Category Archives: Geographical profiling

Bees join hunt for serial killers*

beeYes indeed. The BBC News website today (30 July 2008) reports on some research on the way in which bees seek food which “could help detectives hunt down serial killers, scientists believe”.

Here’s some more from the report:

Just as bees forage some distance away from their hives, so murderers avoid killing near their homes, says the University of London team. This “geographic profiling” works so well in bees, the scientists say future experiments on the animals could now be fed back to improve crime-solving. The team’s work is reported in the Royal Society journal Interface.

“We’re really hopeful that we can improve the model for criminology,” Dr Nigel Raine, from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL), told BBC News.

Later the report reveals that the research team includes Kim Rossmo, detective-turned-geo-profiler.

Instead of using information about the distribution of flowers visited by bees to explain the insects’ behaviour, criminologists’ models will use details about crime scenes, robbery locations, abandoned cars, even dead bodies, to hone the search for a suspect.

“Bees have much simpler brains and so understanding how bees are recruited to flowers is much easier than understanding the complex thoughts of a serial murderer,” Dr Raine said.

Well the cynics would say that’s one reason why a bee-model might have some limitations when it comes to hunting serial killers.

Here’s the reference:

*In the entertaining headline contest, the BBC lags far behind the Royal Society with “Bees can help detectives to ’sting’ criminals” and the Welcome Trust with “Criminal Bee-haviour“. Is no one going to use “scientists set a honey-trap for murderers”? (I’ll get my coat.)

UPDATE: Thank you to Aaron Jacklin for a link to the pre-publication paper [pdf] on Nigel Raine’s QMUL web pages.

Photo credit: Automania, Creative Commons Licence

Policing 2(2): special edition on Crime Science


The latest issue of Policing (vol 2 no 2) is a special edition on Crime Science featuring in particular the work of the Jill Dando Institute at University College London .

Contents include Ken Pease wondering How to Behave Like a Scientist? and articles on Mathematics, Physics, and Crime, Evolutionary Psychology and Fear of Crime, Crime Prevention Strategies, Forensic Geoscience, Vulnerable Localities, Mobile Phone Crime, Evaluating Crime Prevention and Technology and Policing.

Two articles not part of the special edition on whether Northern Ireland is a model for Post-conflict Police Reform and on the Policing of Fraud.

Abstracts and access to full text articles (subscription required) here.

New reports from the UK Home Office, November 2007


The UK Home Office has published several new reports in the last month.

Five reports deal with different aspects of illicit drug use. Home Office Research Report 02 provides results on a Drug Interventions Programme (DIP): addressing drug use and offending through ‘Tough Choices’ (pdf). Home Office Research Report 03 reports on a Drug Treatment Outcomes Research Study (pdf). Three further reports provide information on measuring the harm from illegal drugs (pdf); national and regional estimates of the prevalence of opiate use and/or crack cocaine use (pdf); and the illicit drug trade in the United Kingdom (pdf).

Prospective crime mapping in operational context by Shane D Johnson, Daniel J Birks, Lindsay McLaughlin, Kate J Bowers and Ken Pease reports on a trial of a tool to predict burglary hotspots. The full report (pdf) is here or you can access a shorter summary here (pdf).

Finally, three Statistical Bulletins:

  • Results from a survey of arrestees (pdf).
  • Statistics on attitudes, perceptions and risks of crime (pdf).
  • Asylum Statistics for the 3rd Quarter 2007 (pdf)

Photo credit: stilleben2001, Creative Commons License

New issue: Police Practice and Research 8(4)


The latest issue of Police Practice and Research 8(4) is a special issue on Geographic Profiling in Policing edited by Ronald E. Wilson and Christopher D. Maxwell. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Research in Geographic Profiling: Remarks from the Guest Editors – Ronald E. Wilson; Christopher D. Maxwell
  • Issues in the Geographic Profiling of Crime: Review and Commentary – Keith Harries; James LeBeau
  • Clinical versus Actuarial Geographic Profiling Strategies: A Review of the Research – Craig Bennell; Paul J. Taylor; Brent Snook
  • Improving Geographic Profiling through Commuter/Marauder Prediction – Derek Paulsen
  • Geoforensic Analysis Revisited – The Application of Newton’s Geographic Profiling Method to Serial Burglaries in London, UK – Michael Leitner; Joshua Kent; Ian Oldfield; Elizabeth Swoope
  • Prioritizing Burglars: Comparing the Effectiveness of Geographical Profiling Methods – David Canter; Laura Hammond

New issue: Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling 4(1)


The January 2007 issue of Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling 4(1) has only just gone online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Crime behaviours and distance travelled in homicides and rapes – Pekka Santtila, Manne Laukkanen, Angelo Zappalà
  • From marine ecology to crime analysis: Improving the detection of serial sexual offences using a taxonomic similarity measure – Jessica Woodhams, Tim D. Grant, Andrew R. G. Price
  • Offender and crime characteristics of female serial arsonists in Japan – Taeko Wachi, Kazumi Watanabe, Kaeko Yokota, Mamoru Suzuki, Maki Hoshino, Atsushi Sato, Goro Fujita
  • National and regional reviews of investigative and forensic psychology – David Canter
  • Forensic psychology in the Czech republic – Veronika Anna Polienská

New issue: Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 30(1)


The Jan/Feb 2007 issue of Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 30(1) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Police detectives’ perceptions of giving evidence in court – Mark R. Kebbell, Caitriona M.E. O’Kelly
  • What makes a good investigative interviewer of children?: A comparison of police officers’ and experts’ perceptions – Rebecca Wright, Martine B. Powell
  • Address matching bias: ignorance is not bliss – Gisela Bichler, Stefanie Balchak
  • Is neighborhood policing related to informal social control? – Brian C. Renauer
  • Policing alcohol-related incidents: a study of time and prevalence – Gavan Palk, Jeremy Davey, James Freeman
  • The structure of informal communication between police agencies – Aki Roberts, John M. Roberts Jr
  • Area policing and public perceptions in a non-urban setting: one size fits one – Authors: John P. Crank, Andrew L. Giacomazzi
  • The threat of mission distortion in police-probation partnerships – David Murphy, John L. Worrall

Social Science Computer Review looks at Crime Mapping Software

The latest issue of Social Science Computer Review (May 2007, vol 25, no 2) is a special issue on software for crime mapping, including the following articles:

  • Geographic Exclusion: Spatial Analysis for Evaluating the Implications of Megan’s Law
  • Use of a “Microecologic Technique” to Study Crime Around Substance Abuse Treatment Centers
  • Using Geographically Weighted Regression to Explore Local Crime Patterns
  • Mapping Crime in Savannah: Social Disadvantage, Land Use, and Violent Crimes Reported to the Police
  • Integrating Distance Into Mobility Triangle Typologies
  • Software Review: Spatial Data Analysis of Crime: A Review of CrimeStat III
  • Software Review: Crime Analysis and Mapping with GeoDa 0.9.5-i
  • Software Review: Scanning for Clusters in Space and Time: A Tutorial Reviewof SaTScan

More details via the Sage Publishing website here.

New issue: Journal of Criminal Justice 35(3)


The May/June 2007 issue of Journal of Criminal Justice 35(3) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Job demands, job resources, and burnout among police officers – M. Martinussen, A.M. Richardsen and R.J. Burke
  • Rural jails: Problematic inmates, overcrowded cells, and cash-strapped counties – Rick Ruddell and G. Larry Mays
  • Correlates of formal and informal social/crime control in China: An exploratory study – Shanhe Jiang, Eric Lambert and Jin Wang
  • Reducing lockup crowding with expedited initial processing of minor offenders – Terry L. Baumer
  • The effect of maternal incarceration on adult offspring involvement in the criminal justice system – Beth M. Huebner and Regan Gustafson
  • Community structural predictors of spatially aggregated motor vehicle theft rates: Do they replicate? – Jeffrey A. Walsh and Ralph B. Taylor
  • Local law enforcement terrorism prevention efforts: A state level case study – William V. Pelfrey Jr.
  • Politics, culture, and political crime: Covariates of abortion clinic attacks in the United States – Joshua D. Freilich and William Alex Pridemore
  • Restorative justice practice: An examination of program completion and recidivism – Kimberly de Beus and Nancy Rodriguez

Two approaches to predicting crime

psychicsScary news from Cincinnati, as a group of ‘community organisers and government officials’ draws up a list of 1500 ‘most dangerous’ criminals with ‘a propensity to commit murder and other acts of violence’. The Cincinnati Enquirer (23 April) reports:

[…] The group, including Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, wants police and other agencies to use the list to prevent violent crime. They plan to give the list to police, probation officials, community groups and others.

“We will target and focus on the 1,500 most dangerous criminals walking the streets of Cincinnati,” said city council candidate Charlie Winburn, one of the organizers. “This will reduce the homicide rate, reduce the number of people shot on the streets and reduce the number of shots fired. Our next homicide will probably come from this list.”

[…] [School board member and council candidate Melanie Bates] said this is a new way to collect the information that will be more useful to police.

“We’re criminal profiling,” she said, “and statistically saying who has the potential to kill. These people have the criminal profile for committing homicide.”

Some are understandably alarmed at this development, e.g., civil rights lawyer Robert Newman, quoted as saying:

“I think it’s very unfortunate that they’re thinking about doing this. There’s no doubt that there are predictors to indicate someone might commit a crime […] but they can’t be 100 percent accurate, and it’s so dangerous. …”

And in an editorial comment the following day, the Cincinnati Enquirer argued that a ‘plan to identify “likely killers” in Cincinnati ought to set off alarm bells among those who favor the rule of law and the presumption of innocence’.

Somewhat more scientific are the efforts of Simon Fraser University criminologists Patricia and Paul Brantingham, who have been developing methods of predicting crime ‘hot-spots’ This from the Vancouver Sun (24 April):

Husband-and-wife SFU professors Patricia and Paul Brantingham plan to crunch data that includes RCMP crime stats, transportation routes and even shopping mall hours to advise police and municipalities about potential crime hot spots.

“You take the criminal event data, other information about how a city is built, the road networks and other information about other activities in a city, and you blend them together,” Patricia Brantingham said in an interview. “And with that sort of information, you are able to produce much clearer models of where crimes occur and what kind of crime patterns to expect.”

The Brantinghams will use a $5-million donation of new technology from IBM to create a crime prevention and analysis lab at SFU to link research on offenders’ behaviours with the commuting, shopping and living habits of residents to understand the future location, frequency and severity of crime.

See also:

Photo credit: Living in Monrovia, Creative Commons License

New issue: Psychology, Crime & Law

journalsVolume 13 issue 2 of Psychology, Crime & Law (April 2007) is now online,  and it’s one of those rare issues where I’ll be reading almost every article.

Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Risk and need assessment in British probation: the contribution of LSI-R – Peter Raynor
  • The influence of sample type, presentation format and strength of evidence on juror simulation research – Ma Eva Martín; Leticia De La Fuente; E. Inmaculada De La Fuente; Juan García
  • The usefulness of measuring spatial opportunity structures for tracking down offenders: A theoretical analysis of geographic offender profiling using simulation studies – Wim Bernasco
  • The roles of interrogation, perception, and individual differences in producing compliant false confessions – J. P. Blair
  • Automation of a screening polygraph test increases accuracy – Charles R. Honts; Susan Amat
  • Heuristics in causal reasoning and their influence on eyewitness testimony – Caroline A. C. Remijn; Hans F. M. Crombag
  • Guilty and innocent suspects’ strategies during police interrogations – Maria Hartwig; Pär Anders Granhag; Leif A. Strömwall