The Bottom-Up Approach


The Bottom-Up Approach

The bottom-up approach was developed in the UK by David Canter (amongst others).

The aim is to generate a profile of the offender by looking at the available evidence.

There are no fixed 'typologies' (as in the US system) that will be attempted to be matched to the offender.

Instead, a profile should emerge solely from the evidence of each case.

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Investigative Psychology

Investigative psychology is an attempt to use statistical procedures and psychological theory. 

Statistics are used to create a prediction of behaviour that is likely to occur in crimes.

Specific details of an offence are matched to this to create details about the offender.

The idea of 'interpersonal coherence' is key - how the offender acts during the crime is likely to relate to their actions in non-criminal situation.

For example, a murderer who leaves a very near and tidy crime scene may be obsessively near and tidy in their everyday life.

The significance of the time and place of the crime is also considered, as is 'forensic awareness', where it is considered how much the offender has attempted to cover their tracks - this indicates they may have been questioned about crimes before.

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Geographical Profiling

Rossmo (1997) proposed the geographical profiling method, which involves looking at the location of crimes which seem to have been committed by the same offender ('crime mapping'). 

Hypotheses can be generated about what the offender is thinking, how they like to operate, where they live or are basing themselves ('centre of gravity'), and where they are next likely to commit a crime (known as the 'jeopardy surface'). 

Canter's 'circle theory' proposed two models:

  • The marauder operates in close proximity to their home, or an equivalent 'base'.
  • The commuter travels a distance away from their residence.

Patterns of offending usually form circles around an offender's residence, and this can give insights into whether offences were planned, modes of transport involved, the age of the offender, and so on.

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Evaluation of the Bottom-Up Approach

+ Canter and Heritage (1990) found that, when looking at a particular type of crime (sexual assault), the nature of the offence was correlated with particular types of behaviour (such as the use of impersonal language). This suggests that statistical techniques can be useful in identifying behaviour patterns, so supporting investigative psychology.

+ Lundrigan and Canter (2001) found that, in 120 murder cases involving serial killers, the killer disposed of bodies in various locations, which formed 'centres of gravity', and their base or residence was always located in the middle of this. This supports the use of geographical profilinf in helping determine a killer's base.

+ Bottom-up approaches could be argued to be more scientific than top-down, as just the aviailable evidence (alongside statistical analysis and predictions) is used to create a profile, rather than attempting to fit offenders to pre-existing templates. Therefore, this may be a more valid approach to offender profiling.

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