Opportunity and rationality as an explanation for suspicious vehicle fires: demonstrating the relevance of time, place, and economic factors

Hannah Kelly, Joe Clare, Kathryn Wuschke, Len Garis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Opportunity theories of crime emphasize the non-random spatial and temporal patterning of criminal events. Such theoretical development has proven useful when extended beyond traditional applications to crime event data. This study continues to explore the wider utility of such criminological theories by examining the spatio-temporal patterns of vehicle fires through an opportunity lens. Specifically, we explore the patterns associated with different types of vehicle fires, and consider longitudinal socio-economic trends that may influence the perceived costs and benefits associated with crimes committed with the intention of escaping debt, such as vehicle arson. Data for this study were obtained from Surrey Fire Services (2000–2015) and contain information about all vehicle fires occurring in Surrey, British Columbia (BC), Canada. Post-fire incident reports were used to group the fire data into non-suspicious and suspicious categories. Both categories were analyzed for local and global spatial clustering, hourly, daily, and monthly temporal patterns, and changes over the study period. Findings indicate that suspicious vehicle fire events concentrate in both space and time, and these patterns are distinct from non-suspicious vehicle fires. Further, suspicious vehicle fires events are significantly related to unemployment and interest rates, whilst non-suspicious vehicle fires are not. These results demonstrate the relevance of opportunity theories of crime to understanding vehicle fire patterns. By extension, this provides an important opportunity to connect such patterns with targeted crime (and fire) prevention policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages11
JournalCrime Science
Volume8
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2019

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