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Crime Linkage: From Research to Effective Practice

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Curtailing the offending of serial offenders through their detection and apprehension has many benefits including limiting the harm they can cause to future victims. In the absence of traditional forensic evidence to link crimes together (and potentially to an offender), practitioners can use behavioural information. This can include modus operandi, spatial and temporal information. This practice of identifying crimes that share behavioural similarities and potentially confirming them to be a linked series is referred to using the umbrella term of “crime linkage”.  Having been trained in forensic psychology, my belief that crime linkage must be evidence-based has driven my research and activities in this area since I moved from crime linkage practice to academia. To ensure crime linkage is evidence-basedrequires close collaboration between academics and practitioners so that the needs of practitioners inform research, and research findings are integrated into practice.

Crime linkage has a research history that spans decades, however it is only since 2001 that research in this field has really advanced. A body of research has now amassed on the assumptions that underpin crime linkage for a range of crime types. In this talk I will outline how the assumptions underpinning crime linkage have held up to empirical scrutiny and what this means for its use for intelligence and evidential purposes.  In 2013, I foundedthe C-LINK (Crime Linkage International NetworK) and, as a result, have been fortunate to work with other key researchers and practitioners in this field. What has become apparent from recent C-LINK meetings is that while good work may have been done in assessing the foundations of crime linkage, a disconnect exists between crime linkage research and practice. During the talk, I outline the nature of this disconnect and how the activities of the C-LINK aim to close the gap between research and practice.