Offender Profiling

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  1. What does offender profiling entail?
    • Initially developed by the FBI
    • Involves the interpretation of a crime scene to cast light on the identity of the perpetrator
    • Most useful for crimes such as rape and arson
  2. What do offender profiles include?
    • Demographics
    • Criminal history 
    • Socio-economic status
    • Employment 
    • Education 
    • Relationships 
    • Residence 
    • Psychopathology 
    • Personality
  3. Describe the clinical procedural approach to offender profiling and give a reference
    • Doesn't attempt to solve case, only provide insight into the life of the criminal and the nature of the crime 
    • Uses expertise from forensic mental health as well
    • Copson et al 1997 & Boon 1997
    • Case material looked at
    • Crime scene visited 
    • Crime type inferred at a fundamental level (murder etc)
    • Extrapolated to a more specific level (weapons used etc)
    • Reconstruction of events is inferred contemplating the questions of What?, How? and To whom?
    • Motives are inferred; looking for emotions, desires, moods and psychopathy, and bring in factors from relevant literature 
    • The crime is related to existing personality theories and the literature is drawn upon
    • Social and demographic factors are introduced
  4. What are the problems with the clinical approach?
    • Profilers are trying to please the police meaning they could over-interpretate data
    • Close interaction with the officer leaves the profiler open to allegations of improper collusion, such as tailoring a profile to fit a known suspect, or devising some interviewing strategy which is unethical or even unlawful.
    • Recording is difficult and time consuming due to the sheer amount of data meaning reports take a long time and aren't always published 
    • The reduction of a wealth of information into a single report could mean it is misinterpreted
    • Copson et al (1997)
  5. What does criminal investigative analysis entail?
    • Typologies are developed from interviews with 36 sexually motivated serial killers (Wilson et al, 1997) as well as the combined expertise of the investigative experience of members of the FBI behavioural science unit 
    • Either classified as organised, disorganised or mixed (Jackson and Bekerian, 1997)
  6. What is the statistical method of profiling?
    • Attributed to Canter (2000)
    • Assumes offender profiling is similar to psychology (we use psychometric tests to predict future behaviour in the workplace)
    • Use databases of solved crimes and apprehended criminals to generate statistically derived relationships between crime scene and offender and make predictions about the characteristics of the suspect in question 
    • Theories are based in research, doing things such as grouping crimes together and looking at the characteristics of caught offenders to see if there is a common element that can be looked for (Canter & Heritage, 1990)
  7. What studies support the statistical approach?
    • Davies, Wittebrood & Jackson (1997) 
    • 210 rape cases drawn from 33 British police forces
    • Offence variables correlate with at least one offender variable
    • Several variables predict previous convictions (e.g. fingerprint precautions,
    • semen destruction)
    • 3 models out of 9 perform better than chance by more than 10%
    • Little differentiation overall
  8. Describe 2 satisfaction studies for offender profiling
    • Copson (1995)
    • -  Profiling advice helped in 14.1% of investigations
    • –  Useful in 82.6%; identify offender in 2.7%
    • –  Helps comfort investigator in own judgement
    • –  Statistical not as useful as clinical

    • Alison, Smith & Morgan (2003)
    • –  Opportunity sample of 46 police officers
    • –  Fake profile rated as accurate as real one
    • –  Fake profile judged as useful as real one
    • –  ‘Barnum effect’  Find sense in ambiguous statements (Michael Gladwell, The New Yorker, 12 November 2007)
  9. Describe 2 studies assessing the usefulness of profiling
    • Alison et al (2003)’s analysis of offender profiles
    • –  880 statements
    • –  82% unsubstantiated
    • –  30% falsifiable
    • –  1.4% substantiated

    • Kocsis et al. (2000, 2002)
    • –  Profilers perform somewhat better
    • –  Police performs worst
    • –  Investigative experience doesn’t play a part
    • –  Analytical skills matter more
  10. What is the actions characteristics relationship?
    • Coined by Canter (1995)
    • There is a relationship between the way an offender acts at the scene of the crime and their characteristics and personality
  11. What is the homology assumption?
    • Coined by Mokros and Alison (2002)
    • The assumption that offenders who act a similar way at the scene of the crime will be similar in terms of characteristics and personality
  12. Describe a study into the homology assumption
    • Doan & Snook (2008)
    • Outlined 6 studies of the assumption involving arsons, rapes and robberies 
    • Little supporting evidence was found
    • This could be because crime scenes are assumed to be equally indicative of behaviour and not the interpersonal psychological factors at play at the time (Goodwill & Alison, 2007)
  13. What are the main assumptions that come with offender profiling?
    • Evidence from crime scenes is accurate and complete
    • Known criminals are like unknown ones 
    • Offenders can be typecast into different classifications
  14. What is offence linkage?
    • Links are formed between previously unconnected crimes using M.O, physical evidence, victimology and crime scene analysis comparisons as well as the assumption that offenders can be differentiated based on their offence
    • Found to be useful for linkage on some factors but not others (behavioural indicators performed poorly) and some offence types cannot be linked as effectively 
    • Situational factors could affect different types of offences and crime scene factors to different extents
  15. What are the uses of offence linkage?
    • Can be used to detect geographical areas of distinct offender territory (Tonkin et al, 2011)
    • The size of this territory has also been found to reduce the likelihood of capture as it increases (Lammers & Bernasco 2013)
    • Dutch DNA database suggests the more dispersed the crime, the less likely it is to be solved
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Offender Profiling
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