Searching for Influencing Actors in Co-Offending Networks: The Recruiter

Barak Ariel, Ashley Englefield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The co-offending literature research has recently unraveled the possible existence of a specific class of offender
commonly referred to as a “recruiter”: one who recruits others who are younger or less experienced for the purpose of
offending. Yet the available evidence has focused on small or non-representative samples, and has supplied a limited
conceptual scope for explaining how instigation takes place within co-offending groups. We provide evidence from
population-level arrest records over eight years in Sacramento, California (n = 80,245 offenders). Social network
analysis is used to study how “crime ideas” are transmitted. We identified 1,092 recruiters, yet this subgroup is
responsible for 6% of arrests in Sacramento and a disproportionate number of younger and less experienced recruits.
The data suggest a pattern of recruitment specialization in specific crime categories and wider age differentials in
against-persons rather than property crime categories. We contextualize the findings within Dawkin’s (1976) meme
theory as a conceptual framework for explaining how recruitment takes place, why “crime ideas” can be seen as units of
imitation, and under which conditions they are subsequently replicated, reproduced, and evolve. Directions for future
research are then considered, with an emphasis on crime control initiatives.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)24-45
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Social Science Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017


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