Over recent years’ many aspects of law enforcement agencies have been keen to understand, challenge and contribute to the growing area of forensic psychology, (Alison 2011). This essay will detail some of the techniques used by law enforcement agencies to detect the offenders of the crime. A Serial killer is someone who commits at least three murders who were previously unknown to him or her, over a 30-day period with a significant cooling off period between each murder.
However, (Holmes and Holmes 2010) states that under this definition Andrew Cunanan who is an American spree killer, killed at least 5 people during a 3-month period would be categorized as a serial killer and not a spree killer. Whereas, (Haggerty and Ellerbrok, 2011) states this definition fails to incorporate many of the familiar characteristics associated with serial killers, these include the diverse influences of the mass media and their ability to select their victims, but Kocsis, (2006) states that serial killers should principally be defined by the psychological aspects of the offender rather than the number of victims. Aggrawl, 2005 states that Mass murder is the act of murdering a number of people, typically simultaneously or over a relatively short period of time and in close geographic proximity.
Holmes and Holmes, 1992, states that the number of persons has been the topic of debate but the number has been set between 3 and 4, however mass murders occur during an event with no cooling off period between the murders. Mass murder may be committed by individuals or organizations. The key characteristic of mass killers is the intent to murder a large amount of people in one place at one time, for example James Oliver Hubery Killed 21 people in a McDonalds before the Police killed him, (Holmes and Holmes, 2010). A Spree killer is someone who kills two or more victims at a particular time at multiple locations in a frenzied, random and apparently unpremeditated way with almost no cooling off period between murders, (Montaldo, 2018).
A Serial rapist is someone who commits two or more rapes, (Rape is a sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration against another’s will) which includes a cooling off period between rapes. There are three different styles of rape that are often used by serial rapists these are the con, the blitz and the surprise, these are the methods used in the way the offender selects, approaches and subdues a chosen victim, (What-when-how, n.d) Offender profiling this has been an area that has generated a high level of interest in both the academic field and the public, this has been a result of a few high prolific cases e.g. Jack the ripper and the Boston strangler, (Vettor, et al, 2013), offender profiling is perhaps the most debated as practitioners seek to understand the science behind this approach, (Alison et al 2004).
Offender profiling is mainly used by the police to narrow down possible likely suspects in cases where no physical evidence was left at the crime scene, however this method does not point to one specific offender and it is solely based on the probability that someone with certain characteristics is likely to have committed a certain type of crime, (Ebisike, 2008) however Ebisike (2008) states that in spite of the continuing media interest in the use of offender profiling, this technique is still not fully understood by many people including judges, lawyers and jurors who weigh this evidence at trial and see it as a tried and tested method of identifying suspects, (Ebisike, 2008).
Offender profiling is the belief that characteristics of an offender can be arrived at and a conclusion can be drawn from careful consideration of all the characteristics of the offence, this is achieved by examining all available information about a crime, the crime scene, and the victim in order to draw up a profile of the unknown perpetrator likely to commit such a crime, (Ainsworth, 2012). However, the apprehension of the offenders would be greatly improved by enhancing police decision making and leadership skills, improving methods of interviewing witnesses and victims, developing accurate methods of recording, collecting and analysing data on pre-convictions of offenders, (Alison 2011). Offender profiling uses both psychology and the law, these are fundamentally concerned with describing, analysing, understanding, explaining, predicting and sometimes shaping human behaviour, (Carson et al, 2007).
Profiling has traditionally involved the process of predicting the likely socio-demographic characteristics of an offender from information found at the scene of the crime, (Alison, 2011). Offender profiling is based on the understanding that even though the offender’s behaviour may change and grow over time, a crime will still have the same key psychological signatures that will remain consistent and therefore can be interpreted to provide further insight into the offender’s motivations, social and occupational status criminality and personality, (Grubin, 1995).
This is shown in Briton’s (1997) profile of John Bostock, this profile was able to show the offenders age range, his sexual immaturity, lack of social skills, physical strength and employment, this form of offender profiling makes it suitable for exploring serious crimes such as sexual assaults and murder. Offender profiling continues to be plagued by a broad range of questions about its aim, definition and impact, (Cope, 2011). It has been noted that there has been some confusion within the police about how to use the information from a profile in the course of an investigation and how the information provided was to be used, was this to be taken as advice, direct an investigation or to be used in court to support the prosecution, (Copson, 1995).
When getting a profile wrong it can lead to considerable consequences, the case of Paul Britton’s involvement in the murder of Rachel Nickel on Wimbledon Common which led to the arrest, prosecution and the acquittal of Colin Stagg is one such example this case was dismissed, the judge rejected the use of profiles as evidence stating the court “would not wish to give encouragement either to investigating or prosecuting authorities to supplement their cases on this basis”, (Ormerod, 1999).
However behavioural science can make a real contribution towards the training and enhancing the professional standards of the police way beyond the traditional approaches to offender profiling (Alison 2011). Whilst Kocsis, (2006) states despite the fact profiling has been around for 25 years, many claim that it is still in its infancy, however profiling remains popular despite a shortfall in scientific support, the media attention, its hype and sensationalism has fuelled belief that profiling is error free and faultless. Criminal profiling can be helpful, but it is far from perfect as there is no said proof that we can predict human behaviour.
Human behaviour is unpredictable and people react differently to varying situations and no situation is ever the same and this makes criminal profiling a limited tool for criminal investigation. Geographical offender profiling is an information system and investigative application which tries to determine where the offenders base location is, using information about where they carry out their crimes. It was realised that it could be estimated where an offender was likely to be based from an analysis of the geographical locations of the offender’s crimes, this indicates a possible area in which the police should begin their search, and this can be applied in cases of serial murder, rape, arson, robbery and bombings.
In addition to determining the offenders most likely area of residence, an understanding of the spatial pattern of a crime scene and the characteristics of the crime sites can inform the investigator of other useful information, this can include if the crime was opportunistic and the level of familiarity the offender has with the crime location, these are based on the connection between an offenders behaviour and if they have committed any crime(s) before (Canter and Youngs, 2017).
Maps are important analytic tools and can display enormous amounts of information in a readily understandable form, however they can also be misleading, for example if a crime map shows that crime rates are high in a poor neighbourhood then two possible conclusions can be drawn from that information, one that most people in that neighbourhood are offenders or that people are offenders because they are poor however in most cases this is just not the case in fact most poor people are very honest, (Rossmo, 1999).
The primary geographic technique used is a computerized system called Criminal Geographic Targeting (CGT), this assess the spatial characteristics of crimes, it analyses the geographic coordinates of the offenders crimes and produces a colour map, this then assigns the probabilities to different points for the most likely area of the offenders home or base. Profilers often use tools such as Rigel, Crime stat or Gemini to perform the analysis, these programs assist crime analysts and investigators to focus their resources more effectively by highlighting the crucial areas, (Sammons, 2018). Geographical profiling can be used to identify when a number of offences are linked e.g. carried out by the same offender, this helps the police to focus on the investigation, it can be used to predict characteristics of the offender(s) reasonable for a series of offences, where they are likely to live, what knowledge they have for a particular area, understanding the link between offending and location, why certain areas attract more crime than others and help police and other official bodies target crime prevention resources in the right areas, (Sammons, 2018). There are two fundamental aspects that help in the determination of the possible location of the offender’s home or base, these are pro-pinquity, this is the probability of the crime locations to drop off in stages as the distance from their home or base increases and morphology, this is the tendency for the crimes to take place around the offender’s home or base, (Canter et al, 2012). The offenders journey has two features, one is the way their home or where they are based acts as a focus for their actions and the other is the geographical scale in which they operate.
Research studies have shown there has been an importance put on the journeys the offenders take to determine the spatial range of criminal activity, these then become the offenders comfort zones, these zones provide the offender with the belief that they are acting in an area of safety, (Canter, 2007). The circle theory of environmental range shows that in many cases the offenders lived fairly close to where they commit their offences, it works by drawing a circle that encompasses all of the crimes that are linked and it will show that the offender will be based somewhere within the circle, there does seem to be a fair amount of support for this as 85 per cent of offenders lived inside the circle, (Sammons, 2018).
The home or base of an offender can be found in various forms for example, it can be a car or the childhood home they grew up in instead of the home they live in now, when this is taken into consideration it shows that the offender can choose anywhere to offend. It has been found that the main differences between serial killers and rapists is reflected in the size of the geographical range in which they operate, for example in the case of serial killer Fred West he did not take any of his victims from more than a few miles from his house in Gloucester, however in the case of John Duffy the railway rapist and murderer he had a geographical pattern that spread from the Kilburn area of London and killed them at a point of a triangle each thirty miles away from each other, (Canter, 2007).
Mental maps, people develop mental representations of the world around them, this is even more so in the areas that they use on a frequent basis, these mental maps do not in any way represent reality and these perspectives and experiences change from one individual to another. As offender’s offences are likely to be influenced by their mental map of an area they use or know quite well for, example the profiler Canter used the locations of John Duffy’s attacks to predict that he would be someone with more knowledge of the railway network, than just someone using the railway to commute to work and it turned out that Duffy was employed as a carpenter by British rail, (Sammons, 2018).
However geographical profiling is not without its problems, for this to work it requires accurate data on the offences that have been committed in an area, but police data on crimes is limited and this leads to the under-reporting of the crime, this then leads to the crime maps that are produced from this information are likely to be incomplete, (Sammons, 2018). Crime analysis draws on a range of techniques to explore the relationship between the data to understand crime and its ability to influence key decision making. Crime analysis is more than simply providing a descriptive account of crime through the use of maps, graphs and network charts, it looks to interpret and explain the data. However, this is not to weaken the value of scientific representations of crime but works on the importance of supporting both the intellectual and the technical aspects of crime analysis within policing. Exploring social contexts of crime data is key in its role to help analysis as it faces the challenge of the quality of information and the desire and the potential to share information within all agencies.