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Testing the impact of group offending on behavioural similarity in serial robbery

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Behavioural case linkage assumes that offenders behave in a similar way across their crimes. However, group offending could impact on behavioural similarity. This study uses robbery data from two police forces to test this by comparing the behavioural similarity of pairs of lone offences (LL), pairs of group offences (GG) and pairs of offences where one crime was committed alone and the other in a group (GL). Behavioural similarity was measured using Jaccard's coefficients. Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to examine differences between the three categories within the linked samples. No statistically significant differences were found for linked GG compared to linked LL pairs. However, differences emerged between GL and the other categories for some behaviours (especially control) suggesting caution should be applied when linking group and lone offences committed by the same perpetrator. Differences between linked and unlinked pairs were assessed using receiver operating characteristic. The results suggest it is possible to distinguish between linked and unlinked pairs based on behaviour especially within the GG and LL categories. There were, however, fewer significant findings for the GL sample, suggesting there may be issues linking crimes where the offender commits one crime as part of a group and the other alone.
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Testing the impact of group offending
on behavioural similarity in serial
robbery
Amy Burrella, Ray Bullb, John Bondc & Gary Herringtond
a Division of Psychology, Birmingham City University, Birmingham,
UK
b School of Law and Criminology, University of Derby, Derby, UK
c Department of Chemistry, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
d West Midlands Police (Retired), Birmingham, UK
Accepted author version posted online: 17 Dec 2014.Published
online: 19 Jan 2015.
To cite this article: Amy Burrell, Ray Bull, John Bond & Gary Herrington (2015): Testing the impact
of group offending on behavioural similarity in serial robbery, Psychology, Crime & Law, DOI:
10.1080/1068316X.2014.999063
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2014.999063
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Testing the impact of group offending on behavioural similarity
in serial robbery
Amy Burrell
a
*, Ray Bull
b
, John Bond
c
and Gary Herrington
d
a
Division of Psychology, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK;
b
School of Law and
Criminology, University of Derby, Derby, UK;
c
Department of Chemistry, University of Leicester,
Leicester, UK;
d
West Midlands Police (Retired), Birmingham, UK
(Received 22 July 2013; accepted 11 December 2014)
Behavioural case linkage assumes that offenders behave in a similar way across their
crimes. However, group offending could impact on behavioural similarity. This study
uses robbery data from two police forces to test this by comparing the behavioural
similarity of pairs of lone offences (LL), pairs of group offences (GG) and pairs of
offences where one crime was committed alone and the other in a group (GL).
Behavioural similarity was measured using Jaccards coefficients. KruskalWallis tests
were used to examine differences between the three categories within the linked
samples. No statistically significant differences were found for linked GG compared to
linked LL pairs. However, differences emerged between GL and the other categories
for some behaviours (especially control) suggesting caution should be applied when
linking group and lone offences committed by the same perpetrator. Differences
between linked and unlinked pairs were assessed using receiver operating character-
istic. The results suggest it is possible to distinguish between linked and unlinked pairs
based on behaviour especially within the GG and LL categories. There were, however,
fewer significant findings for the GL sample, suggesting there may be issues linking
crimes where the offender commits one crime as part of a group and the other alone.
Keywords: case linkage; behavioural similarity; group offending; serial; robbery
Introduction
In the UK, robbery is defined as the theft of property with the threat or use of force
against a person. This includes where the victim resists or where anyone is assaulted, or if
the victim feels the offender might use force due to their language or actions. Where force
is targeted at the property (as in snatching a handbag, wallet or mobile phone) rather than
the person, the offence is classified as theft from the person rather than robbery (Home
Office, 2012).
Group crimes are offences committed by two or more offenders against one or more
victims. The prevalence of group offending varies by type of offence (Alarid, Burton, &
Hochstetler, 2009; Deakin, Smithson, Spencer, & Medina-Ariza, 2007; Erikson, 1971;
Hindelang, 1976; Hochstetler, 2001; Weerman, 2003) and is more common in predatory
street crimes such as robbery compared to other offence types such as sex offences and
fraud (van Mastrigt & Farrington, 2009). In fact, the majority of robberies are committed
by groups (e.g., Kapardis, 1988; Walsh, 1986); a phenomenon that is not surprising given
*Corresponding author. Email: amy.burrell@bcu.ac.uk
Psychology, Crime & Law, 2015
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2014.999063
© 2015 Taylor & Francis
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that robbery benefits from a division of labour more than other offence types (van
Mastrigt & Farrington, 2009). Research on group offending has highlighted a number of
characteristics that differ between group and lone offending.
Characteristics of group and lone offending
Group offences are more likely than lone offences to involve some level of planning
(Alarid et al., 2009). This makes sense for crime types where individual members of the
group will be assigned roles (e.g., commercial robbery). Even in more spontaneous
crimes (e.g., personal robbery) the offenders may need to discuss, however briefly, the
method of approach. This is in contrast to the lone offender who only needs to consider
his/her own actions to commit the crime.
Group offendersvictims tend to be younger than victims of lone offenders (e.g.,
Lloyd & Walmsley, 1989; Morgan, Brittain, & Welch, 2012). Groups have been found to
target lone victims for example, Porter and Alison (2004) reported that 87% of group
rapes (194 out of 223) were against a lone victim but groups are also more likely to
attack multiple victims than a lone offender (Alarid et al., 2009; Hauffe & Porter, 2009).
The latter perhaps is not surprising as a group allows victims to be controlled more easily.
However, Alarid et al. (2009) found no significant differences between how groups and
lone offenders selected victims indicating that there are likely to be other factors also
influencing victim selection. For example, offenders may respond to a spontaneous
opportunity or the offence could be targeted against a particular person (e.g., as a means
of debt collecting or gang-related).
The group context encourages violence (Morgan et al., 2012) and group offenders
commit more violent offences than do lone offenders (Conway & McCord, 1995, cited in
Conway & McCord, 2002). Group offences are more likely to involve physical violence
than lone offences (Alarid et al., 2009; Porter & Alison, 2006a,2006b; Woodhams,
Gillett, & Grant, 2007), and young offenders are more likely to behave violently (e.g.,
punching and kicking) towards the victim(s) when committing a crime with others than
when offending alone (Conway & McCord, 1995, cited in Conway & McCord, 2002).
Furthermore, group offences are more likely to involve multiple acts of violence during
the event (e.g., Hauffe & Porter, 2009). With regard to injury, Alarid et al. (2009) reported
that the probability of (robbery) victims receiving a slight injury was comparable across
group and lone offences, but that group offences were associated with all of the serious
injuries sustained by victims in their sample.
Group offenders are less likely to use weapons than lone offenders (Lloyd &
Walmsley, 1989) suggesting there are different methods of controlling victims. Group
offenders, on the one hand, have strength in numbers which can be used to control the
victim (Porter & Alison, 2006b), if only through intimidation rather than physical
violence. It may not, therefore, be surprising to learn that victims (of rape) are less likely
to resist against a group of offenders (Hauffe & Porter, 2009). The lone offender, on the
other hand, is more likely to need a weapon to achieve the same level of control, and as
such, the weapon could be a substitute for an accomplice (Alarid et al., 2009).
Group offending and case linkage
The theoretical assumptions for case linkage are (1) behavioural consistency that offenders
behave consistently across their crime series and (2) behavioural distinctiveness that
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offenders are sufficiently heterogeneous from each other for series committed by different
offenders to be separated from one another. Offenders must therefore commit crime in a
consistent but distinctive manner in order for case linkage to be feasible (Santtila, Junkkila, &
Sandnabba, 2005). The impact of group dynamics on behavioural consistency and
distinctiveness is as yet untested in the case linkage literature. However, research on co-
offending has found that group offences are more likely to be planned (Alarid et al., 2009), to
target multiple victims (Hauffe & Porter, 2009), and be more violent than lone offences
(Porter & Alison, 2006a,2006b; Woodhams, Gillett, et al., 2007). This suggests that the
crimes an offender commits with a group might differ from those they commit alone,
potentially reducing behavioural similarity between cases and thus making their crimes more
difficult to link.
Methodology
Sample
The data for this study were extracted from police records for solved personal robbery
offences for two UK police forces: Northamptonshire (the third most rural police force)
and West Midlands (the second most urban police force; Bond, 2012).
The Northamptonshire data-set comprised 160 offences committed by 80 offenders
between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2007. Seventy-four offenders were male, and
five were female (the gender was recorded as unknown for one offender). The offenders
were aged between 10 and 44 years with an average age of 18 at the time of the offence.
Females were a little older than males (mean = 23, range = 1244 compared to mean =
28, range = 1041 for males). Over 70% (n= 55) of the offenders were recorded as being
White (including four out of five of the females), 13 were recorded as Black and 12
(including one female) of mixed heritage.
The West Midlands data-set comprised 554 offences committed by 277 offenders
between 1 April 2007 and 30 September 2008. The majority of offenders were male
(n= 258 or 93%). The offenders were aged between 11 and 45 years with an average age
of 19 at the time of the offence. Females were slightly younger than males (mean = 16,
range = 1224 years compared to mean = 19, range = 1145 years for males). Almost
half of the offenders (n= 138) were recorded as being from a Black background
(including nine females). Just under 30% were White (n= 78; of which eight were
female) and 15% (n= 42) were recorded as Asian. Less than 1% (n= 2) were recorded as
being from a mixed or other minority background. Ethnicity was unknown in 17 (6%) of
cases (of which two were female).
1
Procedure
Selecting linked pairs
All offenders who had committed two or more recorded offences in the respective time
frames were identified; 135 in Northamptonshire and 438 in the West Midlands. The two
most recent offences for each offender were used to create a linked offence pair [this
mirrors the approach used by other case linkage researchers (e.g., Woodhams & Toye,
2007)]. However, there were some cases where the two most recent offences could not be
used for fear of compromising the independence of the data-sets. This is because the
Home Office Counting Rules (Home Office, 2012) state that a separate crime should be
recorded by the police for each victim rather than each incident, and so a single incident
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can result in multiple offences being recorded if there is more than one victim. There
were cases in both data-sets where the date, time and location of offences were identical
and the modus operandi information suggested that the two most recent offences were
actually part of the same incident. To include such pairs in the analysis would falsely
inflate the level of similarity in linked pairs. Therefore, data for 19 offenders from
Northamptonshire and 70 from West Midlands were removed from the analysis.
In a similar vein, a further 21 offenders were omitted in Northamptonshire and 91
from West Midlands because one or both of the offences associated with the offender
already appeared in the respective data-sets as part of the crime series of another offender
(i.e., their co-offender) and so the inclusion of the pair would again compromise the
independence of the sample. A further 15 offenders were excluded from the Northamp-
tonshire data-set due to missing data about their offences.
The final linked samples contained the two most recent offences (that were not part of
the same incident) for 80 offenders from Northamptonshire and 277 offenders from the
West Midlands.
Selecting unlinked pairs
The current research mirrors previous case linkage research utilising an unlinked sample
with the same number of pairs as the linked sample (e.g., Markson, Woodhams, & Bond,
2010; Tonkin, Grant, & Bond, 2008; Tonkin, Woodhams, Bull, Bond, & Palmer, 2011).
The unlinked pairs were generated using the =RAND() function in Microsoft Excel to
randomly reorder the rows within each linked sample. The unlinked pairs were created
using rows 1 and 2 as unlinked pair 1, rows 3 and 4 as unlinked pair 2, and so on. The
data were checked manually to ensure that all the unlinked pairs were indeed unlinked
and two linked crimes were not randomly reassigned back together.
Identifying group and lone offences
The data for both police forces included a variable relating to the number of defendants/
offenders involved in the crime. However, it is likely that this information under-
represents group offending as there were cases where only one offender in a group was
identified. Therefore, for the purposes of the current research, group and lone offences
were identified by the first author using the modus operandi information.
In Northamptonshire of the 160 robberies, 104 (65%) were committed by groups and
56 (35%) by lone offenders. The ratio of group versus lone offending was similar in the
West Midlands, with 68% of robberies (377 out of 554 cases) identified as group crimes
and 32% as lone offences (177 out of 554 cases).
Crime pairs were split into the three categories for analysis: (1) crime pairs where the
offender committed both offences as part of a group (labelled GG), (2) crime pairs where
both offences were committed by the same lone offender (labelled LL) and (3) crime
pairs where the offender committed one offence as a part of a group and one alone
(labelled GL). Table 1 shows how many linked and unlinked pairs fell into each category
for the two police forces.
Identifying crime behaviour
The linked pairs were identified based on the criminal history of individual offenders and
the classification of group/lone was based on whether the offender in question committed
their offence as part of a group or not. It was not possible to isolate which actions or
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behaviours were committed by which offenders (e.g., who determined the timing/location
of the robbery or who committed violent acts), and so the behaviours identified in group
robberies were associated with the offence rather than with an individual offender.
Therefore, the research focuses on behaviours associated with group robberies compared
to behaviours associated with lone robberies rather than considering the roles or actions
of any individual group member.
A description of how the offence was reported to have been committed (i.e., the
modus operandi) was included in the police records. Content analysis of these
descriptions was conducted and a checklist of dichotomously coded behaviour variables
created. Binary coding, where 1 denoted the presence of a behaviour and 0 the absence of
a behaviour, was used because previous research has indicated that more complex coding
methods are difficult to apply to police data in a reliable way (Canter & Heritage, 1990).
Two people independently coded the modus operandi data into dichotomous variables
(for 10% of the overall samples) and their level of agreement was assessed using kappa.
A total of 15 modus operandi behavioural variables, each of which had a very good
overall inter-coder reliability score (κ= 0.95; range = 0.811.00 for individual beha-
viours), were selected for inclusion in this study. These variables were combined with
other variables extracted from the recorded crime data (e.g., time of day, day of week,
property stolen, the distance between offences) to form a final behaviourchecklist of 48
behaviours (see Appendix).
Behavioural domain formation
Individual offence behaviours can be arranged into clusters, each thought to serve a
different purpose in the offence (Tonkin et al., 2008). For example, weapon use and
threatening language are both examples of how to seek to control victims during an
offence. Thus, the behaviours were grouped into behavioural clusters or domains for
analysis.
Atarget selection domain was developed that was formed of 16 variables relating to
the day of week and time of day of the offence, whether the offender was known to the
victim and whether the victim was at a cashpoint at the time of the offence. The control
domain included 15 variables relating to weapon use (e.g., whether a weapon was present
during the offence), violent actions, offender commands, and whether the victim and/or
offender were alone or part of a group when the offence occurred. The property domain
contained 14 types of property stolen plus whether any property was returned to the
victim by the robber(s) during or following the offence.
Temporal proximity (i.e., the number of days between offences) and inter-crime
distance (calculated using Pythagorastheorem on the six-digit geographic coordinates
Table 1. Frequency of GG, LL and GL pairs in the four samples.
Northamptonshire West Midlands
Pair consists of Linked N(%) Unlinked N(%) Linked N(%) Unlinked N(%)
Two group offences (GG) 38 (47.5) 34 (42.5) 165 (59.6) 130 (46.9)
Two lone offences (LL) 14 (17.5) 10 (12.5) 65 (23.5) 30 (10.8)
One group/one lone (GL) 28 (35.0) 36 (45.0) 47 (17.5) 117 (42.2)
Total 80 (100) 80 (100) 277 (100) 277 (100)
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for each offence) were also included in the analysis. These were included because they
have proved to be useful predictors of linkage in previous research (e.g., Tonkin, Santtila,
& Bull, 2012). Furthermore, an analyst survey (Burrell & Bull, 2011) revealed that the
majority of analysts (15 out of 18) use spatial and temporal behaviours to support linkage
decisions. It is therefore important to test the usefulness of these variables.
Measuring behavioural similarity
The similarity of pairs across each behavioural domain was measured using Jaccards
coefficients. These do not take joint non-occurrences into account (Porter & Alison, 2004,
2006a; Real & Vargas, 1996) and therefore the level of similarity does not increase if the
behaviour is not reported to have occurred within an offence pair (Woodhams, Grant, &
Price, 2007). This is an important issue when working with police data as the absence of a
behaviour does not necessarily mean that the behaviour did not occur (Porter & Alison,
2004,2006a), but perhaps that it was not reported or was not recorded (Tonkin et al., 2008).
Jaccards coefficients are expressed as a value of between 0 and 1, with 0 indicative
of no similarity and 1 denoting perfect similarity. Jaccards coefficients were calculated
using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 18.0© (IBM
Corporation, NY, USA). SPSS calculates the similarity of pairs of offences based on the
binary coding of behaviours input into the analysis producing a matrix containing the
Jaccards coefficients for all possible pairings of offences in the data-set. Jaccards
coefficient matrices were produced for each behavioural domain (i.e., target selection,
control and property). The relevant Jaccards coefficients for each domain were then
manually extracted from each matrix for each linked pair in the LL, GG and GL samples
(i.e., the Jaccards coefficients for target selection for LL pair 1, the Jaccards coefficients
for target selection for LL pair 2, etc.). This was repeated for the unlinked pairs. All other
Jaccards coefficients were excluded from the analyses. The Jaccards coefficients for
each domain plus the variables temporal proximity and inter-crime distance formed the
data-set for the next stage of analysis.
Comparing behavioural similarity of GG, LL and GL linked pairs
In the first phase of the study, we explored how behavioural similarity might be
influenced by group offending by comparing the average Jaccards scores, temporal
proximities and inter-crime distances of the three categories (GG, LL and GL). The data
were not normally distributed (contact the first author for details of the Kolmogorov
Smirnov outcomes) and were considered to be independent. The dependent variable
(group/lone) has three categories, therefore, a KruskalWallis test [a non-parametric
version of the analysis of variance (ANOVA)] was performed to assess whether there
were any statistically significant differences between the three categories. As with the
one-way ANOVA, the KruskalWallis test can determine if there is a difference between
categories but does not identify where differences lie. Therefore, post hoc tests are
needed, in this case the MannWhitney Utest. To allay concerns about increasing the risk
of Type I errors (i.e., identifying a significant difference where there is not one) through
repeated MannWhitney Utests (Field, 2005), the Bonferroni correction is used to adjust
the critical value for significance. This is achieved by dividing the critical value (0.05) by
the number of tests conducted (in this case three). This means any pvalue of 0.0167
(i.e., 0.05/3) or below is considered to be significant to the p< 0.05 level for the purposes
of the MannWhitney Uanalysis in this case.
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Comparing the behavioural similarity of linked versus unlinked pairs
The second phase of the study compared the behavioural similarity of linked and
unlinked pairs in each category (GG, LL and GL) to determine if there are any
significant differences between them. Analysis was conducted on each behavioural
domain independently using receiver operating characteristic (ROC). ROC produces a
measure of discrimination accuracy called theareaunderthecurve(AUC)which,in
this study, indicated how well linked crime pairs can be distinguished from unlinked
crime pairs using Jaccards coefficients, temporal proximity and inter-crime distance.
An AUC of 0.5 indicates chance level and an AUC of 1.0 indicates perfect
discrimination, meaning the larger the AUC, the higher the predictive accuracy
(Woodhams, Bull, & Hollin, 2007). In each analysis the test direct was selected
according to how the data were coded (i.e., a larger value indicates a more positive
result for Jaccards coefficients and a smaller value indicates a more positive result for
inter-crime distance and temporal proximity). The state variable in all analyses was
linkage status with a value of 1 (denoting linked). AUCs of between 0.5 and 0.7 are
indicative of low levels of accuracy, 0.7 and 0.9 indicate moderate levels of accuracy
and 0.9 and 1.0 high levels (Bennell & Jones, 2005). The ROC analysis was also
conducted using SPSS.
Hypotheses
For the first phase of the study, it is hypothesised that there will be no difference in the
level of behavioural similarity between GG and LL because groups behave in a
homogenous way across offences (Porter & Alison, 2006a) and so will not differ from
lone offenders in terms of behavioural consistency (tested using KruskalWallis).
However, where one offence was committed by the offender on their own and the other
as part of a group (i.e., GL pairs) there will be less behavioural similarity, consistent with
evidence offenders behave differently when they are working alone than when they
offend in a group (e.g., Alarid et al., 2009; Porter & Alison, 2006b).
For the second phase of the study, it is hypothesised that linked pairs in each category
will have higher levels of behavioural similarity than unlinked pairs (tested using ROC
analysis). Such results would provide evidence for the behavioural assumptions of case
linkage.
Results
Before outlining the outcomes of the KruskalWallis tests and ROC analyses, descriptive
statistics are presented which provide an indication of trends.
Descriptive statistics
Since the data were not normally distributed the median rather than mean scores should
be used to compare the behavioural similarity of each domain. Table 2 shows the median
scores for linked and unlinked pairs in the three group/lone categories for each
behavioural domain for Northamptonshire.
These data indicate that linked pairs of offences have shorter inter-crime distances,
fewer days between offences and higher Jaccards coefficients for target selection than
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unlinked pairs across all categories and for control in the LL group. However, there is a
higher median Jaccards coefficients for control in the unlinked GG sample compared to
the linked GG sample. The Jaccards coefficients for the property domain are low in all
categories whether the crimes are linked or unlinked.
Focusing in on the linked pairs only, these data suggest that there may be some
differences between categories for some domains. Most notably, GL pairs had larger
inter-crime distances and more days between offences than GG and LL pairs. There were
also notable differences between median scores for the control domain across the three
categories.
Table 3 shows the median Jaccards coefficients, temporal proximities and inter-crime
distances for linked and unlinked pairs in the three group/lone categories for each
behavioural domain for the West Midlands.
The overall trends mirror the results for Northamptonshire with linked pairs in all
categories having smaller inter-crime distances, fewer days between offences and larger
median Jaccards coefficients for target selection than unlinked pairs in that category.
Furthermore, linked pairs in all categories displayed higher median Jaccards coefficients
for control compared their corresponding unlinked pairs. As in Northamptonshire, the
Jaccards coefficients for property are low across the board.
With regard to the linked pairs, it can be seen that, in the West Midlands, GG pairs
displayed smaller inter-crime distances than LL and GL pairs. There were differences
between all categories for temporal proximity but it is unclear at this stage whether this
difference is likely to be significant given the overall number of days between offences
was low for all categories. The GL category had lower median similarity scores for target
selection and control domains.
Table 2. Median scores for behavioural domains in Northamptonshire.
Linked Unlinked
Behavioural
domain
All
pairs
Two
group
offences
(GG)
Two
lone
offences
(LL)
One
group/
one
lone
(GL)
All
pairs
Two
group
offences
(GG)
Two
lone
offences
(LL)
One
group/
one
lone
(GL)
Inter-crime
distance
(m)
803.8 788.6 741.6 1169.7 14,198.4 9891.41 14,187.2 15,125.1
Temporal
proximity
(days)
34.5 7 16 87 295.5 283.5 351.0 309.5
Target
selection
.225 .250 .225 .200 .200 .100 .200 .100
Control .250 .286 .429 .000 .167 .333 .268 .000
Property .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000
Number of
pairs
80 38 14 28 80 34 10 36
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KruskalWallis test
Table 4 reveals the outcomes of the statistical tests for Northamptonshire.
A KruskalWallis test revealed a significant difference in relation to temporal
proximity [χ
2
(2) = 6.304; p= 0.043]. Post hoc tests MannWhitney Utests (with
Bonferroni correction) showed that there was only one significant difference between
categories, that is between GL and GG (p= 0.014; r= .30).
A KruskalWallis test also revealed a significant difference in relation to the
behavioural similarity of control behaviours [χ
2
(2) = 21.384; p< 0.001]. The post hoc
tests showed the significant differences to be between categories GL and GG (p< 0.001;
r= .43) and GL and LL (p< 0.001; r= .69).
Table 5 reveals the statistical test outcomes for West Midlands.
A KruskalWallis test revealed significant differences between categories in relation
to target selection [χ
2
(2) = 6.342; p= 0.042]. The only significant difference between
categories was between GG and GL; however, the effect size was small (p= 0.017; r=
.16). As in Northamptonshire, the KruskalWallis test also revealed significant
differences between categories for control [χ
2
(2) = 34.043; p< 0.001], and again the
differences were significant between GL and GG (p< 0.001; r= .39) and GL and LL (p<
0.001; r= .46).
ROC analyses
Table 6 shows the ROC results for Northamptonshire.
The results of the ROC analysis indicate that inter-crime distance is the single most
useful behaviour for distinguishing between linked and unlinked pairs of offences. This
was true regardless of the category being tested with an AUC of .940 for the GG/GG
Table 3. Median scores for behavioural domains for West Midlands.
Linked Unlinked
Behavioural
domain
All
pairs
Two
group
offences
(GG)
Two
lone
offences
(LL)
One
group/
one
lone
(GL)
All
pairs
Two
group
offences
(GG)
Two
lone
offences
(LL)
One
group/
one
lone
(GL)
Inter-crime
distance
(m)
608.6 475.5 852.1 893.9 10,356.5 10,387.8 13,244.4 9840.1
Temporal
proximity
(days)
1 0 2 4 150 138 135 181
Target
selection
.500 .500 .500 .333 .000 .000 .000 .200
Control .333 .429 .429 .143 .143 .211 .167 .000
Property .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000
Number of
pairs
277 165 65 47 277 130 30 117
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Table 4. Statistical test outcomes for Northamptonshire.
MannWhitney Upost hoc test
Kruskal Wallis GG vs. LL GG vs. GL LL vs. GL
Behavioural domain χ
2
(df) U(z)rU(z)rU(z)r
Inter-crime distance 3.189 (2) 259.500 (.134) .02 382.500 (1.738) .21 147.500 (1.141) .18
Temporal proximity 6.304 (2)* 234.000 (.670) .09 343.000 (2.470)* .30 145.500 (1.350) .21
Target selection 2.733 (2) 264.000 (.042) .01 417.000 (1.533) .19 151.000 (1.237) .19
Control 21.384 (2)* 207.500 (1.215) .17 269.500 (3.507)* .43 31.500 (4.500)* .69
Property .779 (2) 257.000 (.282) .04 485.000 (.879) .11 184.500 (.681) .06
*p< 0.05.
10 A. Burrell et al.
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Table 5. Statistical test outcomes for West Midlands.
MannWhitney Upost hoc test
Kruskal Wallis GG vs. LL GG vs. GL LL vs. GL
Behavioural domain χ
2
(df) U(z)rU(z)rU(z)r
Inter-crime distance 4.584 (2) 4599.000 (1.641) .11 3220.000 (1.744) .12 1469.000 (.346) .03
Temporal proximity 2.489 (2) 5010.000 (.833) .05 3354.500 (1.507) .10 1415.000 (.689) .07
Target selection 6.342 (2)* 4750.000 (1.385) .09 3015.500 (2.383)* .16 1354.500 (1.035) .10
Control 34.043 (2)* 5237.000 (.277) .02 1798.500 (5.634)* .39 701.500 (4.912)* .46
Property 1.254 (2) 5177.500 (1.057) .04 3874.500 (.023) .02 1472.500 (.773) .06
*p< 0.05.
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sample, .857 for the LL/LL sample and .895 for the GL/GL sample. Temporal proximity
also performed moderately well with AUCs of at least .700 in each sample. In addition,
target selection achieved an AUC of .683 in the GG/GG sample, and a moderate AUC of
.775 was found for control in the LL/LL sample. None of the other results were
significant.
Table 7 shows the ROC results for the West Midlands.
Table 6. ROC analyses for linked versus unlinked offences in Northamptonshire.
Sample Behavioural domain AUC (SE) 95% confidence interval
Linked GG pairs vs.
unlinked GG pairs
Inter-crime distance
Temporal proximity
.940 (.025)*
.830 (.047)*
.891.990
.738.923
Target selection .683 (.063)* .559.807
Control .477 (.069) .342.611
Property .478 (.069) .344.613
Linked LL pairs vs.
unlinked LL pairs
Inter-crime distance
Temporal proximity
.857 (.085)*
.850 (.082)*
.6901.000
.6901.000
Target selection .646 (.112) .426.867
Control .775 (.096)* .586.964
Property .607 (.116) .380.834
Linked GL pairs vs.
unlinked GL pairs
Inter-crime distance
Temporal proximity
.895 (.042)*
.701 (.070)*
.812.977
.564.839
Target selection .585 (.073) .442.728
Control .579 (.073) .437.722
Property .482 (.073) .339.625
*p< 0.05.
Table 7. ROC analyses for linked versus unlinked offences in the West Midlands.
Sample Behavioural domain AUC (SE) 95% confidence interval
Linked GG pairs vs.
unlinked GG pairs
Inter-crime distance
Temporal proximity
.944 (.013)*
.860 (.022)*
.918.970
.816.903
Target selection .765 (.027)* .712.819
Control .699 (.030)* .640.758
Property .534 (.034) .468.600
Linked LL pairs vs.
unlinked LL pairs
Inter-crime distance
Temporal proximity
.927 (.030)*
.838 (.040)*
.868.987
.759.917
Target selection .764 (.050)* .666.852
Control .719 (.054)* .612.825
Property .613 (.058) .498.727
Linked GL pairs vs.
unlinked GL pairs
Inter-crime distance
Temporal proximity
.923 (.024)*
.884 (.031)*
.876.970
.824.944
Target selection .697 (.051)* .598.797
Control .588 (.052) .486.690
Property .547 (.051) .447.647
*p< 0.05.
12 A. Burrell et al.
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As in Northamptonshire, the single most useful linkage factor to emerge was inter-
crime distance which reached high levels of discrimination accuracy in all samples, with
AUCs of .944, .927 and .923 across the GG/GG, LL/LL and GL/GL samples,
respectively. Again, the second most useful factor to emerge was temporal proximity,
with moderate to high AUCs: .860 for GG/GG, .838 for LL/LL and .884 for the GL/GL
sample. In contrast to Northamptonshire, the AUCs for target selection were significant
and moderate for all of the samples achieving AUCs of .765 for GG/GG, .764 for LL/LL
and .697 for GL/GL. Moderate AUCs of .699 and .719 were also found for control for the
GG/GG and LL/LL samples, respectively. None of the other results were significant.
Discussion
The initial rationale for conducting a group/lone comparison was to examine the impact
of group offending on behavioural similarity. Clearly, should group offending adversely
affect behavioural similarity this could reduce the accuracy of case linkage decisions
based on behavioural evidence.
The KruskalWallis tests revealed there were no statistically significant differences
between the median Jaccards coefficients, inter-crime distances and temporal proxim-
ities, for GG pairs compared to LL pairs. This supported the first hypothesis and indicates
that with regard to these factors pairs of group offences displayed similar levels of
behavioural consistency to pairs of lone offences. This is beneficial to case linkage as it
means that it is feasible to link group offences with some accuracy based on behaviour.
Such results could be attributed to behavioural coherence within groups. Research has
demonstrated thematic similarities between offenders committing multiple crimes with
the same co-offenders (Porter & Alison, 2004) with further work indicating that this
behavioural coherence is due to group members copying a leader (Porter & Alison,
2006a). Alarid et al. (2009) reported that if offenders commit a series of robberies in a
short time frame, they are likely to select co-offenders from the same group of associates.
This is supported by Warr (1996) who found some offenders to have small social
networks and likely to select the same co-offenders repeatedly, particularly when they
commit multiple offences within a short time frame. This suggests that co-offending
might involve some behavioural similarity (and therefore the ability to link offences)
provided that the offences are committed in relatively quick succession by the same group
of offenders.
Perhaps even more important than the lack of differences in behavioural similarity
between GG and LL pairs are the results that demonstrate there is some behavioural
similarity across GL pairs. The previous literature suggests that people may well behave
differently when offending in a group to when offending alone (Alarid et al., 2009; Porter
& Alison, 2006b) which would lead to lower levels of behavioural consistency in GL
pairs compared to GG and LL pairs. Although this was true for some behavioural
domains, this study suggests it may be possible to link crimes across group and lone
offences based upon certain behaviours. First, despite apparently divergent median inter-
crime distances between GG, GL and LL pairs, the KruskalWallis tests indicated that
these differenceswere not statistically significant in either police force. This suggests
that inter-crime distance is useful when trying to identify crimes committed by the same
person, even when linking across group and lone offences. Thus, a general rule that the
smaller the distances between any two crimes, the more likely they are to be linked,
applies regardless of whether the robberies were committed by a group or a lone offender.
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Larger temporal proximities were found in GL pairs (in both police forces) than in
GG and LL pairs, particularly in Northamptonshire, where the difference was statistically
significant. There are a number of potential explanations for this difference. First, it could
be due to variations in decision-making processes in the lead up to the offence, e.g., it is
possible that the offender will be more selective about when they commit an offence
alone. Second, it could be due an artefact of the distribution of dates within the
Northamptonshire data-set which, upon re-examination of the raw data (i.e., the 160
offences), was revealed to be unevenly distributed across local policing areas i.e.,
offences within each borough tended to be weighted towards either the start or the end of
the time frame examined. In fact, no borough had offences from all three years
represented within their sample. Therefore the anomalous finding may be attributable to
the distribution of date of offence within the data.
GL pairs were also less behaviourally similar than GG and LL pairs in terms of target
selection behaviour in the West Midlands data. There are several possible reasons for this.
First, the target selection domain included variables regarding the day and time of day the
offence was committed, and it is possible that offenders might choose different days or
times of day to commit robbery if they are alone compared to when they are with a group.
Second, they may be more likely to target a group of victims when offending in a group
compared to when they are alone.
There were no differences between GG, GL and LL pairs for property possibly
because this domain had poor levels of behavioural similarity. In fact, the median
Jaccards coefficients were 0.000 for all pairs indicating that the property stolen during
the offence is not at all useful for measuring behavioural similarity. This can perhaps be
explained, at least partially, by the fact that property stolen during an offence is one of the
most situation-dependent criminal behaviours (Bennell & Canter, 2002) as it is dependent
on what is available to steal (Wellsmith & Burrell, 2005). This could impact on the
consistency of behaviour across offences. However, because different property is stolen
does not mean the offences are not linked, it could be because victims possess different
types of property. Thus, this behavioural domain should probably not be considered
useful for linkage and excluded from linkage decisions whether the analyst is trying to
link lone or group offences, or both.
The only behavioural domain that emerged as a substantial problem for linking across
group and lone offences was control. The behavioural similarity of GL pairs was low for
the control domain, with median scores of just 0.143 in the West Midlands and 0.000 in
Northamptonshire. This is not surprising given the differences in violent behaviour and
weapon use between group and lone offences reported in the literature. The Kruskal
Wallis tests revealed significant differences between GG and GL pairs and between LL
and GL pairs in both police forces for control, supporting previous findings that control
behaviours differ between group and lone offences. However, there were no significant
differences between GG and LL pairs which suggest that control is equally useful in
linking group offences together and lone offences together (although the specific
behaviours used may differ). The key finding here is that analysts should not look for a
similarity of control behaviours when seeking to link group offences to lone offences.
Instead, such linkage decisions should be made using other information.
The second phase of the study used ROC analysis to examine whether it was possible
to distinguish between linked and unlinked pairs of crimes using behaviour whilst
controlling for group/lone offending. Inter-crime distance emerged as the most useful
linkage factor for all samples (i.e., GG/GG, LL/LL and GL/GL) in both police forces,
14 A. Burrell et al.
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suggesting that this can be used to distinguish between linked and unlinked crimes at
least when examining within-category trends. The results also suggest that temporal
proximity might prove useful for linking offences as it achieved moderate AUCs in all
samples and these findings were replicated across both police forces. It is noted that these
two behaviours were entered into the analysis as individual behaviours rather than as part
of a behavioural domain or theme. Concerns have been raised about how reliable
individual behaviours are as methods of linking crimes due to concerns about situational
dependency (Bennell & Canter, 2002); however, previous research in this area has failed
to demonstrate that using groups of behaviour is more effective than using individual
behaviours (e.g., Bateman & Salfati, 2007). Furthermore, numerous studies have
demonstrated the usefulness of these two particular behaviours as linkage factors (e.g.,
Tonkin et al., 2011) and so this finding is perhaps not surprising. It is also noted that
neither of these behaviours are subjective and they are easy to accurately calculate based
on information in the crime report (i.e., date of offence and geographical grid references).
This perhaps suggests that part of the success is due to the objective nature of the
variables and the ability to accurately identify their values for each offence pair.
The ROC outcomes also indicated that target selection might be useful for
distinguishing between linked and unlinked crimes but the results here were mixed.
There were moderate AUCs reported across all category samples in the West Midlands
but only for the GG/GG sample in Northamptonshire. It is possible that this difference is
attributable to the nature of the police forces; i.e., Northamptonshire is largely rural
whereas the West Midlands is largely urban. It could therefore be hypothesised that the
lower population density in Northamptonshire means targets are more dispersed and this
might have an impact on how they are chosen, which might, in turn, impact on the ability
to link cases to a common offender/group of offenders. Alternatively, the difference could
be an artefact of the larger sample size available for the West Midlands. Further research
in this area would help to unpick these findings.
The ROC outcomes revealed moderate AUCs for the control domain for the LL/LL
sample in both Northamptonshire and the West Midlands. This suggests that it might be
possible to link offences committed by a lone offender based on their control behaviours.
The GG/GG sample in the West Midlands also displayed a moderate AUC, suggesting
that it might be possible to link group offences in urban areas using control behaviours.
This result was not, however, replicated in Northamptonshire. There are number of
possible reasons for this. First, it may be that rural groups behave differently to urban
groups, although there is no evidence of this within the current data-set as the same types
of behaviours are displayed in both areas. However, there were more detailed data
available in the West Midlands which made it easier to identify behaviours displayed
during the offence. Also, the sample was larger which facilitates data analysis. It is
suggested that these latter points are more likely to explain the difference. With regard to
the GL/GL samples, the AUCs in both police forces were non-significant and indicated
that control behaviours performed only slightly better than chance at linking offences in
GL/GL cases. Obviously the situational context is different in a group versus a lone
offence and so linking a group and a lone offence committed by the same perpetrator
would be anticipated to be more difficult. Add to this the evidence that suggests that
groups behave differently to lone offenders in relation to actions that might be used to
control a victim, i.e., violence and weapon use (e.g., Alarid et al., 2009; Lloyd &
Walmsley, 1989), and this finding is not at all surprising. In fact, research using this data-
set has demonstrated that groups were more likely to physically assault a victim, and lone
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offenders were more likely to use weapons (Burrell, 2012), indicating that the difference
in offence context explains the findings here.
Limitations
The samples were sub-samples of all robbery offences which comprised only solved
offences. There have been concerns expressed about the use of solved cases (Bennell &
Canter, 2002). It is possible that offences are solved because they display higher levels of
behavioural similarity than unsolved cases, thus introducing a potential positive bias
boosting similarity scores (Bennell & Jones, 2005; Santtila et al., 2008; Tonkin
et al., 2008).
Also, as Gagnon and LeBlanc (1983, cited in Alarid et al., 2009) found that lone
robbers were less likely to be caught. This suggests that lone offenders might have been
under-represented in the present sample. This is further compounded by Eriksons(1971)
warning that researchers should beware of the group hazard hypothesis, which contends
that group offences are more likely to be reported to the police (McGloin, Sullivan,
Piquero, & Bacon, 2008). Combined with evidence that group offenders are more likely
to be known to the police (Hindelang, 1976), this suggests that group offending may have
been over-represented in the current study.
It is also noteworthy that there were large confidence intervals reported for the ROC
outcomes. This suggests that the results cannot be generalised beyond the current
samples. Thus, whilst this research provides a useful indicator as to which behaviours are
most useful for linkage, the work needs to be replicated with a larger sample to refine the
ROC analysis and hopefully reduce the size of the confidence intervals.
Conclusion
The study reinforced the value of inter-crime distance and temporal proximity as useful
linking factors. The findings also indicated it might be possible to use to target selection
and control behaviours to link robberies together, albeit only under certain conditions,
e.g., only in urban areas, or only for group offences.
The study provides evidence for strong behavioural coherence within group offenders
as there was no significant difference between the similarity scores for linked pairs of
offences committed by groups compared to pairs of offences committed by an individual
lone offender (for any behavioural domain) in either police force. There was also some
evidence of behavioural consistency within linked pairs of offences where the offender
committed one crime alone and the other as part of a group, as there were few significant
differences between these pairs and other pairs for many of the behavioural domains.
Differences were only found for temporal proximity in Northamptonshire, target selection
in the West Midlands and control in both police forces. The most noteworthy is control,
where group/lone (GL) pairs had significantly smaller Jaccards coefficients than group/
group (GG) and lone/lone (LL) pairs in both police forces. Since, the majority of
behaviours in the control domain relate to violent acts and weapon use this finding is not
that surprising. Thus, this study indicates that differences between control behaviours
need to be carefully considered when seeking to link group and lone robberies by the
same offender to avoid false negatives (i.e., failing to link cases that were committed by a
common offender).
16 A. Burrell et al.
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Acknowledgement
The authors would like to thank West Midlands Police and Northamptonshire Police for providing
the data used in this study.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Note
1. Note that the ethnicity of offenders is only included for reference and this study does not
examine the relationship between ethnicity and crime. However, it may be of interest to note that
population estimates from mid-2009 (sourced from the Office for National Statistics) indicated
that White offenders were under-represented and offenders from Black background were over-
represented in the samples from both police forces.
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Appendix: Behaviour checklist
Behavioural domain Offence behaviour
Target selection Day of week (7 variables)
Time of day (6 variables)
Known offender
Unknown offender
Victim at cashpoint/bank
Control Weapon used
Type of weapon (3 variables)
Group of offenders vs. group of victims
Group of offenders vs. lone victim
Lone offender vs. group of victims
Lone offender vs. lone victim
Offender(s) searches victim/victims property
Violence physical assault
Weapon threatened
Weapon shown/seen
Offender requests property
Offender demands property
Victim resists met with threat
Property Type of property stolen (14 variables)
Property returned
Temporal proximity
Inter-crime distance
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... Some offences involve multiple weapons-where this is the case, the offences are (unsurprisingly) committed by groups (Burrell, 2012) presumably with offenders having a weapon each. However, the presence of weapons are more commonly associated with lone offenders (Burrell, 2012;Burrell et al., 2015). This is not surprising as groups of offenders have different methods of control available to them. ...
... rape-has demonstrated that the number of offenders can influence the control strategies used (see da Silva et al., 2013;Lundrigan & Mueller-Johnson, 2013) and it is predicted this would be the same for robbery (Wüllenweber & Burrell, 2020). Some evidence of this has been found by Burrell et al. (2015) in their research on behavioural crime linkage. A core part of this work was testing the similarity of behaviours across two offences committed by the same offender. ...
... A core part of this work was testing the similarity of behaviours across two offences committed by the same offender. In cases where the offender was alone in one offence and part of a group in the other, differences in how the offences were committed became apparent, especially in relation to control (Burrell et al., 2015). These differences in behaviour could be influenced, not just by the group context, but (more specifically) the number of people in the group (Wüllenweber & Burrell, 2020). ...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on offence behaviours and methods of committing personal robbery. This includes target selection, types of approach used (e.g. blitz, con), property stolen, and weapon display and use. Offender adaptation and overlaps with other offences are considered—e.g. a car thief who now needs the key to steal a car might escalate to robbery to achieve the theft.
... There is also evidence for behavioural consistency and distinctiveness in personal robbery as evidenced in PhD work by Burrell (2012) and subsequent papers from the thesis (e.g. Burrell et al., 2012Burrell et al., , 2015. ...
... One of the most common methods for predicting linking status is logistic regression (e.g. Bennell & Canter, 2002;Burrell, 2012;Burrell et al., 2012Burrell et al., , 2015Ellingwood et al., 2013;Markson et al., 2010;Tonkin et al., 2008Tonkin et al., , 2017Woodhams & Toye, 2007;Woodhams et al., 2019). Other methods include Discriminant Function Analysis (DFA; e.g. ...
... Findings 1-3 are directly from the PhD (though note parts of Findings 1-2 are published in Burrell et al., 2012). Findings 4 are from the PhD plus Burrell et al. (2015) which expanded on the original thesis work. ...
Chapter
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
... In Woodhams et al. [6], linkage analysis is defined as a process that aims to identify crimes that are likely to have been committed by the same perpetrator. In this, and many other papers [7,8], the authors are interested in the behavioural similarity between two crimes as well as the behavioural distinctiveness, i.e. whether there are reliable and identifiable differences in the way that one offender commits crimes compared to another offender. Different methods for different types of crimes have been suggested to assess whether there exists a link between crimes. ...
... A substantial part of the literature on crime linkage focuses on a situation with only one offender per crime 2 . However, Burrell et al. [8] examines the differences in behavioural similarity for different crime linkage situations. The authors did not observe statistical differences between the behavioural similarity for a link between two lone offender offenses and two group offender offenses. ...
... In other words, there is little reason to expect substantial differences in the behavioural similarity when dealing with multiple offender crime linkage compared to single offender crime linkage. Furthermore, Burrell et al. [8] investigate the differences in behavioural similarity when one of the crimes was performed by a lone offender and the other by a group (in which the lone offender was present). The authors advise to take some caution when linking such crimes. ...
Article
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In de Zoete et al. (2015) a framework for the evaluation of evidence when an individual is a suspect of two separate offenses (based on Evett et al., 2006) is implemented using a Bayesian network. Here, we extend this to situations with multiple offenders. When we have multiple offenders, new questions arise: (1) Can we distinguish between the offenders, even if we do not know their identity? (2) Do we know that certain pieces of evidence originate from the same person? (3) Do we know the number of offenders? With the aid of a mock case example, we show that such subtle differences between situations can lead to substantially different conclusions in terms of posterior probabilities of a certain suspect being one of the offenders in a particular crime.
... Group/multiple perpetrator crimes are offences committed by two or more offenders (Burrell et al., 2015) against one or more victims and it is argued that group offending is an established "criminological fact" (Schaefer et al., 2014: 117). The prevalence of group offending varies by type of offence and is more strongly associated with certain types of crime (van Mastrigt & Farrington, 2009). ...
... Group dynamics are associated with everyday activities. Peer influence is associated with the general propensity to offend (whether alone or in a group) (Burrell et al., 2015). For some people, group membership and activities might impact on their offending behaviour (e.g. ...
Chapter
Robbery is commonly committed by groups and this can create challenges for law enforcement. For example, members might have different motivations for committing the offence and some offenders talk about feeling peer pressuring and/or coerced into offending. This chapter explores theories of group behaviour and how this influences group offending. For example, the decision to commit crime, deciding who to commit crime with, the different roles individuals might have during the offence, risks of betrayal and capture, sharing the profits, etc. Consideration is given to how the group dynamic impacts on offending—for example, how this feeds into violence (or not if the group acts as a censor/regulates the behaviour of the wider group). The role of leadership is also discussed along with overlaps with gang offending.
... Research has highlighted that group offending differs from lone offending (e.g. Alarid et al., 2009;Burrell et al., 2015) and this needs to be considered when developing criminal justice interventions (van Mastrigt & Farrington, 2009), and when risk assessing offenders (da Silva et al., 2013). Etgar and Prager (2009) note that group offenders are in need of special treatment. ...
Chapter
This chapter will summarise policing tactics used to prevent and/or reduce robbery. This includes discussion of education and diversion, situational approaches (which are designed to reduce the opportunities to commit crime), and police approaches and tactics. Offender-based interventions are also discussed. Furthermore, large-scale police and partnership work—such as the Street Crime Initiative and the Public Health Approach—will be outlined.KeywordsRobberyPolicingPreventionSituational crime preventionPublic health approach
... Whereas CCA is concerned with structured queries within large databases such as ViCLAS to find similar cases [1], CLA is a process where a behavioural investigative advisor (BIA) examines a smaller number of two or more offences with regard to their linkage potential. The empirical crime linkage literature has rather focussed on CCA scenarios and amassed a substantial body of research (Burrell et al., 2012;Davies et al., 2012;Ellingwood et al., 2013;Tonkin et al., 2011a;Tonkin et al., 2011b;Salo et al., 2012;Santtila et al., 2005;Santtila et al., 2008;Woodhams and Labuschagne, 2011;Woodhams and Toye, 2007) that has demonstrated two main findings: First, crime linkage is a worthwhile endeavour as large scale studies such as Woodhams et al. (2019b) have proved that the theoretical assumptions of consistency and distinctiveness do hold up in international samples of serial sexual assaults. Second, various statistical algorithms do perform objectively well in linking crimes committed by the same offender. ...
Article
Purpose Traditional crime linkage studies on serial sexual assaults have relied predominantly on a binary crime linkage approach that has yielded successful results in terms of linkage accuracy. Such an approach is a coarse reflection of reality by focussing mainly on the outcome of an offence, neglecting the forceful differences due to the intricate offender-victim interaction. Only few researchers have examined sexual assaults through the lens of a sequence analysis framework. This paper aims to present the first empirical test of offence sequence-based crime linkage, moving beyond exploratory analyses. Design/methodology/approach Offence accounts from 90 serial sexual assault and rape victims from the UK were analysed and sequentially coded. Sequence analysis allowed to compare all offences combinations regarding their underlying sequence of events. The resulting comparison was transformed and plotted in two-dimensional space by multidimensional scaling analysis for a visual inspection of linkage potential. The transformed proximities of all offences were used as predictors in a receiver operating characteristic analysis to actually test their discriminatory accuracy for crime linkage purpose. Findings Sequence analysis shows significant discriminatory accuracy for crime linkage purpose. However, the method does perform less well than previous binary crime linkage studies. Research limitations/implications Several limitations due to the nature of the data will be discussed. Practical implications The practical limitations are as follows: the study is a potential practical value for crime analysts; it is a complimentary methodology for statistical crime linkage packages; it requires automated coding to be useful; and it is very dependent on crime recoding standards. Originality/value The exploratory part of this study has been published in a book chapter in 2015. However, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, the succinct test of crime linkage accuracy is the first of its kind.
... Serial cases have always been the focus of research by the public security organs of various countries, and the research dimensions are diverse. Burrell, Bull, Bond, and Herrington (2015) measured behavioural similarity using Jaccard's coefficients and used Kruskal-Wallis tests to examine the differences between the linked samples. Campobasso et al. (2009) discussed the suspect's motivation, mental health, childhood experiences and other issues in an in-depth study of 15 murder cases of older women over the age of 70. ...
Article
At present, serial theft case linkage remains at the stage of empiricism. In order to overcome this subjective arbitrariness, this study proposes using a ‘two‐step cumulative probability model’ for investigation. In the first step, based on expert grading method, the opinions of 99 policemen were combined to quantify the serial theft case characteristics. In the second step, when a new case occurred, the characteristics of it were compared with the characteristics of each serial theft case, and the corresponding probabilities were added according to the calculations of the second step; when the accumulated points exceeded the threshold, we considered concatenating the new case with the corresponding serial cases. The results demonstrated that the average accuracy of the two‐step cumulative probability model was 87.5% and that the average response rate of the irrelevant case (control group) was 12.3%. We concluded that the two‐step cumulative probability model could assist in criminal investigations.
... escalating in degree or switching from one behavioural subtype to another) rather than isolated behaviours. Three additional studies (Hewitt and Beauregard 2014;Leclerc et al. in press;Lussier et al. 2008) used transition matrices to estimate the probability of behaviours used in the first crime to be repeated 1 Bateman and Salfati 2007;Bennell and Canter 2002;Bennell and Jones 2005;Bennell et al. 2009;Bouhana et al. 2014;Burrell et al. 2012Burrell et al. , 2015Canter et al. 1991;Deslauriers-Varin and Beauregard 2013;Ellingwood et al. 2013;Fox and Farrington 2014;Green et al. 1976;Grubin et al. 2001;Harbers et al. 2012;Hewitt and Beauregard 2014;Kearns et al. 2011;Leclerc et al. in press;Lussier et al. (2008); Markson et al. 2010;Melnyk et al. 2011;Salfati and Bateman 2005;Salfati et al. 2014;Salo et al. 2012;Santtila et al. 2004Santtila et al. , 2005bSanttila et al. 2008Slater et al. 2015;Sorochinski and Salfati 2010;Tonkin & Woodhams 2015;Tonkin et al. 2008Tonkin et al. , 2011Tonkin et al. , 2012aTonkin et al. , 2012bWinter et al. 2013;Woodhams and Labuschagne 2011;Woodhams and Toye 2007;Woodhams et al. 2007aWoodhams et al. , 2008 in subsequent crimes of persistent sexual offenders. The findings suggested that changes in offenders' behaviours occur in a fairly predictable manner as a function of the offender's level of self-control as well as situational constraints. ...
Article
Whilst investigative use of behavioural evidence to help link and solve serial offences has long been in use, the empirical and theoretical grounds for whether and how to use this evidence effectively have begun to emerge only in recent decades. The present study empirically tested (a) the potential for effectively differentiating between rape offence crime scenes using quantitative and qualitative distinctions within the behavioural dimensions of control, violence, and sexual activity, and (b) the extent to which redefining behavioural consistency more broadly to include dynamic trajectories of behavioural change may be more effective than limiting this definition to behavioural stability. Results confirmed that sexual offences can be successfully differentiated based on the specific degree and subtype of these behavioural dimensions present in each crime scene. The analysis of consistency and behavioural trajectories showed that whilst none of the offenders exhibited complete consistency across behavioural dimensions, a subsample of offenders remained fully consistent in at least one. Furthermore, of those who were not consistent, the vast majority followed an identifiable trajectory of change. Findings are discussed in the context of psychological theories of behavioural consistency as well as practical aspects of advancing the utility of behavioural linkage.
Article
The night‐time economy (NTE) provides many opportunities for crime as there is an abundance of potential victims who are often intoxicated and clustered in a small geographical area. Previous research on NTE violence has primarily focused on assault. However, other offences are also common, such as robbery. This study focused on NTE‐related robbery using police recorded crime data relating to 1624 personal robberies (including attempts) from West Midlands Police, UK. The data was binary coded to identify and compare offence characteristics. Robbery offences in the NTE showed unique characteristics compared to robberies unrelated to this context. In particular, there were differences in alcohol, use of violence, injuries, approach style and crime locations. The findings of the current research align with theoretical frameworks from environmental criminology (e.g. crime generators and attractors), have implications for crime prevention and investigations and can feed into developing policing strategies that take into account the background context for offending.
Article
The current study investigated characteristics of robbery offences with a focus on lone versus multiple perpetrator crimes. The main aim was to outline differences between lone, duo, and 3+ perpetrator crimes. Police recorded crime data from West Midlands Police relating to 1574 personal robberies (including attempts) committed in Birmingham city centre (UK) were used in the analysis. Robbery offences were compared on victim and offender demographics and offence characteristics. The findings showed significant differences between the three group sizes (lone, duo, 3+ offenders) in victim and offender age; approach styles; victim control variables; weapon use; alcohol and violence; injuries; and carjacking. The findings of the current research can feed into developing policing strategies which take into account differences in group size.
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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.
Article
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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.
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Street robbery offences can be perpetrated in a variety of ways. Offenders adopt a particular method of conducting the offence that appears to be closely related to the underlying purpose of the offence and the type of victim that is targeted. This paper reviews existing research and presents new findings relating to the "decisions" involved in the commission of street robbery from the perspective of the offenders. Twenty face-to-face interviews were undertaken with offenders convicted of street robbery. Findings specifically focus on the modus operandi employed by offenders based on their knowledge of the risks, struggles and advantages of different ways of working.
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In the absence of forensic evidence (such as DNA or fingerprints), offender behavior can be used to identify crimes that have been committed by the same person (referred to as behavioral case linkage). The current study presents the first empirical test of whether it is possible to link different types of crime using simple aspects of offender behavior. The discrimination accuracy of the kilometer distance between offense locations (the intercrime distance) and the number of days between offenses (temporal proximity) was examined across a range of crimes, including violent, sexual, and property-related offenses. Both the intercrime distance and temporal proximity were able to achieve statistically significant levels of discrimination accuracy that were comparable across and within crime types and categories. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed and recommendations made for future research.
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The extrapolation of characteristics of criminals from information about their crimes, as an aid to police investigation, is the essence of ‘profiling'. This paper proposes that for such extrapolations to be more than educated guesses they must be based upon knowledge of (1) coherent consistencies in criminal behaviour and (2) the relationship those behavioural consistencies have to aspects of an offender available to the police in an investigation. Hypotheses concerning behavioural consistencies are drawn from the diverse literature on sexual offences and a study is described of 66 sexual assaults committed by 27 offenders against strangers. Multivariate statistical analyses of these assaults support a five-component system of rapist behaviour, reflecting modes of interaction with the victim as a sexual object. The potential this provides for an eclectic theoretical basis to offender profiling is discussed.
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The present study aimed to identify dimensions of variation in serial homicide and to use these dimensions to behaviourally link offences committed by the same offender with each other. The sample consisted of 116 Italian homicides committed by 23 individual offenders. Each offender had committed at least two homicides. As some offenders had worked together and some murders involved more than one victim, there were 155 unique pairings of offenders and victims. Dichotomous variables reflecting crime features and victim characteristics were coded for each case. Using Mokken scaling, a nonparametric alternative to factor analysis, seven dimensions of variation were identified. Five of the dimensions described variations in the motivation for the killings. Three of these were concerned with aspects of instrumental motivation whereas two of the motivational scales described variations in sexual motivation. The two remaining dimensions dealt with the level of planning evident in the crime scene behaviour of the offender. Two dimensions were identified: one consisting of behaviours suggesting a higher level of control and another describing impulsiveness. Using discriminant function analysis with the dimensions as independent variables and the series an offence belonged to as dependent variable, 62.9% of the cases could be correctly assigned to the right series (chance expectation was 6.2%). The implications of the results for serial homicide investigations are discussed.
Article
Studies in the past have already revealed some interesting characteristics of co-offending, but relatively little attention has been paid to explaining them. This paper is focused on the explanation of these characteristics. A comprehensive theory is proposed, based on the idea that co-offending may be viewed as an event in which material and immaterial goods are exchanged. The basic concepts of such a social exchange theory are formulated in this article, and a causal model based on this theory is deduced. The paper also shows how the proposed theory may explain the well-known characteristics of co-offending.
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Cumulative empirical evidence suggests that the majority of offenses for which juveniles are apprehended involved more than one offender. Evidence supporting this claim has generally been interpreted as support for the theoretical assertion that “delinquency is predominantly a group phenomenon.” However, most of the studies reported in the literature are based exclusively on official records (either police or juvenile court records), and thus the question arises whether the proportion of offenses committed by groups would also be high if other sources of data were utilized. This paper reports the results of a study of “self-reported” delinquent behavior with specific emphasis on the extent to which offenses that individuals report having committed took place in a “group context.” The relationship between “group violation rates” (proportion of self-reported offenses that were committed in a group context) and other characteristics of offenses are examined. An analysis is made of the relationships between group violation rates, seriousness of offense, frequency of violation, frequency of arrest, and arrest rates.