Crime Pattern Types

What are the common shared elements that are necessary to define a set of crimes as a pattern?

According to Gwinn (2011), there are seven common types of crime pattern.These types are not mutually exclusive, and sometimes they overlap. Therefore, when a crime analyst is examining a crime pattern that does not seem to fit neatly in one category, the analyst should categorize the pattern as the type that appears most applicable, based on the characteristics of the crimes involved and the nature of the most appropriate potential police response.

The seven primary crime pattern types are as follows:

  • 1 Series: A group of similar crimes thought to be committed by the same individual or group of individuals acting in concert. An example of a series crime pattern would be five home invasions in upper-middle-class neighborhoods in a suburban community. In each, either one person was at home or the home was empty The two white males observed by the homeowner or by neighbors were in their twenties, wearing uniforms of a utility company, and threatening residents with handguns. They were seen leaving the area in a blue Honda Civic.
  • 2 Spree: A group of similar crimes thought to be carried out by the same individual or group, but with a high frequency within a relatively short period of time. The crimes are so frequent that they appear continuous. For example, a rash of thefts from automobiles parked on a certain street in a five-block area occurring during a seven-hour period would be called a spree. In this spree, all of the cars are broken into by smashing a drivers side window, and the offenses all happen during a period of time from 8:00 p.m. one evening until 3:00 a.m. the next morning.
  • 3 Hot prey: A group of crimes committed by one or more individuals, involving victims who share similar physical characteristics or engage in similar behavior. An example of a hot prey crime would be this series of crimes: Five homeless men in an area comprising ten square blocks are beaten with baseball bats over a two-month time frame.
  • 4 Hot product: A group of crimes committed by one or more individuals in which a unique type of property is targeted for theft. A hot product example would be when, over a three-month period of time, more than 20 new construction homes are broken into and copper wiring and bathroom fixtures are stolen.
  • 5 Hot spot: A group of similar crimes committed by one or more individuals at locations within close proximity to one another. An example of a hot spot would be eight daytime burglaries that take place in a large condominium development during a few weeks. No one was home in any of the condominiums that were broken into, and different items were stolen in each break-in. There were differences in the method of entry and the location of the door or window that was chosen for entry.
  • 6 Hot place: A group of similar crimes committed by one or more individuals at the same location. A hot spot is different from a hot place. An example of a hot place would be seven armed robberies that take place at three different banks that are all located on the same street within a mile of each other.
  • 7 Hot setting: A group of similar crimes committed by one or more individuals that are primarily related by the type of place where crimes occurred. A hot setting could be illustrated by a series of robberies of 24-hour service stations that all have convenience stores. More than a dozen such robberies take place at these service stations throughout the city. In each, one person is working alone late at night and different types of weapons are used to force the attendant to empty the cash register. In some of these robberies, the lone person working the service station is beaten or shot, while in others there are only threats.

The Crime Analyst’s Task in Identifying Emerging Crime Patterns

The primary task of the crime analyst is to identify an emerging crime pattern as soon as possible. Beyond that, though, it is part of his or her job to decide which of the seven types of pattern it is, because this makes the succeeding steps in the tactical crime analysis process easier.

To identify each type, the analyst must study daily crime reports and determine which belong to the crime pattern that is her focus. If she believes it is a crime series, then she may assume that the same individual or individuals are responsible for each one. By studying the crime reports of offenses that seem to fit in this series, she may determine if it is one or more than one individual involved and begin to develop a profile of the likely individuals) responsible. Also, she can begin to make predictions about when the next offense is likely to take place.

On the other hand, if the analyst believes it is a hot product pattern, then she must identify the product and learn where that product is available so she can predict the next target for a burglary of that product.

By studying crime reports and determining the category of the crime pattern, the crime analyst will be able to move on to the next step in the tactical crime analysis sequence.

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