Psychological profiling : Analysing spatial patterns of convicted serial arsonists
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Arson is a major problem nationwide, with local authorities investigating arson cases daily. To help combat this issue, a national study was conducted which focussed on the geographical distribution of arson offences in relation to the offender's home base. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the utility of Canter and Larkin's (1993) circle theory and home range hypothesis for predicting geographical patterning of serial arson offences in New Zealand. This was achieved by examining offence locations of 45 serial arsonists convicted between 1988 and 2003. Each offender's offence sites and home base were plotted on a scaled street map, replicating Canter and Larkin's (1993) geometric technique for constructing the criminal range circle. An initial test showed that a majority of offenders committed their offences within a distinct offence region. It was also found that the breakdown of commuter- and marauder-type offenders was different from Canter and Larkin's (1993) study of UK serial rapists, suggesting that the marauder model is not universally applicable to account for all types of serial offending. However, the home range hypothesis was supported in this study. Additionally, there was support for the existence of a safety zone around the offender's home base as proposed by Brantingham and Brantingham (1981). Lastly, the current study supports the hypothesis that offenders travel short distances to commit their arsons. Overall, Canter and Larkin's (1993) circle theory and home range hypothesis successfully describe the geographical patterning of offences by serial arsonists in New Zealand. Although the marauder model IS not universally applicable, it still offers potential benefits as part of an investigative tool for local authorities.