An examination of the relationship between distance travelled and motivational aspects of firesetting behaviour

Katarina Fritzon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


This paper offers a model of the spatial behaviour of arsonists based on motivational aspects of the offence. The relationships between the distances travelled to set fires and both crime-scene features and offender background characteristics were tested using Smallest Space Analysis (SSA). This showed that arsonists whose behaviour contained a strong emotional component tended to travel much shorter distances, on average, than arsonists who sought direct instrumental benefits from setting fires. Where a specific individual was targeted in a revenge attack, the arsonist was prepared to travel the greatest distance overall. A three-dimensional projection of the SSA revealed that these differences in distances travelled exist empirically as distinct regions in the SSA space. An analysis of associations between distance travelled and the personal characteristics of arsonists revealed that similar patterns exist. Arsonists who had recently separated from a partner were more likely to travel greater distances, due to the target-specific nature of these fires. There were also trends associated with the age of the arsonist, with the relationship between age and distance travelled being represented by an inverse U-curve. The findings of this study support previous research findings, namely that expressive crimes occur closer to home than instrumental crimes. However, this study also enriches our understanding of specific features of arsons that particularly influence the spatial behaviour of the individuals committing them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-60
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2001
Externally publishedYes


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