Exploring links between juvenile offenders and social disorganization at a large map scale: A Bayesian spatial modeling approach

Jane Law, Matthew Quick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


This paper adopts a Bayesian spatial modeling approach to investigate the distribution of young offender residences in York Region, Southern Ontario, Canada, at the census dissemination area level. Few geographic researches have analyzed offender (as opposed to offense) data at a large map scale (i. e., using a relatively small areal unit of analysis) to minimize aggregation effects. Providing context is the social disorganization theory, which hypothesizes that areas with economic deprivation, high population turnover, and high ethnic heterogeneity exhibit social disorganization and are expected to facilitate higher instances of young offenders. Non-spatial and spatial Poisson models indicate that spatial methods are superior to non-spatial models with respect to model fit and that index of ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility (1 year moving rate), and percentage of residents receiving government transfer payments are, respectively, the most significant explanatory variables related to young offender location. These findings provide overwhelming support for social disorganization theory as it applies to offender location in York Region, Ontario. Targeting areas where prevalence of young offenders could or could not be explained by social disorganization through decomposing the estimated risk map are helpful for dealing with juvenile offenders in the region. Results prompt discussion into geographically targeted police services and young offender placement pertaining to risk of recidivism. We discuss possible reasons for differences and similarities between the previous findings (that analyzed offense data and/or were conducted at a smaller map scale) and our findings, limitations of our study, and practical outcomes of this research from a law enforcement perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-113
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Geographical Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian spatial modeling
  • Ethnic heterogeneity
  • Social disorganization
  • Spatial poisson regression
  • Young offender/juvenile delinquency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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