Linking Residential Burglaries by Modus Operandi: An Empirical Test of Some Findings That Emerge From Interviews With Offenders

Craig Bennell, Carleton University

Researchers have often carried out interviews with burglars in an attempt to identify the various ways in which they commit their crimes. Based on findings from such research, claims have been made that the police should be able to use an offender's modus operandi in orer to link together the crimes he has committed. This study empirically examines the police practice of utilising modus operandi to link crimes to a common offender in cases of residential burglary. Data from 140 solved residential burglaries committed by 28 offenders in the UK are analysed to identify behavioural features that reliably distinguish between linked and unlinked crimes. The results indicate that few of the crime scene behaviours focused on in traditional interview studies are associated with high levels of linking acuracy. however, high levels of accuracy can be achieved by drawing on certain aspects of an offender's spatial behaviour. The importance of including offender spatial behaviour as a topic for discussion in interviews with offenders is explored, as are the practical implications of the findings.

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Updated 05/20/2006