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Forensic Psychology: Criminal Profiling

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    This approach is most commonly used in the USA and is not the UK’s preferred method to criminal profiling. The first step to this approach is to investigate the specific crime as much as possible and collecting information from things such as: eyewitness statements, official police reports, information taken directly from the crime scene, any information that can be found of the victim themselves and autopsies if the crime happens to be a murder.

    Next one must analyse the behavioural characteristics of the specific crime through decision profiling. This is done by considering the classification of the crime (For example in the case of a series of murders one would need to identify whether this has been a serial killing, spree killing or mass killing), time factors (durational or specific) and geographical factors (The crime scene’s location(s), prerequisites to the crime).

    The last piece of information that needs to be gathered before a criminal profile can be created is whether the nature of the crime was organised or disorganised.

    In the example of a murder, an organised offender would be described as having planned their crime before carrying it out, target specific victims (focusing on a specific age group, lifestyle or appearance), will most likely use retrains on their victims and perhaps even torture them before the actual murder and be good at covering their tracks, making sure there is little to no evidence that links the offender to the crime. The offenders of organised crimes themselves are usually highly intelligent and charismatic. They like to be in control and have a sort of god complex to them, but most importantly they are usually very familiar with the surroundings of their crime scene, further helping them in not being caught.

    Disorganised crime, however, is (just as the name would suggest) quite the opposite. A disorganised offender would have little to no planning of their crime and the crime tends to be an impulsive reaction of an emotional outburst. This means that a disorganised offender mostly leaves behind a messy crime scene with plenty of evidence left behind that would link the offender to the crime. Once again using the example of a murder, most sexual acts towards the victim will occur after death.

    Once this information is collected a criminal profile can be created. This profile will estimate the offender’s age, sex, race, family background, mental health, IQ and employment status. Once this profile has been created it will most likely be used for specific investigation, and as this technique is (as previously mentioned) mostly used in the USA, criminal profiles are often used along with the REID technique.

    Although this technique is often idolised in fictional media (TV shows such as NCIS for example), one could easily argue that in real life this method is not actually very effective. Perhaps the technique itself is not as flawed on paper, but in practice criminal profiling has to be carried out by a person who may have their own prejudices, meaning the profile may be biased against a specific group of people (for example people of colour, men, etc.). As this approach is mostly used in America, it is also worth noting that the profile would most likely be written by someone of a police background and a limited forensic psychology background. This approach consists of investigative psychology and geographical profiling, resulting in a theory of the offender’s characteristics and aspects of their personal life, as well as a rough geographical circle in which the offender would be likely to reoffend if the criminal chooses to commit another crime of the same nature.

    Investigative psychology is carried out first when using this approach, this involves a vast amount of psychological research, eventually resulting in the production of a theory, which will then be used through deductive or inductive functions. A part of this is interpersonal coherence, which is the part of this approach which will allow investigators to make assumptions on the offender’s personal life based on many factors of the crime they have committed. Using the extreme example of a murder case, investigators would look at whether the offender used a lot of control in the violence against their victim or if the crime appears to be more of a chaotic outburst, the types of victims would play a big part (i.e. gender, age, lifestyle, etc.), Investigators would be able to analyse the behaviours displayed by the offender during the crime and the time and place would be taken into consideration.

    Next, geographical profiling would be carried out. This includes using all data that has been collected from the crime scene to deduct not only residential information of the offender, but also the offender’s future behaviours. This is an effective method only thanks to modern day technology as the police is likely to use predictive computer systems such as the Kim Rosso technique. This step is vital as it provides geographical and sociological information of the offender to create the profile.

    Circle theory is closely related to geographical profiling. According to Canter and Larkin (1993) offenders have what’s called a spatial mindset, or, in simpler terms, a mental circle of a specific area, allowing them to have a sense of familiarity of their crime scene and its surrounding areas, making it much easier for the offender to cover their tracks, but allowing the police to collect highly important information based on where the crime is committed because this allows them to determine whether they are dealing with a marauder offender or a commuter offender.

    A marauder offender chooses to commit a crime within close proximity of their own home (Close proximity meaning the same town for example). Crimes of a sexual nature are most commonly marauder offences. Commuter offenders, on the other hand, go out of their way to travel to a specific location to commit their crime, meaning these crimes tend to be planned, and are more along the lines of offences such as burglary.

    Thanks to this approach’s ability to predict a rough location of possible places where the offender may reoffend, the approach is rather effective and highly useful. All interpersonal coherence is carried out through investigative psychology, making it very reliable. However, the approach does lack an explanation as to what has caused the offender’s behaviour, making the investigation difficult without a very clear motive.

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