

"The excitement drives the initial spate of offending, but skill and financial reward quickly take over, resulting in habitual offending," Nee said.

"What really struck me about the research is how young offenders can't identify a clear initial decision to commit a burglary -- it's just part of the 'flow' of what they're doing with their adolescent comrades," she said.

The study found that youth tended to drift into crime, instead of having a single, decisive moment. Committing a crime was often viewed by study participants as just a part of their lifestyles, according to the researchers.

One of the young burglars said: "Like, where I'm from… that's what it's like, it's crime, like, that's the norm." And an adult burglar said: "I was just born on the streets… that's what people do."

Nee said, "It is fascinating to explore the stages of a criminal's career, so we can see what motivates them at the start, what continues to motivate them, and how we might be able to intervene."

More information

The Washington, D.C., police department offers burglary prevention tips.

SOURCE: University of Portsmouth, news release, Feb. 25, 2020
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