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Armed Robbers In Action

Stickups and Street Culture

Richard T. Wright

Publication Year: 2011

One of the most feared crimes among urban dwellers, armed robbery poses a serious risk of injury or death, and presents daunting challenges for law enforcement. Yet little is known about the complex factors that motivate assailants who use a weapon to take property by force or threat of force.

Armed Robbers in Action is not like previous studies that focus on the often distorted accounts of incarcerated offenders. Richard T. Wright and Scott H. Decker conducted dangerous, life-threatening field research on the streets of St. Louis to obtain more forthright responses from robbers about their motives and methods. They also visited several crime scenes to examine how situational and spatial features of the setting contributed to the offense. Quoting extensively from their conversations with the offenders, the authors consider the circumstances underlying the decision to commit an armed robbery, explore how and why targets are chosen, and detail the various tactics used in a hold-up.

By analyzing the criminals' candid perspectives on their actions and their social environment, the authors provide a fuller understanding of armed robbery. They conclude with an insightful discussion of the implications of their findings for crime prevention policy.

Published by: Northeastern University Press


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pp. 1-4

Title Page

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pp. 5-6


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pp. 7-8


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pp. 9-10

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pp. ix-xi

David Matza once noted that American criminologists historically were "highly vague and short-winded about the phenomena they presume[d] to explain." He meant that those who profess expertise about crime had shown a remarkable reluctance either to get close to or to describe in detail their subject matter. Matza's comment, as it happened, preceded by ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Authors, like armed robbers, do not contemplate and complete their projects in a sociocultural vacuum. Their work inevitably is influenced and shaped by those around them. It is our good fortune to be surrounded by bright and tolerant colleagues, each of whom possesses an uncanny ability to be critical without being cruel. Bruce Jacobs, Janet Lauritsen, ...

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1 Studying Active Armed Robbers

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pp. 3-31

An elderly woman cradles a small bag of groceries in one arm while fumbling for her car keys. As she does so, a young man surprises her from behind, puts a .38-caliber revolver to the back of her head, and demands her purse. Before the old woman has time to comply, the assailant wallops her on the side of the head with his pistol; he wallops her hard because, ...

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2 Deciding to Commit an Armed Robbery

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pp. 32-60

Official statistics tell us that arrested armed robbers are disproportionately young, poor, black, and male. It is tempting to read into such characteristics the mechanisms that drive offenders to commit stickups. After all, blacks who are young and poor have limited social and economic opportunities compared ...

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3 Choosing the Target

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pp. 61-94

Once offenders have decided to commit an armed robbery they confront the task of selecting a promising target. This can be a complicated exercise. The offenders typically are seeking to solve a pressing financial problem as quickly as possible so they can resume their partying. At the same time, ...

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4 Committing the Offense

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pp. 95-129

Having settled on a specific robbery target, the next job for offenders is to commit the stickup. This is a complex undertaking, involving a set of actions that have to be performed in the face of a "problematic outcome and potentially serious consequences" (Shover 1991:103). Not only must offenders ...

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5 Preventing Armed Robbery

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pp. 130-139

The physical dangers that we confronted in doing the research for this book were nothing compared to the emotional toll exacted on us by the nature of our work. Even now, nearly two years after leaving the field, we continue to ask ourselves whether it was ethical to study active armed robbers in a real-world setting. ...


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pp. 141-144


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pp. 145-150


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pp. 151-154

E-ISBN-13: 9781555537845
E-ISBN-10: 1555537847
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555533243

Page Count: 128
Publication Year: 2011