Arson in an urban setting: a multi-event near repeat chain analysis in Flint, Michigan

  • Brandon Turchan
  • Jonathan A. GrubbEmail author
  • Jesenia M. Pizarro
  • Edmund F. McGarrell
Original Article


A growing body of literature has recently begun to examine spatiotemporal nuances of arson. However, criminal justice research has minimally investigated how an arson event might serve as an initiator for a string of arsons. To rectify this gap, the current study conducted a near repeat analysis incorporating multiple-event near repeat chains to identify possible spatiotemporal patterns for arson in Flint, Michigan. Findings underscore that increased risk of repeat arson victimization was most pronounced for residential arsons. Results for near repeat chains indicate an average mean risk of roughly 5 days but for certain chains risk lasted for up to 2 months. Discussion of implications, limitations, and future research are also provided.


Arson Near repeat victimization Repeat victimization Spatiotemporal analysis Multiple-event chains 



This work was supported by Bureau of Justice Assistance, US Department of Justice, and Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center funded by the Center for Disease Control (2014-AJ-BX-0011).


  1. Adams, D. 2013, April 8. Lost in the flames: More than 1,600 arsons scar Flint’s landscape. MLive. Accessed 16 Feb 2018.
  2. Bennett, T. 1995. Identifying, explaining and targeting burglary hot spots. European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research 3 (3): 113–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bieber, P. 2016. The misleading science of arson investigations. New York: Center on Media, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.Google Scholar
  4. Block, S., and S. Fujita. 2013. Patterns of near repeat temporary and permanent motor vehicle theft. Crime Prevention and Community Safety 15 (2): 151–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowers, K., and S.D. Johnson. 2004. Who commits near repeats? A test of the boost explanation. Western Criminology Review 5 (3): 12–24.Google Scholar
  6. Brantingham, P.J., and P.L. Brantingham. 1993. Environment, routine, and situation: Toward a pattern theory of crime. In Routine activity and rational choice: Advances in criminological theory, vol. 5, ed. R.V. Clarke and M. Felson. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publications.Google Scholar
  7. Brett, A. 2004. ‘Kindling theory’ in arson: How dangerous are firesetters? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 38 (6): 419–425.Google Scholar
  8. Bryant, C. 2008. Understanding bushfire: Trends in deliberate vegetation fires in Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.Google Scholar
  9. Budd, T. 1999. Burglary of domestic dwellings: Findings from the British crime survey. London: Great Britain Home Office Research Development and Statistics Directorate.Google Scholar
  10. Campbell, R. 2014. Intentional fires. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.Google Scholar
  11. Ciardha, C.O., and T.A. Gannon. 2012. The implicit theories of firesetters: A preliminary conceptualization. Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2): 122–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cornish, D.B., and R.V. Clarke. 2003. Opportunities, precipitators and criminal decisions: A reply to Wortley’s critique of situational crime prevention. Crime Prevention Studies 16: 41–96.Google Scholar
  13. Cozens, P., and W. Christensen. 2011. Environmental criminology and the potential for reducing opportunities for bushfire arson. Crime Prevention and Community Safety 13 (2): 119–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dickens, G., P. Sugarman, S. Edgar, K. Hofberg, S. Tewari, and F. Ahmad. 2009. Recidivism and dangerousness in arsonists. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology 20 (5): 621–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Federal Bureau of Investigations. 2015. 2014 Crime in the United States, arson. Accessed 16 Feb 2018.
  16. Federal Bureau of Investigations. 2016. 2015 Crime in the United States: Burglary. Accessed 16 Feb 2018.
  17. Fritzon, K., R. Doley, and K. Hollows. 2014. Variations in the offence actions of deliberate firesetters: A cross-national analysis. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 58 (10): 1150–1165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gannon, T.A., C.O. Ciardha, R.M. Doley, and E. Alleyne. 2012. The multi-trajectory theory of adult firesetting (M-TTAF). Aggression and Violent Behavior 17 (2): 107–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gerell, M. 2017. Smallest is better? The spatial distribution of arson and the modifiable areal unit problem. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 33 (2): 293–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Groff, E.R., J.H. Ratcliffe, C.P. Haberman, E.T. Sorg, N.M. Joyce, and R.B. Taylor. 2015. Does what police do at hot spots matter? The Philadelphia policing tactics experiment. Criminology 53 (1): 23–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grubb, J.A., and M.R. Nobles. 2016. A spatiotemporal analysis of arson. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 53 (1): 66–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Haberman, C.P., and J.H. Ratcliffe. 2012. The predictive policing challenges of near repeat armed street robberies. Policing 6 (2): 151–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Horley, J., and D. Bowlby. 2011. Theory, research, and intervention with arsonists. Aggression and Violent Behavior 16 (3): 241–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnson, S.D., L. Summers, and K. Pease. 2009. Offender as forager? A direct test of the boost account of victimization. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 25 (2): 181–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Knox, G. 1964. Epidemiology of childhood leukemia in Northumberland and Durham. British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine 18 (1): 17–24.Google Scholar
  26. Kocsis, R.N., and H.J. Irwin. 1997. An analysis of spatial patterns in serial rape, arson, and burglary: The utility of the circle theory of environmental range for psychological profiling. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 4 (2): 195–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moreto, W.D., E.L. Piza, and J.M. Caplan. 2014. ‘A plague on both your houses?’ Risks, repeats and reconsiderations of urban residential burglary. Justice Quarterly 31 (6): 1102–1126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nobles, M.R., J.T. Ward, and R. Tillyer. 2016. The impact of neighborhood context on spatiotemporal patterns of burglary. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 53 (5): 711–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Orozco, C.V., M. Tonini, M. Conedera, and M. Kanveski. 2012. Cluster recognition in spatial–temporal sequences: The case of forest fires. Geoinformatica 16 (4): 653–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pease, K. 1998. Repeat victimization: Taking stock. London: Great Britain Home Office, Policing and Reducing Crime Unit.Google Scholar
  31. Prestemon, J.P., D.T. Butry, and D.S. Thomas. 2013. Exploiting autoregressive properties to develop prospective urban arson forecasts by target. Applied Geography 44: 143–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ratcliffe, J.H. 2004. Geocoding crime and a first estimate of a minimum acceptable hit rate. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 18 (1): 61–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ratcliffe, J.H. 2009. Near Repeat Calculator Program Manual for Version 1.3. Philadelphia: Temple University.Google Scholar
  34. Ridley, G. 2013, April 10. Arson: Blue-collar America is burning. MLive. Accessed 16 Feb 2018.
  35. Santos, R.G., and R.B. Santos. 2015. An ex post facto evaluation of tactical police response in residential theft from vehicle micro-time hot spots. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 31 (4): 679–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Skogan, W. 1990. Disorder and decline: Crime and the spiral of decay in American cities. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  37. Wells, W., L. Wu, and X. Ye. 2012. Patterns of near-repeat gun assaults in Houston. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 49 (2): 186–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wuschke, K., J. Clare, and L. Garis. 2013. Temporal and geographic clustering of residential structure fires: A theoretical platform for targeted fire prevention. Fire Safety Journal 62 (A): 3–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Youstin, T.J., M.R. Nobles, J.T. Ward, and C.L. Cook. 2011. Assessing the generalizability of the near repeat phenomenon. Criminal Justice and Behavior 38 (10): 1042–1063.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon Turchan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jonathan A. Grubb
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jesenia M. Pizarro
    • 4
  • Edmund F. McGarrell
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Criminal JusticeRutgers UniversityNewarkUSA
  2. 2.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Criminal Justice & CriminologyGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA
  4. 4.School of Criminology & Criminal JusticeArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  5. 5.School of Criminal JusticeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations