Graph searching in a crime wave

David Richerby, Dimitrios M. Thilikos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We define helicopter cops and robber games with multiple robbers, extending previous research, which considered only the pursuit of a single robber. Our model is defined for robbers that are visible (their position in the graph is known to the cops) and active (they can move at any point in the game) but is easily adapted to other variants of the single-robber game that have been considered in the literature.We show that the game with many robbers is nonmonotone: that is, fewer cops are needed if the robbers are allowed to reoccupy positions that were previously unavailable to them. As the moves of the cops depend on the position of the visible robbers, strategies for such games should be interactive, but the game becomes, in a sense, less interactive as the initial number of robbers increases. We prove that the main parameter emerging from the game, which we denote mvams(G, r), captures a hierarchy of parameters between proper pathwidth and proper treewidth, and we completely characterize it for trees, extending analogous existing characterizations of the pathwidth of trees. Moreover, we prove an upper bound for mvams(G, r) on general graphs and show that this bound is reached by an infinite class of graphs. On the other hand, if we consider the robbers to be invisible and lazy, the resulting parameters collapse in all cases to either proper pathwidth or proper treewidth, giving a further case where the classical equivalence between visible, active robbers and invisible, lazy robbers does not hold.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-368
Number of pages20
JournalSIAM Journal on Discrete Mathematics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


  • Graph searching
  • Pathwidth
  • Treewidth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics


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