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Typology (FBI) and Geographical approaches
One method of offender profiling is the typology approach, used by the FBI. This
approach aims to identify the major characteristics of serious offenders. To develop
this approach, the FBI interviewed 36 sexually motivated murderers, including Charles
Manson and Ted Bundy, and built up categories of `organised' and `disorganised' ,
into which they placed future offenders.
However, the fact that the system is based on such a small sample (36) and also,
the fact that those interviewed were sexually orientated murderers, means that the
categories can only be applied to certain crimes, and it is difficult to generalise.
Organised criminals are thought to plan their crimes in advance and leave little
evidence at the crime scene, whereas disorganised criminals tend to be unplanned,
and plenty of clues are left at the crime scene.
Canter tested this method of offender profiling, and looked at information about 100
murders by 100 serial killers, assessing their characteristics, and found that all the
serial killers tended to have organised characteristics, but no clear distinction was
found between organised and disorganised criminals. As some offenders don't fit
into either category, he therefore devised a `mixed offender' class.
Evidence to support the effectiveness of the FBI approach comes from the case of
Arthur Shawcross, who murdered 11 women in New York. He was successfully caught
thanks to the accurate profile which the FBI came up with. The system of FBI
offender profiling is criticised for being too simplistic, as it is based on intuition,
rather than empirical evidence.
It is said that offender profilers are no better than bartenders, because anyone can
categorise a person due to the evidence they leave.
Another criticism of this method is that people act differently in different situations,
and Psychologist Alison states that this method assumes people behave the same in
everyday life as they do at crime scenes, but this isn't true, so `person X situation
The geographical approach is another approach used by the police to locate and track
down criminals. This approach is based upon the idea that a criminal must know their
way around a local area before a crime is committed, so they know the best escape
Computer software is used to record crime scenes in an area, and to generate a 3d
`jeopardy surface', which is colour coded to show where crimes are most likely. The
criminal's home is usually found to be central to the `ring' of crime scenes.
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Unlike the FBI approach, this method is useful for all types of crimes, not just
sexually orientated ones.
Proof that it works comes from the geographical study of Peter Sutcliffe, the
Yorkshire ripper. Police were able to determine where he lived based upon the
locations of his crimes.…read more