Available on SocArXiv
Drawing upon optimal foraging theory, we examine graffiti writers’ individual targetpreferences to establish the diversity in their target choices (henceforth called “target specialization”).Ecological research implies that the total population of writers can ...
Objectives: Drawing upon optimal foraging theory, we examine graffiti writers’ individual target preferences to establish the diversity in their target choices (henceforth called “target specialization”). Ecological research implies that the total population of writers can consist of target specialists, generalists, or both. Target preferences are either similar or dissimilar among individuals. Methods: One year of graffiti removal data relating to 1,904 incidents committed by 263 individuals were extracted for a medium-sized city in Belgium. Individual target specialization and preferences were analyzed using ecological network methods. Results: The total diversity in target choices at the aggregate level is primarily the result of substantial between-individual variation. The results indicate that the total population of graffiti writers largely consists of target specialists, and can be divided into subgroups that share similar target preferences. Aggregate patterns of target selection do not accurately reflect individual variation in target choice specialization, at least for graffiti writing. Conclusions: We recommend future research to account for individual differences in target specialization. The patterns observed here are similar to those observed in animal ecology studies supporting the idea that crime patterns might correspond to common behavioral ecological patterns.