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Geographical Analysis and Serial Crime Investigation: A Case Study of Armed Robbery in Phoenix, Arizona

NCJ Number
Security Journal Volume: 14 Issue: 3 Dated: 2001 Pages: 27-41
Paul Catalano; Bryan Hill; Brennan Long
Date Published
15 pages
Utilizing an unsolved serial robbery crime investigation in Arizona, this paper described the development and use of geographical analysis to support the investigation of serial crime by identifying where future armed robberies would most likely occur and where offenders were likely to live.
Between October 1997 and June 1998 Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, Arizona, reported a series of armed robberies of convenient stores, supermarket, and fast food outlets. It was determined that the crimes were committed by a gang, named the “Blue Bandits.” However, crime analysts were asked to assist robbery investigators by providing predictions of where the next crime would occur and determine where the offenders were likely to live or work. These assessments were based upon modeling offender behavior within a geographical information system. Environmental criteria discussed in the research literature were used to model the offenders’ behavior so it was possible to prioritize likely future targets and determine a location for the offenders in a relatively restricted geographical area. The target prediction method appeared to win support among investigators, particularly as an aid in prioritizing resource use. The determination of offender residence required testing and needed to provide more refined results for operational use. While only one case study was presented and remained unsolved, the methods have continued to be applied and refined to other cases as they have arisen since June 1998. It was suggested that in order to make a geographical analysis routine a comprehensive tool combining methods and allowing for results to be quickly and simply generated be required. Additional research was recommended to ensure that techniques were both useful to investigators and reliable in application.