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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Address specific data were geocoded in ArcMap 10.2.2 with more than 99% of incidents being successfully matched, which above the 85% minimum hit rate threshold outlined by Ratcliffe (2004).

  2. 2.

    This concern would be most problematic for incidents where the occurrence date is not actually known and a generic default date was used instead (e.g., using 1/1/1900 for the date when it is not actually known).

  3. 3.

    These values were opted for since two blocks was regularly the furthest spatial distance that still remained part of a near repeat pattern while 7 days intervals are selected since this is an intermediary temporal distance relative to those incorporated in the near repeat analysis.

  4. 4.

    Additional analyses were conducted to investigate the impact of seasonality on repeat and near repeat arsons. Results for summer and fall underscore risk commonly extended up to two blocks away during the shortest temporal band and tapered off with increases in the temporal band. Findings for spring were either commonly contained to the same location or a block away but ended up being limited to the same location following the first temporal band. Summer results showcased risk up to three blocks away, however, over time risk only minimally dissipated. Tables are available upon request.

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Acknowledgements

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).

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Correspondence to Jonathan A. Grubb.

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Turchan, B., Grubb, J.A., Pizarro, J.M. et al. Arson in an urban setting: a multi-event near repeat chain analysis in Flint, Michigan. Secur J 32, 179–197 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41284-018-0155-0

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Keywords

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