Crime Assessment

From the analysis of the crime scene, the investigator should be able to determine some of the characteristics of the perpetrator, which will be of use to the investigating police. According to Ressler et al, 1988, criminal profiling is a six stage process. The first stage is referred to as the profiling inputs, and concerns the collection of all the information that might be of use to the solving of the crime. This includes photos of the crime scene, the preliminary police report, information about the victim and of all the collected forensic information.

The second stage is the decision process models in which the information is organised and a preliminary analysis is conducted. The third stage of the profiling process, Crime Assessment, is presumably the inspiration for the profiler in which he attempts to reconstruct the crime in his or her head. This is where the offender attempts to 'walk in the shoes' of the perpetrator and the victim, or what the media describe as 'getting into the mind of the killer' it is at this stage that the crime is categorised as organised or disorganised.

The fourth stage is when the criminal profile is actually constructed. The profile actually attempts to describe the person who committed the offence and strategies for apprehending the offender. The following elements are usually found in a profile: age, race, sex, and general appearance of the offender; the offenders relationship status and any notable points about his relationship history; his likely occupation and any notable features about his or hers employment, education, or military record.

The profiler will also includes whether the offender was familiar with the area. This would also include whether the offender is an organised or disorganised personality. It also contains certain strategies for interrogating, identifying and apprehending the offender. Stage five, the investigation, is where the profiler submits a written report to the agency investigating the crime, which is added to their investigative efforts. If a suspect is identified the profile is deemed to have been successful.

If any additional information is given to the profilers, such as new evidence or an another connected murder, the information is give to the profiler so that the new information can be re-evaluated in light of the new data. The sixth stage is The Apprehension, and assumes that the correct offender has been caught. The profiler and the profiling process are evaluated in terms of the actual offender, in order that future profiling may even be more accurate.

One of the most important factors of the CSA model of criminal profiling is the dichotomous categorisation of offenders as organised or disorganised offenders, but how useful is this distinction? Holmes and Holmes (1996) for example, state that these categories are more useful in 'lust killings' than in other sorts of serial murder that do not show evidence of sexual motives. Although the concepts of the organised or disorganised offenders are discussed at great length in Ressler, et al, 1988, they do not attempt to use the data from the offenders in their sample of the study conducted to explain or support this typology.

Ressler and Shachtman hypothesise that about one third of all serial killers are disorganised offenders, and the remaining two thirds are organised offenders, but offer no data to support the claims. Wilson et al (1997) claim that it is actually a continuum between organised and disorganised than two distinct types, with many offenders falling into the mixed category, displaying features of both the disorganised and organised offenders. The real truth is, we simply do not know. There have never been any published empirical studies on the differences between various subtypes of serial offenders.

The organised/disorganised typology is the brain child of the BSU, and although they have published information about it, they have never actually articulated any theoretical basis for the typology on which a study might be based. Ressler et al provides an excellent example of how politics and ideology influences one's objectivity. The FBI, as North America's premier law enforcement organisation is based upon white middle class conservative views, a fact admitted by many of the agents themselves (Ressler & Shachtman, 1992; Douglas & Olshaker, 1995).

It is not surprising that the FBI experts believe that serial killers often come from broken homes, where they are often raised by a single mother, and report daydreaming, masturbation, confusion about sexual preference and an interest of pornography as features of their child hood. It is also important to remember that the only thing that has been determined so far is a correlation between factors such as abuse or neglect in childhood and serial killers. This does not simply imply that serial offending is caused by having a difficult childhood or an obsession with pornography.

Egger (1997) describes one serial killer, Arthur Shawcross, who did not show any evidence of coming from a dysfunctional home or violent family. Rather than Shawcross's offending being environmental, as the CSA might argue, they appeared to be biological, with Shawcross being involved in a number of serious incidents, some of which involved serious cerebral concussion. This would indeed cast some doubts on the validity of the CSA paradigm of the development of serial offending. Investigative Psychology, the British Approach.

Unlike the CSA, the IP is more a collection of related theories and hypotheses than a comprehensive methodology. Investigative psychology originated in Britain, mainly due to the work of David Canter, an environmental psychologist, then the head of the Psychology Department at the University of Surrey (Canter, 1989). Canter (1994) reports that he was first approached by the British police in 1985, who were then interested in determining whether psychology had anything to offer police to help them apprehend criminals.

Although he observes that the police are often resistant to anything new, or outsiders telling them how they should do their jobs, Canter's advice proved to be ver helpful to the police in catching John Duffy. Duffy, who was dubbed the 'Railway Rapist' by the media, committed approximately twenty five rapes and three murders in London 1982 and 1986 (Nowikowski, 1995). Since that case, Canter has worked on over sixty murder and rape cases in the United Kingdom (Casey, 1993).

Canter, (1989) claims that psychology is directly applicable to crime as crime can be seen as an interpersonal transaction, in which criminal are performing actions in a social context (often between themselves and their victim). He argues that our methods of psychological interaction are ingrained into our personalities and reasons that actions the criminal performs while engaging in a crime are a direct reflections of the way they will act in other, more normal, circumstances. He postulated five broad approaches with which psychology can be used to profile offenders.