A discrete-time survival study of drug use and property offending: implications for early intervention and treatment


The nexus between drug use and criminal offending is of great interest to policy makers and researchers alike. The possibility that both illegal activities are interrelated provides promise that targeted interventions, such as drug diversion programs and drug courts, may have a tangible influence in reducing the social and economic costs of crime to the community. Although most in the academic and policy arenas agree that drugs and crime are interconnected, the nature of the relationship remains highly contested. This report contributes to this debate through an examination of drug use initiation and criminal escalation where it seeks to identify whether: drug use initiation increases the likelihood of offence escalation, and whether particular drugs play a more or less important role in increasing offending; delayed onset of drug use increases or decreases the risk of offence escalation; and, self-reported motives for the engagement in offending help to predict onset and escalation risk. This study uses data from the Australian Institute of Criminology's Drug Use Careers of Offenders Study (DUCO), an interviewer-administered self-reported survey of offending and drug use, conducted in 2001 among adult male prisoners in Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory to examine the temporal pattern of drug use and offending. Using a survival analysis technique, this study examines the risk profile of 1,500 property offenders and their likelihood of escalating to regular offending. Drug use, including cannabis and other illicit drugs, are modelled as temporal predictors as a means of estimating their effect on increasing or decreasing escalation risk across the criminal career. The results of this study provide some important findings for the development of policies aimed at preventing crime.