Examining the role of similarity coefficients and the value of behavioural themes in attempts to link serial arson offences
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When relying on crime scene behaviours to link serial crimes, linking accuracy may be influenced by the measure used to assess across-crime similarity and the types of behaviours included in the analysis. To examine these issues, the present study compared the level of linking accuracy achieved by using the simple matching index (S) to that of the commonly used Jaccard’s coefficient (J) across themes of arson behaviour. The data consisted of 42 crime scene behaviours, separated into three behavioural themes, which were exhibited by 37 offenders across 114 solved arsons. The results of logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic analysis indicate that, with the exception of one theme where S was more effective than J at discriminating between linked and unlinked crimes, no significant differences emerged between the two similarity measures. In addition, our results suggest that thematically unrelated behaviours can be used to link crimes with the same degree of accuracy as thematically related behaviours, potentially calling into the question the importance of theme-based approaches to behavioural linkage analysis.
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