Stranger Rape and Geo-Demographics

D. Kim Rossmo, Police Foundation

This research, funded by the British Home Office, seeks to extend our understanding on the geography of stranger rape by studying geo-demographic coding systems and their influence on spatial patterns of rape offences. The existence of robust relationships between crime, offender, and victim locations, and offence geo-demography will be useful for crime analysis and sexual offence investigation. Crime locations are the product of two primary processes: (1) the offender's hunting method; and (2) the target backcloth. Each of these influences the journey-to-crime distance from the offender's residence. Hunting method describes how an offender finds, and then attacks a victim, a process that might involve more than one location. Target backcloth refers to how targets or victims are arranged in space. There is also the question of what exactly is being searched for in some rape incidents; in a case of burglar-rape it may actually be the house or building structure that is being targeted. The size, homogeneity, and temporal consistency of geo-demographic areas are important factors in terms of their utility and the mitigation of the problem of ecological fallacy. Perhaps more powerful methods can be built using a combination of demographic data and land use information. The available theory and research suggest that geo-demography could play a valuable role in the fields of geographic and offender profiling and crime linkage analysis. But a critical part of the understanding of the relationship between geo-demography and crime location patterns will be the specification of the circumstances under which geo-demography is most useful.

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Updated 05/20/2006