Offender profiling

- definitions, approaches and developing a profile

- biases and pitfalls in profiling

- applied profiling: a case study

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Crime scene analysis:

- material evidence from crime scene

- however, material evidence can be removed from the crime scene by clever minded criminals

- in this case police must rely on behavioral evidence

Offender Profiling: - main assumption is that the characteristics of offender can be determined by characteristics of offence.

- offender profiling has 3 main goals:

- social and psychological info on offender e.g. age, personality, race

- psychological evaluation of belongings to give info on searchwarrant

- interviewing suggestions/strategies

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British approach: bottom-up - applying situation to theory. Evidence ---> Theory

- Known as investigative psychology.

- Relies on principles of criminal consistency hypothesis: - idea that people act consistently over time & in different situations. - the theory is applied in two main ways: - interaction between criminal and victim. - geographical area in which criminal commits crimes.

American approach: top-down - previously generated theories of criminal behaviour used to interpret evidence at crime scene. Theory ---> Evidence

- known as crime scene analysis

- built up a data base of criminal characteristics using 2 main methods: - in depth interviews with 36 convicted sexually orientated murderers. - info on crime scenes, nature of attacks and forensic evidence.

Do they work? -severley limited in types of crimes to which it can be applied. -Because there is relatively few profiles to use, it is difficult to evaluate their effectiveness

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Copson (1995)

Aim- Evaluate the potential for offender profiling to assist with investigation of serious crime.

Method- Questionnaire (survey) to determine attitudes of police towards the use of profling being used for serious cases. Profiling advice been sought by police for four reasons:

  • Help predict characteristics of unknown offenders
  • Help police asses future level of threat
  • Provide stratagies for interviewing suspects and witnesses
  • Link a series of offenders by behavioural traits


  • Only 14% of respondents claimed profiling had helped solve the case
  • only 16% claimed to have directly acted upon advice from profiler
  • only 3% claimed advice had lead to identification of offender
  • 69% said they would use it again
  • 83% said they found it useful
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  • Was useful but did not lead to an arrest
  • Can not rely upon this alone
  • When taken seriously by police it can produce results
  • 16% claimed to have acted upon it yet 69% would use it again. Suggests that police feel as though it is 'below them'.
  • Due to 'railway ******' this approach may have been given undue credit from media, resulting in the truthful verdict being disclosed from this study
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