Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Criminal Justice

Degree Program

Criminal Justice, PhD

Committee Chair

Swartz, Kristin

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Higgins, George

Committee Member

Higgins, George

Committee Member

Hughes, Thomas

Committee Member

Wilcox, Pamela


Farm equipment--United States; Farmers--Crimes against--United States; Rural crimes--United States; Theft--Social aspects--United States


This dissertation explores the potential for routine activity theory and social disorganization theory to explain incidence of farm equipment theft at the county level. Relatively few attempts have been made to discern the factors that contribute to such theft. Most are relatively dated, and all focus upon the relationship between victimization risk and the characteristics of individual farms. Accordingly, the current study represents the first attempt to examine the influence of macro-level processes and characteristics upon the problem. Data are gathered for 306 counties housed within four Southeastern States. Counts of farm equipment theft are collected from the 2011-2012 iterations of the National Incident Based Reporting System, and attributed to the county in which they occurred. The routine activity measures employed are based upon the findings of micro-level studies, and drawn primarily from the 2007 version of the Census of Agriculture. Social disorganization measures are created in line with past attempts to explore the applicability of the theory to crime problems outside of metropolitan areas. These measures are derived from the 2010 version of the United States Census. Negative binomial regression analysis suggests that both theories have applicability to our understanding of farm equipment theft incidence. Agricultural characteristics aggregated to the county level appear to condition the number of opportunities available to motivated offenders. Moreover, counties featuring structural characteristics conducive to disorganization appear to experience higher incidence of theft than those that would be considered “more organized.” Based upon these findings, implications for each theoretical framework are addressed. In addition, policy implications are covered, with a specific focus upon strategies designed to reduce opportunities for theft and improve levels of informal social control in rural areas. The dissertation concludes with a brief discussion of limitations associated with the study, directions for future research, and concluding remarks.