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Offender Profiling. Are we all Crackers?. Offender Profiling. What is a criminal profiler? What do they do? Grissom is a bug specialist in the fictional series, but he also uses psychology. Offender Profiling. The typical profiler seen as

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offender profiling

Offender Profiling

Are we all Crackers?

offender profiling2
Offender Profiling
  • What is a criminal profiler?
  • What do they do?
  • Grissom is a bug specialist in the fictional series, but he also uses psychology.
offender profiling3
Offender Profiling
  • The typical profiler seen as

“quintessential hero … pitted against our new and modern monster, the serial killer” (Oleson 1996)

It’s the new, sexy specialist job in forensic science.

But is its importance overrated?

offender profiling4
Offender Profiling
  • Historically police and psychology have not had a good relationship.
  • Police (in particular CID) believe that only information that can be used easily in court is worth gathering.
  • Psychologists have not always been recognised by courts
  • Until recently, that is!
criminal profiling
Criminal Profiling
  • 1888 – Thomas Bond, a police surgeon created a detailed description of Jack the Ripper,
  • But the ripper was never apprehended.
criminal profiling6
Criminal Profiling
  • William Langer, (1942) a psychiatrist, produced a profile of Adolf Hitler, diagnosing his mental state and correctly predicting what would happen were he to be defeated – i.e. suicide.
the mad bomber of new york
The Mad Bomber of New York
  • George Metesky
  • Series of bombs in New York 1956
  • James Brussel was able to produce a psychological profile of the suspect
  • Google the name for full story
  • Accurate even to style of dress!
the boston strangler
The Boston Strangler
  • Profiled as “two male schoolteachers living alone, one of whom was probably homosexual”
  • Albert DeSalvo – heterosexual construction worker living with his family
criminal profiling9
Criminal Profiling
  • So, one danger in profiling – possibility of “tunnel vision” of investigators.
  • Yorkshire Ripper – case in point
offender profiling current approaches
Offender Profiling Current Approaches


  • Incarcerated serial murderers (36) interviewed
  • Categorised into organised or disorganised
  • View crime scene for indicators
offender profiling current approaches american
Offender Profiling Current Approaches - American
  • Basis of FBI Approach is:
  • crime scene and MO as indicators of individual pathology
  • compare with known offenders
  • may fit pattern
offender profiling current approaches american12
Offender Profiling Current Approaches - American
  • Organised and disorganised murderers
  • Obtained from interviews with serial murderers, e.g. Manson, bundy
  • Based on analysis of Crime scene, say whether offender fits any of the criteria, and produce profile
  • Can be used to detect, but also to predict and therefore prevent
offender profiling current approaches american13
Offender Profiling Current Approaches - American
  • Aims of American profiling approach are
  • Reduce scope of investigation
  • Allow some prediction of future offences
  • Provide a psychological evaluation of belongings found in the murderers possession, e.g. souvenirs from previous offences
  • Provide strategies for interviewing.
offender profiling current approaches american14
Offender Profiling Current Approaches - American
  • Known as “holistic” or “top-down” approach
  • Data from scene and from MO compared with previously known information
  • Mainly with murderers in USA, not so often with lesser crimes
offender profiling current approaches british
Offender Profiling Current Approaches - British
  • British approach is less subjective
  • Called “bottom up” method, or “data-driven”,
  • Data is collected and analysed to produce definite, measured, specific associations between offences and offender characteristics.
offender profiling current approaches british16
Offender Profiling Current Approaches - British
  • Dominated by David Canter
  • Made his name with the “Railway Rapist” in 1985
david canter
David Canter
  • Traditionally, the only valuable clues at a crime scene were hard evidence, e.g.
  • blood,
  • semen
  • Fingerprints
  • Hair
  • etc.
david canter18
David Canter

Profiling proposes that there are also less recognised clues—

  • the choice of victim,
  • the location,
  • the nature of the assault,
  • what is and isn't left behind,
  • what is and isn't said to the victim,
  • whether or not the victim is killed—
  • which also define the offender. The problem is to interpret these clues correctly.
david canter19
David Canter
  • Over a period of four years, a series of sexual assaults and rapes, culminating in the murder of three women, had been committed in the London area.
  • The police had linked all these crimes to the same man but, despite extensive inquiries, had failed to make an arrest.
david canter20
David Canter

Canter went through each case in detail, looking at

  • the location,
  • time of day,
  • and the nature of the victim,

and drew up a profile of the likely suspect, including where he was likely to be living.

david canter21
David Canter
  • As a result of this profile, the police were able to focus their investigation on John Duffy, a man who had previously ranked no higher than 1,505th on the list of possible suspects and, within a comparatively short period of time, had gathered enough evidence to convict.
evaluation of profiling
Evaluation of Profiling
  • Undoubted potential if used properly by trained professionals
  • Some criticism is that it depends on over-reliance of “expert profilers” without the contribution of experienced police officers.
evaluation of profiling23
Evaluation of Profiling
  • Success rates?
  • 1981 FBI report:
  • 192 cases of profile generation, 88 arrests, of which 17% used the profile information.
evaluation of profiling24
Evaluation of Profiling
  • Success rates?
  • UK – Copson & Holloway – interviewed detectives.
  • 184 cases involving profiling
  • Of these, 2.7% profiling led directly to identification of offender
  • 16% where profiling had helped to solve
useful or not
Useful or Not?
  • Professional profilers vs detectives
  • Simulated detection of two cases, one sex, one murder
useful or not26
Useful or Not?
  • Profilers produced loads of rich information,
  • More accurate than non-profilers
  • Profilers best with sex offence
  • Detectives best with murder
useful or not27
Useful or Not?
  • Conclusion is that productive liaison between psychologists and police is the way forward.