A snowball's chance in hell: Doing fieldwork with active residential burglars

Richard Wright, Scott H. Decker, Allison K. Redfern, Dietrich L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Criminologists long have recognized the importance of field studies of active offenders. Nevertheless, the vast majority of them have shied away from researching criminals “in the wild” in the belief that doing so is impractical. This article, based on the authors' fieldwork with 105 currently active residential burglars, challenges that assumption. Specifically, it describes how the authors went about finding these offenders and obtaining their cooperation. Further, it considers the difficulties involved in maintaining an on-going field relationship with those who lead chaotic lives. And lastly, the article outlines the characteristics of the sample, noting important ways in which it differs from one collected through criminal justice channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-161
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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