Analysing the offence locations and residential base of serial arsonists in New Zealand


Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New


The purpose of the present paper was to test the applicability of the Canter and Larkin (1993) circle theory of environmental range for offending by serial arsonists in New Zealand. Police files for 45 serial arsonists convicted between 1988 and 2003 were obtained, and maps were produced for each offender indicating arson sites as well as the home address at the time of offending. Criminal range circles produced according to the Canter and Larkin method encompassed all offences in 84% of cases, consistent with prior research. Offenders were classified as marauders or commuters depending on whether the home base was contained within the criminal range circle. Contrary to previous research, a predominant marauder pattern was not found; the present sample was equally divided between marauders and commuters. Regressions of distance between home base and furthest offence on the distance between the two furthest offences yielded a slope of 0.93, indicating that for marauder offenders, the home base tended to be situated eccentrically near the circumference of the criminal range circle. No demographic or offence-related variables were found that reliably differentiated between marauders and commuters. Overall, these results suggest that the criminal range circle may provide only limited information for predicting the home base of serial arsonists in New Zealand.