Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Howell, Frank

Committee Member

Morrison, Emory

Committee Member

Hempel, Lynn

Committee Member

Lu, QiQi

Committee Member

Blanchard, Troy

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work


Recently, increased attention has been given to the social and environmental context in which crimes occur (Wells & Weisheit 2004). This new interest in the human ecology of crime is largely demographic, both in terms of subject matter and increasingly in terms of the analytic methods used. Building on existing literature on the social ecology of crime, this study introduces a new approach to studying sub-county geographies of reported crime using existing census place and county definitions coupled with spatial demographic methods. Spatially decomposing counties into Census places and what Esselstyn (1953) earlier called “open country,” or non-places, allows for the development of a unique but phenomenological meaningful sub-county geography that substantively holds meaning in conceptualizing rural and urban localities in the demographic analysis of crime. This decomposition allows for the examination of core-periphery relationships at the sub-county level, which are hypothesized to act similarly to those at the national level (Agnew 1993; Lightfoot and Martinez 1995). Using 1990 to 2000 Agency-level UCR data within this approach, I propose to use spatial statistics to describe and explain patterns of crime across differing localities. Potential processes of spatial mobility in regards to the spread of criminal activity from places to non-place localities are also examined. In order to adequately understand these spatial patterns of crime while testing the usability of the new place-level geography, several of the generally accepted theories of crime and a number of explanatory factors and covariates are tested. Furthermore, using this sub-county geography, significant patterns of spatial diffusion and contagion are through the implementation and modification of the spatio-temporal model, which provides the current point of departure and put forth by Cohen and Tita (1999). The results are promising and suggest a meaningful contribution to the ecological analysis of crime and the larger sub-discipline of spatial demography.