Standards and Definitions Related to Crime Patterns

Given this lack of a common language, before we go any further in discussing the identification of crime patterns, it is important to review standards and definitions as promulgated by the Standards, Methods, and Technology (SMT) Committee of the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA).

In 2011, the IACA chartered the SMT Committee to begin to define “analytical methodologies, technologies, and core concepts relevant to the profession of crime analysis” (Gwinn, 2011). The resulting report, entitled “Crime Pattern Definitions for Tactical Analysis,” began to set standards not only for crime analysis definitions but also for procedures (Gwinn, 2011). The goals of the report, which was called a white paper, were to standardize the definition of a crime pattern, differentiate crime pattern types, and define and illustrate each of the different crime pattern types (Gwinn, 2011).

What Is a Crime Pattern?

According to the IACA report “Crime Pattern Definitions for Tactical Analysis,” a crime pattern is a group of two or more crimes reported to or discovered by police that are unique because they meet each of the following conditions:

  • 1. They share at least one common factor; that common factor could be the type of crime; the behavior of the offenders or victims; the characteristics of the offender(s), victims, or targets; the property taken; or the locations of the occurrence of the offenses.
  • 2. There is no known relationship between the victim(s) and the offender(s); this means that it is a stranger-on-stranger crime.
  • 3. The shared common factor or factors make the set of crimes notable and distinct from other criminal activity occurring within the same general date range (say, a week or a month).
  • 4. The criminal activity is typically of limited duration—ranging from a week or more to as long as a month or several months.
  • 5. The set of related crimes is treated as one unit of analysis and is addressed through focused police efforts and tactics (Gwinn, 2011).
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