Offender profiling Paper Example

Offender profiling aims to present a composite description of a perpetrator, based on biographical and behavioural cues that can lead to the apprehension of that perpetrator. Profiling techniques have been used to narrow the focus of an investigation (by specifying the perpetrators location, sex or age) or to provide suggestions for interviewing suspects (McCann, 1992). As a result of collecting data and analysing evidence, the use of such techniques have led to arrests of serious criminals such as John Duffy (UK), who murdered his victims near railways

(Canter 1989). This assignment will aim to compare and contrast the FBI's 'Crime Scene Analysis' of offender profiling with that of David Canter's 'Five Factor Model. The strengths and weaknesses of each approach will be highlighted including the main differences between profiling in the USA and UK. Due to the rapid increase of serial murders and rapes in the USA within the 1970's, the FBI invented the first systematic approach of offender profiling. Counteracting the rising numbers of serial murders lead to the development to the Behavioural Sciences Unit (BSU).

BSU interviewed 36 convicted sexually orientated murderers and classified them into organised (average / above average intelligence, crime planned) or disorganised (low intelligence, messy crime scene, clues left behind) typologies, depending on demographic and crime scene characteristics (Burger et al, 1986). The typologies were incorporated into the crone classification manual, a guide for the FBI investigators producing offender profiles (Ressler et al, 1992). Although the FBI claims that their work is backed up empirical research, their results are criticised for methodological weaknesses present within the research.

Coleman and Morris (2000) state that results gained from research that lacks a control group should be generalised to other groups within society. Also, Canter and Alison (2000) consider FBI profiling to be retrospective self reporting information and caution should be taken due to the factor of recall bias. The FBI profile has also led Wilson et al (1997) to argue that the organised / disorganised typology depends on offenders having a consistent pattern of motivation, which is not always the case.

The validity and reliability of the crime classification manual have also come under criticisms, due to the absence of an underlying psychological theoretical framework (Muller 2000). In contrast to the USA, the United Kingdom has no one agreed definition of offender profiling, rather consisting of profilers who exhibit differing conceptual models. Whilst at the university of Surrey, Professor David Canter was approached by the metropolitan police for his psychological assistance in catching the railway killer John Duffy.

As a result of the profile produced by Canter, John Duffy was located, arrested and charged with 2 murders and 5 rapes in 1988. Canter (1994) argued that offenders have an internal consistency, where their behaviour at the crime scene will be similar to their behaviour in the non-offending everyday world. As a result of this Canter (1994) brings to mind the importance of interviewing victims of what was said to them by the offender at the time of the crime, perhaps giving an indication of how the offender normally interacts with others in the non-offending world.

For example, a rapist who apologises after committing the sexual act may have raped as a result of not knowing how to form intimate relationships in the non-offending world (Canter & Heritage, 1990). A positive feature of Canter's work, in contrast to the FBI research, is that the academic community can examine and reproduce his work as it is published in scientific journals (Rossmo, 1995). Although Critics of Canter believe that statistical analysis is creditable, crime data is flawed by poor police data collection and potential victim/witness mistaken memories (Coleman & Norms, 2000).

In spite of that, FBI approaches have undoubtedly contributed to our understanding to certain types of crimes as well as identifying the kind individuals most likely to commit these crimes. In the USA, between 1979 and 1983 the BSU conducted a large study in which they entered into correctional facilities and interviewed offenders about their previous criminal history, including crimes, crime scenes and victims. Sources such as court transcripts and criminal records were used to support the information provided by the offenders.

The data collected forms the basis for the profiling method they developed and is still in use in many jurisdictions today (Dessler et al, 1988). As a result of the data the FBI created Crime Scene Analysis (CSA), which involves six steps that collectively make up their profiling process (Dessler, 1988). 'Profiling input' is the first of these steps and involves the collection and assessment of all materials relating to the specific case. This stage includes all and any relevant information that is necessary to establish an accurate picture about what happened before, during and after the crime.

This is seen to be a crucial stage as any incorrect information may subsequently affect the whole analysis thus producing an inaccurate profile. Douglas at al, (1982) believe this to be important as the information gathered can generate an educated guess about the offender, getting more specific with supplementary information, for example, photographs. 'Decision processing model' is the second stage, which simply involves put together all the information gathered in the previous stage into a logical and coherent pattern, with the aim of determining whether the offender could be a serial offender.

The third stage is 'crime assessment', which concentrates on the reconstruction of the interaction between the victim and the offender. This will aid the analyst in understanding the role each individual had in the crime and should assist in developing the subsequent profile of the criminal. This stage could also help to narrow the search, allowing the investigators to focus on individuals with very similar personality traits of others, who have committed similar types of crimes (Pinizzotto, 1984). The forth stage is the 'criminal profile', in which a list of background, physical and behavioural characteristics of the offender are provided.

This stage would also inform investigators how to identify and apprehend the perpetrator. This stage could also provide an indication to whether or not future attacks are likely, lowering the number of possible victims (Oremerod, 1996). The fifth stage is known as 'the investigation', where the profile is provided to the agencies and altered if new information becomes available. The apprehension is the sixth stage and includes the cross checking of the profile with the characteristics of the captured offender.

This however maybe very doubtful as the offender may never be incarcerated, incarcerated in another jurisdiction and not available for cross checking, arrested for some other reason or simply cease criminal activity. The principal foundation of the FBI system is situated within the organised and disorganised offender dichotomy (Geberth, 1996). For example, It sees the organised offender as socially competent, living with partner and having average to above average intelligence. The unorganised offender on the other hand is seen to be socially inadequate, living alone and having a below average intelligence.

Other individuals are also highly critical of the FBI's methods. Holmes and DeBurger (1988) argue that federal agencies like the FBI have minimal experience in investigating murder cases, opting rather to suggest that it would be better for local agencies to train their own officers in the particulars of such investigations. A criticism of the FBI could also be that there could be instances where an organised offender may eventually leave a disorganised crime scene (Turvey, 1999). These offenders could be acting out in retaliation, domestic violence related offenders or because they are not mentally well at the time of the crime i.

e. depression (Turvey, 1999). This would lead to analysts to incorrectly provide the characteristics of one group of offenders as the profile, when in actual fact, the offender possesses the characteristic of another group, if a group at all, as in some instances, it may not be possible to place people into categories for example, almost everyone experiences some from depression and can do things that they would not have done if they were not experiencing depression but this does not necessarily mean that their characteristics will change.

So in order to categorise depressed offenders, they need to be interviewed in the depressed state, which can be impossible to carry out such an investigation Despite these criticisms, without a doubt the FBI's offender profiling method remains one of the most used and taught methods in the world today (Alison et al, 2003). The Bureaus Fellowship Programme teaches their profiling methods and provides training to carry out criminal investigations to various police forces around the world.

David Canter uses similar methods to that employed by the FBI, as they are both largely statistical in nature. However, the difference with Canter is that the offender database on which he bases his theories is continually being updated (Egger, 1998). The data is statistical as the offender groups are defined by studying known offender populations, resulting in the production of a list of likely characteristics that maybe possessed by the unknown offender as a result of their similarity to the known offender group.

The application of Canter's work rests upon five aspects of the interaction between the victim and the offender, referred to as the five-factor model. The first factor with in the model is 'interpersonal Coherence', which refers to the similarities of the offender's interactions in the offending situation and the non-offending situation (Egger, 1998). Canter argues that offender will interact with their victims in similar ways that they deal with people in their day-to-days lives. Additionally, according to Canter (1989), the victims may represent important people in the life of the offender.

One example of this would be Ted Bundy, whose victim selection was understood to have represented his ex-girlfriend. The 'significance of time and place' is the second factor, providing information on the offender's geographical mobility. The time and the place a crime is committed is dependent on the offender and so learning about this could give us an insight into their work and provide clues about their personal life. The third factor is 'criminal characteristics' which are used by researchers to develop and provide characteristics of the perpetrators in the current crime.

Organised and disorganised is an examples of system used by the FBI in identifying criminal characteristics, though Wilson and Soothill (1996) believe there to be too much overlap between the two classifications. The fourth factor is referred to as 'Criminal career'. This basically refers to a measurement to identify whether the offender may have engaged in previous criminal activity and what kind of activity this may have been. A carefully prepared profile maybe an aid in helping solve past crimes. The fifth factor in the model is 'forensic awareness', which refers to the offenders to police investigative procedures and techniques.

For example, this may include the use of gloves, disposing of evidence, wearing a condom or bathing a victim after an attack to remove evidence of pubic hair. Canter (1993) conducted a study developing the circle theory as a model of offender behaviour. The "marauder" and "commuter" were the two models of hypothesis developed from the circle theory. The marauder model stipulates that the offender will commit their crimes in a very close region to their home (base), where as the commuter model assumes that the offender will be prepared to travel a long distance away from their home in order to commit their crimes.

However, there is little evidence, which can assist the practitioner in replicating the circle theory to form an actual investigation. In the original study both the offender's and homes and crimes were know as it looked at solved cases. Therefore, this would allow investigators to question the practical model in question, as it would be virtually impossible to identify whether the offender you were dealing with was a marauder or a commuter. Also, there is no precise definition of the distance.

A commuter committing a crime 10 miles away from his house may feel that he is near his home, unlike a marauder who maybe committing a crime 5 miles away from his house thinking he is too far from his home. This suggests that circle theory allows for a subjective interpretation to determine whether an offender was close or further away from his home. Some writers have began to argue that this work by Canter (1993) does not offer anything new as Cnter has simply adapted theories that were already being used by the FBI and others (Wilson et al, 1997).

Also, as this method is dependant upon statistical procedures and references to typologies in completion of a profile, it may suffer from similar limitations as the FBI model, when applying it in a setting other then that in which the stats were gathered, as a result having low ecological validity Hollin (1992) indicates that the British model of profiling is dependent upon examining existing evidence to identify specific similarities between offences and offender characteristics and as a result, should be viewed as bottom-up processing model.

In contrast, according to Hollins (1992), the American model is dependent on subjective conclusions that come from investigative experiences of crimes and the type of perpetrators and therefore should be viewed as top-down processing. It maybe argued that unlike David Canters (British) approach in which implement a scientific methodology and statistical profiling, the FBI do not validate their theories and beliefs, on the contrary, opting to use methods that are subjective rather then objective and nor was any statistical test performed to establish the validity the validity of their conclusions.

Additionally, the use of a sample consisting of 36 people is to unrepresentative and applying to results and findings to a wider population can be extremely difficult. This can lead to profiles being developed where the suspected offenders characteristics are being placed to fit, even though they would not fit the profile. Nonetheless, statistical processes such as those of David Canter may have their weaknesses, they are at lest clear and unambiguous, allowing other researchers to replicate studies in order to test hypothesis and or developing competing hypothesis.

The use of profiling is questionable in the court of law and many legal systems will not recognise a profiler as an expert witness. This has led Alison et al (2003) to recommend that profiling be treated with extreme caution in criminal investigation and should not be used as evidence in the courts until research has proven its predictive validity. In conclusion, it maybe relevant to point out that the use of profiling does have merit in certain cases although more research and investigations are needed to validate its continued use and the profiling appears unclear as this happens.