Geographical Behavior of Stranger Offenders in Violent Sexual Crimes Analyzed Using ViCLAS DATA – GERMANY (2010–2019)
In the vast majority of sex offenses, offender and victim know each other. However, violent sexual assaults perpetrated by strangers often incite strong feelings of fear in the community. Furthermore, rapes by strangers often pose considerable challenges and concern for law enforcement agencies. They are often faced with a multitude of complex and delicate tasks with regard to the handling of these cases. Cases of rape by a stranger are the most difficult for law enforcement to solve, especially in the absence of physical evidence, eyewitness identification, or a confession that would link the offender directly to the crime. For these reasons, investigative efforts in such cases place a strong focus on the offender’s crime scene behavior, in the hopes of identifying how the offender committed the crime and, accordingly, how this information can be used to narrow the scope of the investigation and possibly identify the offender at large. Spatial patterns or geographic mobility patterns that pertain to the criminal event may be useful to investigators. In fact, knowledge of such patterns can also be used for preventive purposes and help further reveal the theoretical underpinnings of such crimes.
In spite of the instructive value to both researchers and practitioners, the empirical literature on this specific area of sexual violence remains relatively underdeveloped. Therefore, the aim of this research project is to provide empirical findings that may help investigators better understand these crimes and help advance the theoretical understanding of and preventive measures for such cases. In short, research efforts into the spatial or geographic dynamics that underlie violent sexual crimes involving offending strangers will help narrow gaps in theoretical and applied knowledge on this particular type of crime.
By using ViCLAS data from a German data set spanning 2010 to 2019, variables that capture sociodemographic, geographical, and lifestyle characteristics of victims and offenders prior to the crime are used to investigate target selection behavior and motivation as well as approach strategy. In so doing, different hypotheses are tested, e.g., that rape and sexual homicide are characterized by the regional orientation of the offender, that the distance between the offender’s residence and the location of the crime are relatively close in proximity, and that the geographic mobility or distances traveled by the offender to commit the sexual assault vary across motivation classifications. As of mid-2022, data received from the German Federal Criminal Police Office in 2021 will be processed for further data analysis.