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A Preliminary Examination of Crime Analysts' Views and Experiences of Comparative Case Analysis



Comparative Case Analysis (CCA), typically conducted by crime analysts, uses crime scene behaviours to try to identify series of crimes committed by the same offender. Accurate identification of series of offences allows the police to pool resources and evidence, thereby boosting the potential to identify and apprehend the offender. This paper discusses the results of a survey of a sample of crime analysts working in two UK police forces about their views and experiences of CCA. The results focus on how CCA is conducted, what evidence and information is considered, and how useful CCA is to criminal investigation. Suggestions for how CCA might be developed further are also included.
A preliminary examination of crime
analysts’ views and experiences of
comparative case analysis
Amy Burrelland Ray Bull
(Both) University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
†(Corresponding author) Training Consultant, Perpetuity Training, 148 Upper New Walk,
Leicester LE1 7QA, UK. Email: or
Submitted 17 May 2010; revision submitted 14 August 2010
Keywords: comparative case analysis, case linkage, investigative
psychology, crime analysis, behavioural consistency, crime investigation
Amy Burrell
is undertaking a PhD in forensic
psychology at the University of Leicester. Her
thesis will focus on serial robbery and compar-
ative case analysis. Amy has worked for the Jill
Dando Institute of Crime Science and Perpetuity
Research & Consultancy International. She now
works for Perpetuity Training, a company spe-
cialising in security and risk assessment training.
Amy supports the delivery of courses which
include security management (Level 4 BTEC)
and managing security surveys (Level 4 BTEC).
Ray Bull
is Professor of Forensic Psychology at
the University of Leicester. He was part of the
small team commissioned by the Home Office to
write the 2002 government document Achieving
Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guid-
ance for Vulnerable or Intimidated Witnesses,
Including Children (ABE). In 2002/03 he led the
small team commissioned by the government to
produce an extensive training pack relating to
ABE. In 2005 he received a Commendation from
the London Metropolitan Police for ‘Innovation
and professionalism whilst assisting a complex
rape investigation’.
Comparative Case Analysis (CCA), typically
conducted by crime analysts, uses crime scene
behaviours to try to identify series of crimes
committed by the same offender. Accurate identi-
fication of series of offences allows the police to
pool resources and evidence, thereby boosting the
potential to identify and apprehend the offender.
This paper discusses the results of a survey of a
sample of crime analysts working in two UK
police forces about their views and experiences of
CCA. The results focus on how CCA is con-
ducted, what evidence and information is con-
sidered, and how useful CCA is to criminal
investigation. Suggestions for how CCA might
be developed further are also included.
A small proportion of offenders are respons-
ible for the majority of crime (Clarke &
Eck, 2003; Tilley & Laycock, 2002) and so
it is unsurprising that government policy
frequently puts pressure on the police to
focus their investigative efforts on prolific
offenders (Woodhams & Toye, 2007).
Identifying serial crimes and linking these
offences to individual offenders is a crucial
part of police work (Bennell, Jones, &
Melnyk, 2009; Santtila, Fritzon, &
Tamelander, 2004; Sorochinski & Salfati,
2010; Yokota & Watanabe, 2002) and is used
International Journal of Police
Science and Management,
Vol. 13 No. 1, 2011, pp. 2–15.
DOI: 10.1350/ijps.2011.13.1.212
Page 2
International Journal of Police Science & Management Volume 13 Number 1
to streamline investigative efciency (Sant-
tila, Junkkila, & Sandnabba, 2005), pool
evidence (Bennell et al., 2009) and/or nar-
row the search for the offender (eg, through
geographic proling and/or offender prol-
ing (Canter & Larkin, 1993; Santtila et al.,
2004; Santtila, Häkkänen, & Fritzon,
Linking offences can be relatively
straightforward if forensic evidence is found
at the crime scene (Grubin, Kelly, & Bruns-
don, 2001). However, forensic evidence is
not always present; for example, Ewart,
Oatley, and Burn (2005) report that such
evidence is often absent at burglary scenes,
and Hazelwood and Warren (2003) note
that no or insufcient DNA evidence is
found in a signicant proportion of sexual
offences. Even where forensic evidence is
gathered, a lack of searchable databases of
reference samples can limit the usefulness of
this type of evidence (Cole, 2010). Indeed,
the UK National DNA Database
(NDNAD), which has the highest rate of
proles per capita (Parliamentary Ofce of
Science and Technology, 2006), is limited,
as just 1 per cent of recorded crimes con-
tribute DNA proles to the database
(House of Commons Science and Techno-
logy Committee, 2005). In addition, DNA
evidence might not be processed whilst the
investigation is ongoing and research has
found that in some cases this only occurs
where a legitimate suspect has been identi-
ed (Strom & Hickman, as cited in Beaver,
2010). This means that, although forensic
hits might be valuable as evidence in
court, they may not be available during the
investigation and so cannot be used in the
search for the offender. When forensic evid-
ence is unavailable, behavioural analysis can
be used to identify a linked series of offen-
ces (Bennell & Jones, 2005; Grubin et al.,
2001; Hazelwood & Warren, 2003; Wood-
hams, Bull, & Hollin, 2007; Woodhams &
Toye, 2007). This is known as case linkage.
Two principles underpin case linkage:
behavioural consistency, and behavioural
distinctiveness (Bennell et al., 2009; Santtila
et al., 2005; Woodhams et al., 2007). Taken
together, these hypotheses assume that an
offender will behave in the same way across
his or her offences (behavioural consistency)
but that this behaviour will be different
from the way in which other offenders
behave (behavioural distinctiveness). This is
important because if offenders are con-
sistent in their behaviour but all behave in a
similar fashion then it would be impossible
to distinguish the crimes of one offender
from those of another (Santtila et al., 2005).
Offenders must therefore commit their
offences in a consistent but distinctive man-
ner for case linkage to be feasible (Wood-
hams et al., 2007). Academic exploration of
case linkage (eg, testing the principle of
behavioural consistency) has traditionally
concentrated on serious offending (such as
rape and murder) (eg, Bateman & Salfati,
2007; Hazelwood & Warren, 2003; Salfati &
Bateman, 2005; Sorochinski & Salfati,
2010), however, there is a growing body of
research exploring how case linkage can be
used to link volume crimes including
vehicle crime (Tonkin, Grant, & Bond,
2008) and burglary (Bennell & Jones, 2005;
Markson, Woodhams, & Bond, 2010). Case
linkage in real-world investigative settings is
typically conducted by crime analysts work-
ing within police forces and other specialist
crime agencies (Woodhams & Toye, 2007).
This is known as Comparative Case Analysis
This paper reports the key ndings of a
survey of analysts views of CCA. The cur-
rent research is exploratory and aims to
gather analysts experiences of CCA to gain
an understanding of how case linkage oper-
ates in a real-world setting. Analysts
responses to the survey allow for a prelim-
inary examination of how analysts know-
ledge and experience of CCA compares
Burrell and Bull
Page 3
with the key ndings in the academic liter-
ature on case linkage.
The research gathered the views of analysts
working in two police forces in the UK;
one urban and one rural. These two forces
were selected due to their engagement in a
wider piece of research (currently being
undertaken by the rst author) on case
Ethical approval to use the survey was
granted by the University, and senior police
staff were approached in each force to seek
permission to disseminate the survey. Once
permission was granted, the invitation to
participate in the research was channelled
through senior analytical staff. As it is chal-
lenging to gain access to online survey tools
on police computers due to security re-
walls, analysts received the survey as a Word
document via email. Once complete, the
surveys were returned to the rst author via
Tool development
The survey tool was developed by the rst
author with support and feedback from the
second author. Questions were developed
using both the academic literature on case
linkage (eg, to identify key issues in case
linkage such as the problems of falsely link-
ing crimes that are not committed by the
same offender and/or failing to identify
links between offences) and the rst
authors own practical experience of work-
ing alongside crime analysts (eg, phrasing
questions using language familiar to ana-
lysts). In addition, two academic colleagues
who work in the eld of case linkage
commented on the draft survey, and their
feedback was incorporated into the nal
tool (which had 23 questions).
As the research focuses on information
gathering, it was essential that the survey
tool was exible in order to capture the
necessary information. Therefore the survey
primarily consisted of open questions. Tra-
ditionally, closed questions are preferred as
these are quick to answer and easier to code
for analysis (Babbie, 1990; de Vaus, 1996).
However, closed questions rely on a nite
number of responses which might not
encompass all relevant options. This can
lead to misleading results (de Vaus). This
problem was demonstrated clearly in this
research as the list of evidence types pro-
vided in the survey excluded offender
description which was popularly cited by
analysts in their responses to the subsequent
open question asking them which other
evidence they use in CCA. Although
written questionnaires do not lend them-
selves to the use of open questions (de Vaus)
and the use of open questions increases the
time it takes to complete the survey, it was
felt that it was important to allow analysts to
express their views freely. The questions
focused on:
why analysts conduct CCA;
the process of completing a CCA (eg,
how long it takes to complete a CCA,
decision-making around whether cases
are linked);
the evidence used to complete a CCA;
benets and challenges to CCA.
The survey was disseminated to an estim-
ated 72 analysts in two UK police forces
between June and September 2009. A quar-
ter of analysts (n = 18) completed and
returned the survey. One of the analysts
who completed the survey reported that
they had not been in post long, however,
they had previously worked for an organisa-
tion specialising in CCA work, and were
therefore able to comment extensively on
CCA. For this reason, their responses were
not excluded from the sample.
It is recognised that the response rate was
low and the sample size is small, and the
Examination of crime analysts views and experiences of CCA
Page 4
authors acknowledge that the results of this
research are not necessarily generalisable to
other analysts within the forces surveyed,
other UK forces, or indeed to police
agencies in other countries. However, low
response rates are not uncommon when
surveying police staff. For example, Jamel,
Bull, and Sheridan (2008) reported receiv-
ing just 19 responses to a survey dissemin-
ated to 300 Sexual Offences Investigative
Techniques (SOIT) ofcers, despite sending
out reminders. Weir and Bangs (2007) also
reported low response rates in their work
surveying crime analysts across England and
Wales about how they use geographical
information systems (GIS). One probable
reason for this is the difculty in gaining
access to potential participants: demand for
police staff time is high and it can be
difcult to obtain permission to interview
or survey staff as participation in research
impacts on their operational time. How-
ever, Jamel et al. and Weir and Bangs both
reported that, although the sample was
small and therefore not representative of the
total population, their research was useful to
explore the topics under investigation. Sim-
ilarly, the current research aimed to explore
how case linkage operates in a real-world
setting. Therefore, the results seek merely to
open a discussion about analysts views and
experiences of CCA rather than form a
comprehensive assessment of the topic. It
was felt that the sample size was adequate
for this purpose.
Qualitative analysis
The survey responses did not lend them-
selves to traditional content analysis coding
in that it was difcult to create discrete and
meaningful categories for analysis. For
example, the survey asks analysts how long
it takes to conduct a CCA. As expected, this
was dependent on a multitude of factors
making it difcult for analysts to provide an
estimate. The discussion of this issue, there-
fore, focuses on the factors that analysts
reported affected the time it takes to com-
plete a CCA rather than the estimated times
The decision to use open questions
proved to be prudent as the survey
responses provided were very detailed.
Qualitative analysis of the transcripts
revealed common themes and experiences.
These are reported in the results section,
with quotes used to highlight salient points.
Unique identiers are used to protect par-
ticipant anonymity.
The small sample size negates the possibility
of comparing ndings across the two forces.
In fact, the responses were similar. There-
fore, the results are presented in a combined
The analysts worked in a variety of
departments, primarily Basic Command
Units (BCUs) (ie, police operational dis-
tricts usually headed by a Chief Super-
intendent), community safety units (ie,
departments that focus on tackling com-
munity issues such as anti-social behaviour
and crime), and the force intelligence units
(ie, analytical units that concentrate on
force-wide crime issues). A number of spe-
cialist departments were also represented,
for example, the condential unit (which
works with highly sensitive intelligence),
the counterterrorism unit, and the Auto-
matic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)
department (which deals with intelligence
about car registration plates). The majority
of the analysts were female (n= 15); three
were male. The majority of the analysts had
at least two years experience of working in
an analytical role (n= 14 out of 18, or 78
per cent) and 2 out of 18 (11 per cent) were
working at a senior analyst level.
All of the analysts routinely work on
serial crime and all have experience of
conducting CCA. CCA is conducted on a
wide range of offences with the offence
Burrell and Bull
Page 5
types typically dictated by the department
in which an analyst works. CCA for serious
offences, such as rape and murder, is likely
to be conducted by force-level analysts and
specialist departments. BCU-level analysts
tend to work on a wider range of offence
types linked to BCU priorities, which vary
by BCU (although burglary, robbery and
car crime were commonly cited). Analysts
rarely considered themselves to specialise in
linking a particular type of offence.
How do you conduct a CCA?
There are two different approaches to con-
ducting a CCA, namely (1) identifying all
the offences committed by a known
offender, and (2) identifying individual
series within an offence type. Analysts,
depending on their preferences and how
they were tasked, used both of these
methodologies. For example, one analyst
commented It depends what [the] starting
point is and the specic tasking. Even if Ive
been tasked to look at an offence type, I
wouldn't ignore any links to other crime
types that are jumping out (participant
N-5). However, there were some concerns
about linking by offender, for example: In
my experience, the majority of CCAs are
completed by matching the crime types and
not the offenders. If you attempt to create a
CCA by matching the offenders you are
assuming they are guilty (W-1). The con-
cerns of this analyst are understandable as it
is possible that the investigation could be
impeded if focus is placed on a suspect who
is subsequently found to be innocent.
However, a retrospective CCA can be
benecial to build a case against a suspect.
It was reported that searches for informa-
tion should start wide but that a clear
rationale is required for each search. All but
one analyst reported using computer soft-
ware to conduct a CCA. The most com-
monly cited software packages were Excel
and i2. An example of a typical process for
conducting a CCA was to retrieve data
from databases using force systems (eg,
Business Objects or Discoverer), and build
and complete a matrix of linking factors in
Excel. Findings are typically displayed using
graphical tools within Excel, i2, and/or
mapping software (such as MapInfo).
The use of a matrix provides an easy
method of recording and visualising the
links between different offences across
themes. The literature suggests that linking
across multiple categories (ie, identifying
unique combinations of behaviours) is
important when linking offences (Hazel-
wood & Warren, 2003; Woodhams et al.,
2007). This research indicates that analysts
share this view. For example, when asked
how they reduce the chances of falsely
identifying cases as linked, W-4 stated
. . . by ensuring the identifying factors (ie,
location, description, time of day etc) are
the same/similar in most cases, ie, seven out
of the ten factors match the trend.
Analysts reported that it is important that
each link is reassessed prior to submitting
the CCA report, and that clear explanations
are included about why cases have or have
not been included in the series. Weighted
links demonstrate the strength of the rela-
tionship between offences and clarify
whether links are strong or tentative. In
some cases, it is useful to include a list of
offences that might be part of the series but
that have fewer links to the rest of the series.
This highlights offences that might be rel-
evant without misleading the investigative
team. This is not favoured by all analysts,
but some felt that they would prefer to
include all offences that might be linked
rather than exclude them from the analysis
Analysts reported that it is important to
take all available information into account
and analysts should liaise with the ofcer in
command (OIC) of the investigation to
ensure any new information is received
promptly and fed into the CCA.
Examination of crime analysts views and experiences of CCA
Page 6
What evidence do you use in CCA?
The survey provided a list of forensic,
temporal/spatial, and behavioural evidence
that might be used to link offences. Figure
1 shows how frequently these factors were
used to support CCA.
Figure 1 clearly shows that behavioural
evidence is routinely used to link offences.
The majority of analysts use temporal
factors and/or location to link offences.
Forensic evidence is used less frequently
than might be expected. There are a num-
ber of reasons for this. One analyst noted
that CCAs are often commissioned early in
the investigative process prior to forensic
evidence being gathered (W-1) and so
forensic evidence might be unavailable. This
analyst also noted that serious offences are
more likely to be attended by forensic spe-
cialists (W-1) and so analysts working on
less serious offences are unlikely to be able
to source forensic evidence for their CCA.
Two analysts (both from the same force)
reported that forensic links will be high-
lighted by the forensic team (N-5) and that
their force employs specic forensic analysts
to look at DNA/ngerprints etc so does
not really fall under my remit (N-2).
Analysts reported a number of other
types of evidence used in CCA. The most
commonly cited types of information (ie,
by 13 or more analysts) were spatial and
temporal trends (eg, the distance between
offence locations) and the offender descrip-
tion. Less commonly cited evidence
included vehicle registration numbers,
methods for committing the offence (eg,
how the offender controlled the victim,
how the offender responded to resistance
from the victim), victim information (eg,
victim demographics, victim statements)
and witness statements. Although informa-
tion from witnesses/victims was considered
Figure 1
Evidence used in the
Burrell and Bull
Page 7
useful to the CCA process, there were con-
icting views about which offences were
more/less likely to include such informa-
tion. For example, one analyst stated Burg-
laries and robberies will also often have
numerous witnesses to support the case.
Stranger rapes for example will occur in
isolation and very often the only evidence
will be that of a scared and confuse[d]
victim, this often clouds statements (W-1).
However, another analyst reported Burg-
lary and vehicle crime are more difcult
because MOs are so generic . . . and little
information is known about the offence
because the victim is usually not present
The level of information available about
offences varies by crime type. This is either
because more behaviours can be observed
(eg, in offences where there is more likely
to be a witness) or because more attention
is paid to recording details (eg, in serious
violent crimes): Its simply the amount of
information recorded against each crime
that makes it easier to identify series. I
would think murder and rapes would be
easier as fewer crimes and a lot more
information captured. Some burglaries sim-
ply state unknown MO and have no
statements, a wide time span etc, which is
likely to lead to linked crimes being missed
through the analytical process (N-5). A lack
of information and/or receiving generic
crime information therefore makes some
offences more difcult to work with:
[t]heft of vehicle is often more difcult
because of a lack of MO, ie, the car has
gone and has not been recovered. More
minor crimes such as breaking into vehicles
are easier to link tentatively because they are
often closely geographically concentrated,
but the simple MOs often used (window
broken, sat-nav taken) means that they are
hard to link denitively (W-8). Thus, some
offences are potentially more difcult to
conduct CCA with not only because of the
type of offence, but also due to a lack of
information being gathered about how cer-
tain offences are committed. This emphas-
ises the importance of robust data-recording
practices to ensure high-quality data are
collected for all offence types.
Analysts highlighted the importance of
taking the reliability of data into account
when making judgements about whether
offences are linked. One analyst provided an
example of this: I am wary of using ethni-
city to link robbery offences . . . particularly
when the suspects are wearing balaclavas as
a witness will often confuse a tanned white
male, with a light skinned black male, Asian
male, mixed race etc if their face is partially
obscured (W-5). Data reliability has been
consistently highlighted as a barrier to
effective CCA in the academic literature
(eg, Tonkin et al., 2008; Woodhams et al.,
2007) and it is unsurprising that this opin-
ion is shared by frontline analytical staff.
Furthermore, previous research has indi-
cated that analysts commonly cite data qual-
ity as a barrier to effective analysis (eg, Weir
& Bangs (2007) reported that a third of
their respondents stated that the quality of
the data available for mapping crime was
insufcient or very poor).
How long does it take to complete a
A single CCA can take anything from
2030 minutes to several weeks to com-
plete. Typically, this was dependent on cir-
cumstance: for example, a quick CCA for
immediate use where there is little available
information can take less than an hour,
whereas an exhaustive search of all informa-
tion relating to a large number of crimes
and the need for a detailed report could
lead to the CCA taking at least a week to
complete. Analysts commonly reported that
estimating the time it takes to complete a
CCA is difcult as it is dependent on a
variety of factors. The key theme is that any
factor that increases the volume of informa-
tion to be examined will substantially add
Examination of crime analysts views and experiences of CCA
Page 8
to the time it takes to complete a CCA; for
example, severe cases, more offenders,
increasing the size of the geographical area
and increasing the time frame under
Other factors reported to affect the
length of time it takes to complete a CCA
The need to source information from
multiple systems. Often information is
stored in different crime systems that all
need to be searched. For example, W-8
noted that if many vehicles/mobiles [are]
used in the commission of the offence
[this] will increase the time, as they will
each need to be checked under different
systems. In addition, some systems take
longer to access than others.
The need to source information (eg,
forensic intelligence) from external units
and/or other forces. In these cases, the
analyst is dependent on the speed at
which these units/forces can provide
The complexity of the behaviours dis-
played by the offender as some behavi-
ours are more difcult to interpret than
Data quality eg, incomplete reports,
poor/inaccurate recall by victims/
witnesses, incomplete interviewing. This
can mean the analyst has to spend more
time sourcing additional information.
Strength of similarities if cases are
very similar they are easier to link, mak-
ing the CCA process quicker.
Tasking requirements requesting high
levels of information and detail in the
CCA increases the time it takes to com-
plete. Poor quality tasking requests can
delay the CCA as the analyst needs to
seek clarication of what is required.
Timescales how long analysts have to
work on the CCA and how quickly the
work is needed. For example, where an
offender is in custody the CCA may be
needed very quickly and so the analyst
may spend less time on the CCA in these
The need to prioritise other work/
workload can reduce the time the analyst
has to spend on the CCA.
The proportion of an analysts time spent
conducting a CCA varies widely and this is
largely dependent on tasking. For example,
an analyst might spend 80 per cent of his or
her time on CCA in one week but just 10
per cent the next week. CCA was, how-
ever, a regular task. The two senior analysts
spent less time completing CCA as their
role is managerial; they had, however, spent
substantial proportions of their time on
CCA in the past. Their CCA-related work
now centred on managing teams of analysts
who routinely complete CCA.
Which offences are easier to link and
Volume offences, such as burglary, were
considered easiest to link by some analysts.
For example: There may be more Vehicle
Crime, Burglary or Robbery offences,
making it quicker to identify common fac-
tors (W-4). However, the majority felt that
having high volumes of offences to scan
hindered the linking process: I would say
murder/rapes easier as not so many. BDHs
[burglary in a dwelling] robberies and car
theft would be harder as there are more
crimes to trawl through (W-2).
For the most part, it was reported that
[a]ny crime which involves human contact
is likely to be easier to link as a persons
behaviour is often very individual and
therefore signicant (W-10). As N-2 notes:
with face to face crimes, ie, personal rob-
bery, violent and sexual offences, the
offenders description/MO [modus
operandi]/motives/mannerisms are often
key to linking offences but this is often
absent in burglary and thefts. Thus it is
clear that distinctive behaviour is important
Burrell and Bull
Page 9
when linking crimes: Rape and Burglary I
would say are the easiest to try and link as
there may be more links if offenders have
certain ways of doing things (W-9). How-
ever, distinctive behaviours were not always
present in personal crimes: I found it very
difcult to conduct CCA on murders
particularly where there is very little dis-
tinctive about the scene, the way the victim
was left etc as there is so little known
behavioural information (W-12). Where
distinctive behaviours are absent, it can
be difcult to link offences: When, for
example, a vehicle with the same VRM
[vehicle registration mark] has committed a
number of different types of offences, then
they are easy to link. It is often more
difcult to link, say, burglary and vehicle
crime in an area, unless the temporal pat-
terns are unusual (W-8).
Overall, distinctive features were high-
lighted as particularly useful to the linking
process, for example, burglars eating food in
the houses they are burgling is rare and so
nding this behaviour across crimes would
suggest that these offences are linked. This is
one of the situations where the local
knowledge and experience of analysts was
cited as key, as they are able to identify
when a behaviour was rare in their area.
These ndings indicate that analysts are
considering the theoretical assumption of
behavioural distinctiveness in their CCA
work. It is therefore important that analysts
are able to access a high level of information
for each offence to increase the chances of
identifying distinctive behaviours with
which to link offences.
What are the benets of CCA?
The analysts were asked if they agreed with
a series of statements about the benets of
CCA, the results of which are presented in
Table 1.
Most analysts agreed with the provided
statements, but there were some exceptions.
In one case, the analyst explained why he
disagreed with a statement: I dont think it
develops our understanding of crime prob-
lems as once CCAs are completed at a
regional level they are not reviewed or
debriefed for best practice (W-1). This sug-
gests that CCA is not currently boosting
wider knowledge of offending patterns.
Analysts largely felt that CCA is valuable
and independently identied a number of
additional benets of CCA work. Several
themes emerged including the development
of crime prevention tactics (eg, offender
targeting, advice to potential victims),
understanding patterns of offending (eg,
helping to understand motive, and predict-
ing future offending) and support for the
courts (eg, building a robust evidence base,
and ensuring appropriate sentences are
passed). Identifying strong links between
offences allows the police to charge
offenders with multiple offences once they
are apprehended. CCA also supports work
to encourage offenders to admit to offences
Table 1: Agreement with statements regarding the benefits of CCA
Statement Number
of analysts
% of
Do you think the identication of series assists with any of the following:
Detection rates/catching offenders 18 100
Prioritising suspects 17 94
Improve the efciency of investigations 17 94
Developing our understanding of particular crime problems (e.g. burglary) 15 83
Examination of crime analysts views and experiences of CCA
Page 10
where there may be insufcient evidence
for a formal charge (a process known as
taken into consideration (TIC)). CCA
provides a key opportunity to alert other
police forces, or BCUs within the same
force, of crime series that they might not be
aware of. CCA can also be used as a public
awareness tool to boost public condence
in the police by highlighting where
offenders have been apprehended for mul-
tiple offences.
The practical benets of CCA were also
highlighted. The CCA not only provides a
concise account of a large amount of data
and information, but also an easy-to-
interpret version of accounts for investiga-
tive teams. CCA has the additional benet
of being a living document that can be
refreshed as the investigation proceeds.
What are the challenges for CCA?
Data availability, accessibility and quality
Analysts reported that the standard of a
CCA is dependent on data availability,
accessibility and quality. As discussed above,
difculties accessing information from
external agencies and/or multiple computer
systems, along with poor data quality, sig-
nicantly impact on the time it takes to
complete a CCA. These difculties also
impact on the reliability of the CCA, and
therefore the usefulness of the CCA to the
investigative team. It was widely agreed that
the reliability of a CCA is wholly depend-
ent on the quality and amount of informa-
tion that analysts have to work with and
analysts highlighted the importance of tak-
ing the reliability of data into account when
making judgements about whether offences
are linked. These ndings are unsurprising
given that the literature has repeatedly high-
lighted that police data can be of poor
quality and that this hinders analysis (e.g.
Santtila et al., 2005; Tonkin et al., 2008;
Weir & Bangs, 2007; Woodhams et al.,
Offence type
It was reported that some offences are easier
to link than others. However, there were
mixed and often conicting opinions
about which offences are easier to work on.
These differences are probably linked to
data quality. For example, one analyst
reported that robbery is probably most dif-
cult as the offences tend to be opportun-
istic (N-1) suggesting limited distinctive
information was available about these cases,
but another stated [r]obbery gives you the
most factors to analyse with analysing the
IP [injured party] and offender/weapon
seen/speech used etc (W-2). Interestingly
these statements are from analysts in differ-
ent forces. This could explain the discrep-
ancy, particularly if more information is
routinely collected in robbery cases in one
force than the other (eg, if robbery is a
priority in one force it is possible that
ofcers are encouraged to gather more
data). Alternatively, the differences could be
based on the individual analysts differing
experiences of conducting CCA with rob-
bery: W-2 has been working in an analytical
role for ve to ten years, compared with
one to two years for N-1, which might
mean that W-2 has more experience of
completing CCA on robbery and/or has a
more developed understanding of what
information to source for the CCA. Finally,
the difference could be because robbery
offences have different features in different
areas; perhaps robberies are more organised
and/or distinctive in W-2s force area and
therefore there is more behavioural
information to gather about these offences.
Linking across offence types
One analyst outlined the difculties of link-
ing across offence types: In my experience
a CCA will only work when comparing the
same crime type. Its harder to compare a
crime series incorporating different types of
offences (W-5). However, another noted
the importance of considering the range of
Burrell and Bull
Page 11
offences which a single offender commits:
We look at all crime types that each indi-
vidual may have committed, for example
due to the fact that sex offenders generally
have some history of violence, we also take
into account violent offenders when invest-
igating rapes (W-10). It is suggested that
this discrepancy centres on the approach to
CCA used, with the rst analyst concen-
trating on identifying series from within
offence groups and the second using an
offender-centred approach.
Being aware of caveats
One of the biggest challenges in CCA is
minimising false positives (ie, inaccurately
identifying offences as linked) and false neg-
atives (ie, failing to link offences that are
committed by the same offender) and aca-
demic studies have explored how to max-
imise the number of accurate links whilst
minimising false alarms (eg, Bennell et al.,
2009). Analysts are aware of this issue and
proactively take steps to improve accuracy.
It was emphasised that it is important to
keep an open mind and not make assump-
tions about people, places and/or circum-
stances. The analyst must remain objective
in order to ensure that CCA work is not
subject to bias; a task that can be challeng-
ing if the tasking ofcer has preconceptions
about the case in question. Developing and
testing hypotheses was considered to be a
useful boost to linking accuracy. It is reas-
suring that analysts are aware of the risk of
false positives and false negatives and apply
caution when interpreting links to ensure
the CCA is reliably presented.
As alluded to already, analysts stressed
that it is important to highlight caveats
where these exist. For example: Also, the
receiver must be aware of the human error
factor. The CCA method is not nite and is
always subject to the possibility of human
error or false interpretation (W-1). This
allows the investigative team to apply cau-
tion where appropriate when using the
CCA information. A potential solution to
minimise the impact of human error is to
have an analyst colleague review and/or dip
sample the evidence. Seeking a second
opinion provides some reassurance that
information has been interpreted appro-
priately, particularly where links are tentat-
ive. Keeping an open dialogue with
colleagues is therefore key to the CCA
Recommendations for future
directions in CCA
Analysts made a number of recommenda-
tions for the further development of CCA.
Most of these recommendations centred on
improving data collation and recording.
Analysts stressed the importance of collect-
ing as much information about offences as
possible, and ensuring this information is
captured accurately in the crime reports.
The development, and consistent use, of a
more robust data coding system for modus
operandi behaviours was also recommended
to boost the accuracy of linkage work.
From a practical perspective it was high-
lighted that having dedicated time to con-
duct CCA would improve the quality of the
work. More timely access to data would
facilitate the CCA process; in particular it
was suggested that investing in more soph-
isticated computer software could substan-
tially reduce the time spent searching for
information. Building and maintaining
effective communications between BCUs,
and between police forces, would allow
quicker access to information for CCA, and
might also yield supplementary datasets that
could be included in CCA work.
One analyst highlighted the need for
more research: What would also help
would be a continuing research particularly
around behavioural consistency (what parts
are more stable and what parts arent)
(W-12). This is an encouraging nding for
Examination of crime analysts views and experiences of CCA
Page 12
academics working in the eld of case link-
age. The focus of applied research is to
ensure ndings can be of practical use, and
so it is reassuring that ongoing research on
behavioural consistency would be con-
sidered useful for analysts working on the
It is clear that analysts share the view of
the academic community that data access
and quality needs to be improved to
enhance the ability to link offences accur-
ately. However, analysts also identied more
practical issues (such as the negative impact
of poor quality tasking and the importance
of being allowed adequate time to complete
the CCA) that are less likely to be identied
as barriers to CCA by the academic com-
munity. This demonstrates the value of
surveying analytical staff, alongside the
quantitative research, when developing
CCA techniques.
The CCA provides a concise account of a
large amount of data and information and
analysts believe these to be benecial to
criminal investigations. The research clearly
indicates that CCA forms a key part of the
analysts role, and that a range of informa-
tion, including temporal and spatial trends,
forensic evidence, MO behaviour, and
offender/victim characteristics, are used to
link offences committed by the same
offender. Analysts emphasised the import-
ance of linking across multiple factors and
the value of using distinctive behaviours to
build strong links between cases.
However, analysts highlighted a number
of challenges in CCA that need to be
addressed to improve the quality and value
of the CCA product. Most notably, analysts
expressed concerns about data availability,
accessibility and quality. This is a view
shared by the academic community, mem-
bers of which have reported that the quan-
tity and quality of information varies widely
from case to case (Santtila et al., 2005) and
expressed concerns that selective question-
ing by police ofcers can result in details
they deem to be irrelevant being ignored or
omitted from crime reports (Canter &
Alison, 2003, cited in Woodhams et al.,
2007; Tonkin et al., 2008). There are a
number of ways in which data quality could
be improved, including interviewing vic-
tims more skilfully (Milne & Bull, 1999)
and developing a robust data coding system
for MO behaviours. There might also be
opportunities to incorporate more forensic
evidence into CCA as police forces increase
the number of crime types attended by
forensic teams. For example, local docu-
mentation (dated February 2010) from one
of the forces indicates that 100 per cent of
burglary dwelling scenes are now attended
by the Scenes of Crime Ofcers (SOCO)
to maximise forensic recoveries and obtain
evidence to detect these crimes. The devel-
opment of computer systems that allow data
to be input, updated and stored more ef-
ciently, and strengthening communication
networks with external organisations,
would facilitate faster access to information.
This would boost the level and quality of
information available for analysis.
This research has indicated that analysts
concerns about CCA commonly mirror
those of academics. For example, W-1
reported that a scared and confused victim
(in rape cases) might not be able to provide
much information. This supports concerns
expressed by Woodhams et al. (2007) that
the trauma experienced by the victim dur-
ing the offence can adversely affect memory
recall. However, analysts also outlined more
practical problems (such as lack of clarity in
tasking reports and the need to be able to
dedicate time to CCA) that are not high-
lighted in existing academic research. This
clearly demonstrates the value of gathering
the views of frontline staff when researching
case linkage.
Burrell and Bull
Page 13
This paper has discussed the ndings of a
survey of 18 analysts, working in a range of
departments across two police forces, about
their views and experiences of CCA. It is
acknowledged that these ndings are indic-
ative rather than conclusive; however, they
do highlight that analysts are routinely con-
ducting case linkage on a variety of offence
types (ranging from car theft to murder) to
support the investigative process, and that
they are using behaviour to identify series
of offences. It is important to continue
research in this area as failure to link
offences accurately can waste police
resources, delay the investigative process
and/or reduce the chances of apprehending
the offender (Bennell, Bloomeld, Snook,
Taylor, & Barnes, 2010; Grubin et al.,
2001). It is, therefore, important that the
academic community continues to support
case linkage work. It is suggested that focus-
ing on continuing to build the evidence
base for behavioural consistency, and identi-
fying which behaviours are the most reli-
able indicators that cases are linked, will be
benecial to analysts.
Expanding this research, using more in-
depth data-gathering techniques (such as
one-to-one interviews or focus groups) to
gather the views and experiences of a larger
sample of analysts would also be benecial
to identify opportunities to support the
development of operational CCA work.
Interviews with police ofcers who request
CCA reports would also be valuable; for
example, to identify examples of scenarios
when an ofcer will request a CCA, what
they hope to achieve by requesting a CCA
and feedback about how the CCA was used
to provide leads for the investigation.
Finally, it would be useful to review a
sample of CCA reports to examine the
specic types of information used and how
links are formed between cases. This would
be a challenging task as the content of CCA
reports will be restricted due to the like-
lihood of containing personal information
about offenders and/or victims. However, if
adequate security clearance could be
secured and permission granted from police
forces to review this material, this would be
greatly benecial.
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... Despite its suggested widespread use, it is unknown if, and how the assumptions, contributory research, and software developments have been implemented in an operational environment. A few pieces of literature have sought to explore this (Burrell & Bull, 2011;Emeno et al., 2016;Willmott et al., 2021) but on closer inspection, they do not comprehensively achieve this. For example, the article by Willmott et al. (2021) is descriptive and simply outlines scenarios of how GP is applied in policing. ...
... Research by Burrell and Bull (2011) used a survey to examine the views and experiences of crime analysts conducting comparative case analysis, the linking stage which precedes a GP. This research established how the process of crime linkage has been implemented by police analysts who are frequently conducting linkage work on cases ranging from car theft to murder. ...
... This research established how the process of crime linkage has been implemented by police analysts who are frequently conducting linkage work on cases ranging from car theft to murder. This study identified that from a theoretical perspective, behavioral evidence such as the modus operandi, and use of weapons or violence is the most frequent factors examined to identify linked crimes (Burrell & Bull, 2011). This was followed by temporal and spatial characteristics such as place, time, day of the week, etc. (Burrell & Bull, 2011). ...
Full-text available
Geographical profiling is a form of crime analysis that can be used to help predict the area within which the home or base of a serial offender resides. Police services globally have incorporated it into their crime analysis capabilities but there remains limited research on how this has been achieved. In this article, we interview 10 geographical profilers working in the field to gather their experiences of the operational use of geographical profiling. Implementation theory is used as the theoretical framework to analyze the interviews. As a result, we identify a field with the potential to add value to criminal investigations, but a lack of knowledge and awareness of frontline officers and staff about the novel capability is affecting its use. In addition, issues relating to technology, tasking acceptance criteria, and methods of data collection create compounding factors serving to potentially reduce its contribution. We provide recommendations to address them including greater levels of training, a loosening of theoretical constraints, academic collaboration, and embracing free-to-access technology and heuristic methods as potential ways to improve the application.
... The fact that computerised databases are often required to conduct this type of CCA means that it is often associated with practitioners working with the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (or ViCLAS; see below for details; Collins et al., 1998) in units around the world (Davies et al., 2018a). This type of crime linkage, however, is conducted by analysts working within police forces too, often with types of volume crime such as burglary and robbery (Burrell & Bull, 2011). ...
... Equally, there are several different types of biases which may affect linkage efficacy, such as the clustering illusion, the availability heuristic, the base rate fallacy, and the representativeness heuristic (Rainbow et al., 2011). How the linkage process can be affected by human decision making and potential biases (which analysts themselves recognise; Burrell & Bull, 2011), and the knowledge of suspected series membership in the case of CLA, have yet to be tested. ...
Crime linkage can be a useful tool in the investigation of sexual offenses when other, physical evidence is unavailable or too costly to process. It involves identifying behavior that is both consistent and distinctive, and thus forms an identifiable pattern through which a series of offenses committed by the same offender can be distinguished. While there is a substantial body of research to support the principles of crime linkage, samples often contain only one type of sexual offense, and further research is needed into offenses such as voyeurism and exhibitionism. In practice, there are a number of ways in which crime linkage can be conducted, and a variety of terms are used to describe these different processes. While writings from practitioners provide insight into how crime linkage is conducted, research now needs to focus more on systematically mapping its practice and documenting procedural differences. There are also a number of additional considerations that require further research attention where the practice of crime linkage is concerned, such as the utility of computerised databases designed to assist with the process, the human decision-making element of linking and how bias can affect this, and the effects of expertise and training on linkage efficacy.
... Analysts conducting a particular type of crime linkagecomparative case analysis (CCA)use these databases to search for potential links between cases based on similar and distinctive crime scene behaviour shared across offences. [For further details about the process of CCA, see research by Burrell and Bull (2011) and Woodhams et al. (2007), and more recently, a review published on the practice of crime linkage by Davies and Woodhams (2019a).] Details of these potential links are passed to investigating officers with the intent of generating new investigative leads (Davies et al., 2018). ...
... Some studies are also starting to uncover the behaviours that analysts report using when conducting CCA (Burrell and Bull, 2011;Davies et al., 2018). Once the types of behaviours analysts suggest are useful for finding links between crimes are outlined, more focused empirical research can be conducted into the actual consistency and distinctiveness of these behaviours. ...
Purpose The Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (ViCLAS) is a computerised database which is used by law enforcement in several countries to find potential links between serial violent crimes. In 2012, Bennell, Snook, MacDonald, House and Taylor identified a number of assumptions that must be valid for these computerised systems to be effective. Design/methodology/approach This paper revisits and expands on these assumptions with specific reference to the use of ViCLAS, looking at research that has been conducted since this 2012 review and outlining where research is still outstanding. Findings The importance of evaluating ViCLAS is highlighted in this paper. Practical implications Particularly, the research agenda highlights how the practice of comparative case analysis when using ViCLAS could be improved. Originality/value To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first review of the research dedicated specifically to the evaluation of ViCLAS.
... Research (Reich and Porter, 2015) has shown that by examining just the spatiotemporal crime information and offender modus operandi, a serial crime series can be accurately identified. This is done through a process of a comparative case analysis (Burrell and Bull, 2011). To support the forthcoming stages of patrol plan development, all subsequent hotspot identification must be underpinned by crime linkage analysis, as this is the most effective way to identify serial offending. ...
Full-text available
This article describes how existing and newly emerged research can be combined to develop a more systematic model for responding to serial crimes. We believe that the model offers police services a more efficient and effective way to optimize the deployment and scheduling of police resources, and their associated activity, to combat serial offending. We suggest that the likely subsequent prevention and reduction of demand achieved will go some way to alleviate the impact of serial offending behavior. To develop our model, we draw upon criminological literature including theories of routine activity, rational choice, and situational crime prevention. By incorporating existing methods of hotspot identification, and combining these with processes to identify and respond to serial offending, we propose a six-stage, Dual Offender—Victim, Crime Prevention and Reduction model, that includes (1) crime linkage to identify serial offending; (2) near-repeat pattern analysis to identify the areas experiencing, and at immediate risk of victimization; (3) THE prediction of future, spatially displaced hotspots at high risk of victimization; (4) geographical profiling to identify the area of the likely home or base of the offender; (5) suspect mapping, ranking, targeting, and early intervention; and (6) tracking of spatial displacement, and offender management to maintain model effectiveness.
... If evidence is found in favour of temporal proximity as a strong linking factor, this would be useful to analysts because limiting the timeframe for a search would reduce the number of cases under examination. Furthermore, even though analysts already use how close offences are in time and space to make linkage decisions (Burrell & Bull, 2011), it is important to determine whether the evidential base for this is sound. ...
Research has shown that the majority of offences are committed by a minority of offenders. Therefore, any method to help identify prolific/serial offenders is of benefit to the police. Behavioural Crime Linkage (BCL) is a method of identifying series of offences committed by the same person(s) using the behaviour displayed during the offence. This can include, but is not limited to, target selection, control and weapon use, approach, property stolen, and temporal and spatial trends. This chapter will explain the theoretical framework for BCL and common methods for testing the accuracy of this method (e.g. logistic regression, Receiver Operating Characteristic ). The chapter will then outline how BCL has been applied in robbery. It will discuss how the success of BCL is influenced by factors such as type of location (e.g. urban versus rural) and group offending (e.g. can you link offences committed by groups?). This chapter will draw heavily on the PhD research of the author but will cite other literature (e.g. evidence to support the theoretical framework for BCL) where relevant.KeywordsBehavioural crime linkageCrime linkageRobbery
... However, before this stage can be reached, step 1 must be conducted and all burglary crimes within the localised area must be examined to identify those which are linked to a prospective forager. Similar to other forms of crime linkage, the linking of crimes which are attributed to a foraging offender is presently based upon professional judgement of a police analyst (Burrell and Bull 2011;Martineau 2014 andPakkanen et al. 2012) which can be open to influence from bias, misinformation and inaccuracy (Woodhams and Davies 2019). ...
Full-text available
Crime linkage is a systematic way of assessing behavioural or physical characteristics of crimes and considering the likelihood they are linked to the same offender. This study builds on research in this area by replicating existing studies with a new type of burglar known as optimal foragers , who are offenders whose target selection is conducted in a similar fashion to foraging animals . Using crimes identified by police analysts as being committed by foragers this study examines their crime scene behaviour to assess the level of predictive accuracy for linking crimes based on their offending characteristics. Results support previous studies on randomly selected burglary offence data by identifying inter-crime distance as the highest linking indicator, followed by target selection, entry behaviour, property stolen and offender crime scene behaviour. Results discuss distinctions between this study and previous research findings, outlining the potential that foraging domestic burglary offenders display distinct behaviours to other forms of offender (random/marauder/commuter).
... Similar access issues were identified in the most recent publication relating to geographical profiling (Snook et al, 2015) who also experienced difficulties in accessing operational law enforcement staff for completion of their questionnaire on this field. Other scholars have also experienced similar access issues in the past with response rates ranging from 25% (Burrell andBull, 2011, cited in Snook et al, 2015) to as low as 6.3% (Jamel et al, 2008cited in Snook et al, 2015. Each of these studies related to questionnaire responses whereas this study conducted interviews, so it could be argued that such a low participation rate is not necessarily a weakness of the research approach conducted and more a reflection of the ongoing issues experienced by researchers when examining operational law enforcement processes. ...
Drawn from ecology, the optimal forager predictive policing methodology has been identified as the primary tasking tool used by police services to tackle domestic burglary. Built upon established findings that the target selection behaviour of foraging domestic burglary offenders can be predicted, this thesis examines the physical offending and geographical characteristics of foraging offenders in greater detail. This study evolves established research evidence by drawing upon criminological methods that have potential to increase the approaches effectiveness before testing their applicability in respect of foraging criminals. Ecological research evidence relating to assumptions of foraging behaviour are used to devise theoretical manifestations within criminal behaviour which are subsequently tested for and used to build a theoretical model to combat them. The study achieves all of this through a number of key research chapters, these include (1) identifying predictive thresholds for linking burglary offences committed by foraging criminals (2) drawing on existing assumptions within ecology the study then seeks to identify their presence within foraging criminals, including the presence of significant crime displacement, and (3) geographical profiling is identified and tested as a potential solution to combat the evasive behaviour of foraging offenders as a response to the increased police presence that the optimal forager model is designed to co-ordinate. Underpinning the study throughout is an examination of the enablers and blockers present that impact upon the effectiveness of such transitions of theory into practice. Overall, the thesis provides new theoretical material by creating a framework of foraging offender typologies. The key practical implications for policing include a model for tackling the identified theoretical foraging typologies to increase the crime prevention and reduction efforts in respect of domestic burglary.
Full-text available
There is a growing tendency toward the introduction of Big Data in police departments to improve the prevention and investigation of crime. However, there is little systematic knowledge about the perspectives of professionals in police forces regarding this technology. This article fills this gap by presenting a scoping review that systematizes empirical studies of the views of professionals in police forces about Big Data in the field of policing and criminal investigation. Fourteen articles were analyzed following a descriptive–analytical method. Optimistic and oppositional views about Big Data among professionals in police forces were then described. Optimistic views focused on the potential of Big Data to improve the objectivity and efficiency of policing and better manage police resources by providing new capabilities and strategies by which to perform crime predictions, risk assessments, criminal investigations, crime analysis, risk management, cooperation and data exchange. Oppositional views related to the police's awareness of Big Data's biases, the lack of a regulatory landscape, misuse of data, privacy threats, data security, misplaced trust in technology, the absence of major changes in work practices, and practical barriers. Analysis of the co-presence of optimistic and oppositional views adds a comprehensive and interpretative argument that might contribute to critical reflections on the technological feasibility, societal usability, and desirability of Big Data technologies in police departments.
Using qualitative interview data, this article examines the role of crime analysts in producing knowledge, as well as the challenges they face. Through the collection and organization of data outlining pertinent information about specific districts, analysts aid in the implementation of policing practices. As such, analysts regard themselves as possessing a specialized form of knowledge, which they incorporate and draw on in the outputs they produce. We conclude that analysts do not always employ rigorous, scientific methodologies, while producing their intelligence outputs, suggesting rather that they rely on their familiarity and specialized knowledge of offenders and crimes in their district. Our findings are important to evaluate and understand how ‘data-driven’ policing is occurring and identifying ways to improve and utilize crime analysis approaches within policing.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to understand (i) how crime linkage is currently performed with residential burglaries in New Zealand, (ii) the factors that promote/hinder accurate crime linkage and (iii)whether computerised decision-support tools might assist crime linkage practice. Design/methodology/approach A total of 39 New Zealand Police staff completed a questionnaire/interview/focus group relating to the process, challenges, products and uses of crime linkage with residential burglary in New Zealand. These data (alongside four redacted crime linkage reports) were subjected to thematic analysis. Findings The data clearly indicated wide variation in crime linkage process, methods and products (Theme 1). Furthermore, a number of factors were identified that impacted on crime linkage practice (Theme 2). Research limitations/implications Future research should develop computerised crime linkage decision-support tools and evaluate their ability to enhance crime linkage practice. Also, researchers should explore the use of crime linkage in court proceedings. Practical implications To overcome the barriers identified in the current study, greater training in and understanding of crime linkage is needed. Moreover, efforts to enhance the quality of crime data recorded by the police will only serve to enhance crime linkage practice. Social implications By enhancing crime linkage practice, opportunities to reduce crime, protect the public and deliver justice for victims will be maximised. Originality/value The practice of crime linkage is under-researched, which makes it difficult to determine if/how existing empirical research can be used to support ongoing police investigations. The current project fills that gap by providing a national overview of crime linkage practice in New Zealand, a country where crime linkage is regularly conducted by the police, but no published linkage research exists.
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This chapter begins by explaining the purposes of linking crimes committed by the same offender and what case linkage can add to a police investigation and prosecution. The various steps involved in the process of case linkage are explained. The assumptions of behavioral consistency and inter-individual behavioral variation, which case linkage rests on, are outlined, and the research that has begun to test these assumptions is reported. The effect of poor-quality data on the case linkage process and on empirical research is examined. Current methods and future developments for overcoming this difficulty are described. The obstacles to identifying linked crimes across police boundaries are discussed. Case linkage research and practice are compared with various criteria for expert evidence with promising results. The chapter closes by considering future avenues for research and practice in case linkage.
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University students, police professionals, and a logistic regression model were provided with information on 38 pairs of burglaries, 20% of which were committed by the same offender, in order to examine their ability to accurately identify linked serial burglaries. For each offense pair, the information included: (1) the offense locations as points on a map, (2) the distance (in km) between the two offenses, (3) entry methods, (4) target characteristics, and (5) property stolen. Half of the participants received training informing them that the likelihood of two offenses being committed by the same offender increases as the distance between the offenses decreases. Results showed that students outperformed police professionals, that training increased decision accuracy, and that the logistic regression model achieved the highest rate of success. Potential explanations for these results are presented, focusing primarily on the participants' use of offense information, and their implications are discussed.
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This study involves Sexual Offences Investigative Technique (SOIT) officers completing a semi-structured questionnaire (disseminated with the assistance of a British police force). This questionnaire included questions about their specialist occupation regarding the provision of victim care, their investigative function and how it adheres to responsibilities outlined in policy documents regarding expectations of the SOIT officer. Questions about service provisions were then put to male and female rape survivors to investigate whether a differential level of service exists regarding victim gender. For example, survivors were asked as to (i) the response of the police on reporting, (ii) the procedures followed, (iii) the level of communication maintained throughout their case and (iv) their suggestions for improvement of the service received in light of their experience. The police and survivor data were analysed using thematic analysis and compared. Key issues which were highlighted by survivors and police officers included the importance of regular communications about the progress of the case. Rape survivors also expressed a lack of confidence in the judicial system; this was more pronounced in adult males. Furthermore, the limited resources available to SOIT officers were found to impact negatively on the service provided to rape survivors.
This report presents the development and evaluation of the suspect retrieval system based on modus operandi developed by the National Research Institute of Police Science in Japan. The database used in the system stores a large number of records consisting of the modus operandi of prior offenders. A score is assigned to each record, where each score represents the similarity of the modus operandi between each record and a crime under investigation. The similarity is statistically calculated based on the choice probability of each modus operandi. Suspects in the database are rank ordered according to scores. The higher a rank is, the more likely a suspect is expected to have committed the crime under investigation. The validity of the system is evaluated with data about Japanese burglars (n = 12,468) and some factors influencing the accuracy of the retrieval are discussed.
’Hard’ forensic evidence (eg DNA) may be the best means of linking crimes, but it is often absent at burglary crime scenes. Modus operandi information is always present to some degree, but little is known of its significance in matching burglaries. This paper evaluates the ability of three algorithms to match a target crime to the actual offender within a database of 966 offences. The first (RCPA) uses only MO information, the second (RPAL) only temporal and geographic data and a third (COMBIN) is a combination of the two. A score of one indicates a perfect match between the target crime and the case selected by the algorithm. The lowest possible rank is 965 showing that 965 cases were selected before the target offence. The RPAL and COMBIN each achieve a perfect match for 24 per cent of the crimes and succeed in matching over half of the crimes at a score of 10 or less. For prolific offenders, using MO information alone is better than temporal and geographic data, although the best performance is achieved when in combination. Behavioural, spatial and temporal information is collected by many Police Services. The value and means of utilising such data in linking crimes is clearly demonstrated.