Compare different approaches to creating a profile

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Making a case
Creating a profile
Compare different approaches to creating a profile
Offender profiling aims to help in the identification, apprehension and conviction of an unknown criminal by
describing the likely social, mental and physical characteristics of the criminal. There are two main types of offender
profiling: top-down approach (US) and bottom-up approach (UK).
The US top-down approach was pioneered by US FBI agents such as Douglas. Their approach was created by
interviewing convicted murderers and creating distinct typologies into which criminals tend to fit. Criminals can be
assigned to typologies by analysing the crime-scene to look for certain pieces of evidence. For example, one of the
typologies identified by Douglas was organised/disorganised criminals. Organised criminals can be identified from
the crime-scene as they tend to remove evidence from the crime scene and crimes tend to be pre-planned and
carefully thought-out. In contrast, disorganised offenders tend to leave evidence at the crime scene because crimes
tend to be spontaneous. From these typologies, characteristics of the criminal can be inferred. This approach is called
the "Top-down" approach because they identify the typology from the crime scene and look for details to support
this hypothesis.
On the contrary, the bottom-up approach tries to build up an individual profile of the criminal through scientific data
analysis, rather than intuition. David Canter developed the bottom-up approach after he became interested in a case
in which 24 women had been attacked in and around the railway stations of London. He began plotting the crimes on
a map and studying them chronologically as he believed that characteristics of the crime would reflect characteristics
of the criminal. He developed a profile of the offender based upon how he had interacted with his victims and he put
forward his marauder/commuter theory which stated the location in which he believed the offender would live. The
offender profile included social characteristics (has a few male friends but lacks female friends), mental
characteristics (keeps himself to himself, has knowledge of the railway stations) and physical characteristics (mid to
late 20's, light hair). From this profile John Duffy was put under surveillance and eventually arrested and convicted.
In summary, both approaches aim to create typologies in order to propose characteristics of the criminal which might
help to lead to the identification and conviction of an offender. They also both believe that characteristics of the
crime will reflect characteristics of the criminal; however the bottom-up approach is based on statistical data-analysis
and individualistic profiling rather than designated typologies and intuitive analysis. Both approaches have led to
high-profile arrests and convictions using their methods, however both approaches have relatively low levels of
success in day-to-day policing- 17% of top-down profiles and 16% of bottom-up profiles have led to arrests.


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