Offender Profiling




Two main types of offender profiling:

FBI approach (USA)and,

David canter approach (UK)

Copson 1995 argues that police need four types of information from profilers

  • the type of person who commited the crime
  • How great a threat they pose in the future
  • the possibility that the case is linked to others
  • how the police should interview suspects, strategies etc...
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The FBI Approach

a systematic approach to offender profiling

2 categories; organised Disorganised

they use four main stages:

1. profiling inputs
2. homicide type and sytle
3. crime assesments
4. the actual criminal profile RESSLER(1998)

based on interview techniques with offenders just like David Canter

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The David Canter approach

this is an investigatitive psychological appraoch, he is one of the UK's best known profilers.

using a similar method to the FBI. CATCHEM database

Canter and Heritage (1990) studied 66 sexual assault cases committed by 27 offenders. of the, 33 offences were common characteristics such as gagging, blinfolds, agression, disguise. canter and heritage could build up profiles according to these offenders.

ungeneralisable to all crimes.

there are 5 characteristics which are particularly important:
1.Criminal history
2.Domestic and social characteristics
3.Residential location
4.Personal Charcteristics
5.a history of occupation/education

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Copson -Coals to Newcastle

report commisioned by metropolitan police into effectiveness of offender profiles. questionnaires weregiven out to detectives of 48 forces.

their responses were that profiling is not useful at on its own finding the suspect, but is a useful tool and second opinion.

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Conducted an experiment to see how difficult it was to create an accurate profile. he gave out two different scenarios:

1. A homicide

2. A sexually motivated murder

he used undergraduates, profilers and detectives

he found that profilers were specifically good at determining scenario 2, and detectives were specifically good at scenario 1.

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APPLIED CASE STUDY - effectiveness

succesful use of offender profiling

canter and the railway ******.

Canter succesfully wrote an accurate profile on railway ****** John Duffy. he believed the murderer had a knowledge of railways, was right handed and held a criminal record. this profile was unbelievably accurate and lead to the arrest of John Duffy.

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Offender profiling is only a valid measure on crime which involve sexual motivation, offender profiling cannot be used in crimes involving materialism.

ethnocentric bias

both uses of the FBI as well as the David Canter approach are based in their home countries, little cross-cultural research has been done on these, making it hard to generalise to different cultures.


This is very hard to measure, as both FBI and David Canter approach have based their studies upon interviews with criminals. this lacks validity as the murderers may have psychological issues such as multiple personalities and they may lie. COPSONs study was hard to pinpoint subjective beliefs of the detectives and the case study.

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