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Cyber Security News / Security Education & Training

Crime Pattern Analysis and the Security Director: A Primer

March 1, 2011
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A crime researcher analyzes data using Crime Cluster Analysis, which is the practice of analyzing a group (cluster) of crimes with common characteristics. The clusters can be put into such categories as the location of the crime, the type of crime, the way the crime had been committed, the type of items stolen and even the type of victim. 

Crime pattern analysis (CPA) is a generic term that covers a wide range of approaches and techniques in the field of crime analysis. CPA looks for crime patterns and trends. Some of these methods and theories used in crime pattern analysis include criminology theories such as Routine Activity Theory, Rational Choice Theory, Repeat Victimization and Crime Pattern Analysis. Together these form the basis of CPA.

CPA is really just a procedure or method that encompasses the search for patterns. Patterns provide the Security Director with far greater predictive power when attempting to deter crime or apprehend criminals. As one crime researcher sums it: “Crime scientists look for patterns in crime so that they can find ways to disrupt it.”

Researchers Read and Oldfield describe CPA as “…identifying the nature and scale of crime within a particular area.” In this case, the area could be a certain neighborhood or even an office building, warehouse, apartment building or retail store.


Types and Stages of Patterns

There are three main types of crime pattern analyses as identified by crime researchers Brantingham and Brantingham. The first is spatial (a study of the relationship between crime and place) and temporal crime patterns (time, day, week, month and year of occurrence), with both being a study of different ecological and social profiles. The second type is based on the individual offender. The third type is a fusion of the two.

CPA also consists of three main stages. Stage One is collecting data on various crimes and then attempting to discern any patterns. Stage Two is analyzing why the patterns occurred and considerations and applications of deterrents. Stage Three is evaluating how successfully the chosen preventative technique reduced the crime.

An additional tool for crime pattern analysis is Crime Cluster Analysis, the practice of analyzing a group (cluster) of crimes with common characteristics. The clusters can be put into such categories as location of the crime, type of crime, way the crime had been committed, type of items stolen and even type of victim. Comparative Case Analysis, which is similar to and builds on Crime Cluster Analysis, relies on the analysis to determine whether or not a group of offenses were committed by the same offender or group of offenders. 


Steve Ballantyne


CPA also looks at repeat victimization. A large number of criminal incidents include repeat victimization. One study found that once a house has been burgled, its chance of repeat victimization was four times the rate of houses that had not been burgled before. Not only is there a high level of repeat victimization after the first offense, but surprisingly a high level of victimization that occurs again after one year (risk heterogeneity). Another study found that eight percent of the victims of automobile theft accounted for 22 percent of incidents surveyed. Repeat victimization has been shown to apply across a range of offenses: racial attacks, domestic violence, crime against businesses, corporate sites, school and college sites, bullying and property crime. 

Adding even more considerations into the field of CPA, crime researchers have even stated that burglaries may act in a communicable way and spread in space and time in a way similar to a disease. Therefore, areas beside where the burglary took place have an elevated risk of criminal offenses occurring. CPA and crime prevention strategies not only can be directed at the main “hotspot’ in a retail store or warehouse but can also be directed at the area next to it to lessen future criminal attempts. CPA can be used by security managers to essentially highlight the vulnerable areas in a retail store, office tower, apartment building, or any other area under the jurisdiction of the security director, and resources can be targeted to where they are most needed to prevent or deter crime.

CPA can also target the type of offender or offenders such as customer, employee, or the local burglar or gang. After analysis, security directors using CPA can usually follow patterns (offense, location, time, etc.) which can be broken down into trouble spots or “hot spots.” For example, in certain areas of a retail store there may be goods (“hot products”) that are more attractive to the criminal element (such as expensive computer games) or spots that may appear more vulnerable to the criminal. CPA can then be used to establish what particular problem there is and in what area of the store crime is likely to occur. Once this is known, it becomes easier and more effective to implement the necessary preventative strategies. 


CPA At Work

In addition to the preventative side of the equation, CPA can also help the security director determine whether the existing or upgraded security measures are working. An ongoing practice of CPA can combat and detect new or “improved” crimes that are occurring. CPA can also collect and collate this information to show how serious the crimes are – or aren’t – and justify the necessary expenditures to upper management.

CPA will also help security directors to prevent future crime, solve crimes, catch offenders and even improve safety for customers, employees and tenants. CPA may also reduce the liability of the property owners and their agents. CPA will enable security directors to keep score of their prevention strategies and gauge whether or not these strategies are working.

CPA will also help security directors stay ahead in creativity and innovation against the criminals targeting the organization. With such a large menu of benefits, CPA should be considered – and utilized – by all security directors.

Practicing security crime analyst Karim H. Vellani relates that, “Armed with the right information a [security director] can work to eradicate crime on the property holistically, by first understanding the origins of the problem, its enabling factors, and the preventative measures necessary to minimize, if not eliminate, emerging crime scenarios. This idea is appealing in that the [security director] is working to solve the base problem rather than the symptoms, and allows the [security director] to easily justify security expenditures.”

How does a security director practice CPA? It can be done simply with pen and paper or with the numerous sophisticated software programs such as Arc View that police departments use. If you’re interested in learning more about CPA, the International Association of Crime Analysis’s website at is a good place to start.  


About the Author:

Steve W. Ballantyne has an MSc in Security and Risk Management. He is a security management consultant with Securaglobe Solutions Inc. He can be reached at

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