Offender Profiling

Offender Profiling

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  • Created on: 16-06-12 15:45
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Offender Profiling
Holmes (1989) defined Offender Profiling as a method of helping to identify the perpetrator of a
crime based on the native of the offence and the manner in which it is committed. They are four main
goals of using offender profiling, these are narrowing down the number of suspects, the
characteristics of offenders, and consult with the police about strategies and advise the police on
where the offender lives, possible motives and type of crime. The big question around offender
profiling is if offender profiling is accurate and effective way of identifying the perpetrator of a
The American Approach to offender profiling is based on interviews of serial killers and sex
murderers and analysing crime scene photographs. It has been used by the FBI since 1976; it
suggests that criminals are either organised or disorganised. An organised criminal plans the crime
including roles, weapons used and disabling CCTV, and leaves few clues; an organised criminal usually
has high IQ, lives with partner and follows media coverage of the crime. A disorganised criminal
doesn't plan the crime and has little attempt to hide evidence; an unorganised criminal usually lives
alone near to the crime scene, and is socially and sexually inadequate and was physically abused as a
One study that supports the American Approach was Douglas (1931) who reviewed the FBI approach
and stated that profiling doesn't lead to a direct identification of suspects but in 77% of cases
profiling helped focus the investigation. This supports the American Approach as it suggest the
benefits outweigh the costs. However one study that criticises the American Approach is Holmes
(1983) who studied FBI data and found out that only 17% of 88 arrests that used profiling construct
contributed to the arrest. This criticises the American Approach as only a small number of arrest
were made used the American Approach of offender profiling.
One weakness of the American Approach is that it is reductionist, for example it reduces criminals
down to two category of organised and disorganised. Another weakness of the American Approach
is that the sample is too small, for example the FBI only interviewed male serial rapist and serial
killers. Therefore the results cannot be generalised.
An alternative approach is the British Approach, which was developed in the 1980 based of the work
of Canter. The British Approach is based on psychological theories and 2 key assumptions, the first
assumption is that individual offenders are consistent but have identifiable differences, the second
assumption is criminal behaviour mirrors their behaviour in real life. This is called the Criminal
consistency Hypothesis. An action in the crime that gives the profiler clues about the offender's
non-criminal behaviour or lifestyle is called interpersonal coherence. The British Approach also looks
at the significance of time and place, as the location may relate to where the offender lives and time
they operate. They also look at forensic awareness of the criminals, for example the criminal may
show forensic knowledge in their crimes.

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One study that criticises the British Approach is Copson & Holloway (1997) who looked at 184
cases and found that only 2.7% of the cases led to identification because of profiling. This criticises
the British Approach as offender profiling only helped in a small percentage of cases. However one
piece of research that supports the British Approach is Copson (1995) who said that detectives saw
profiling as an intelligent second opinion and that it helped indirectly.…read more


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