Offender Profiling: The Criminal Investigative Approach To Criminal Investigation

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Offender profiling can be defined as making predictions about offender’s characteristics from the way they behaved during a crime (Davies & Beech, 2012). Offender profiling can play an important part in criminal investigations, especially when there is no DNA left at crime scenes. It requires using other types of evidence such as characteristics of the crime scene and eye-witness testimonies from victims and witnesses. Profiling techniques can be unified with police forces to help elicit and prioritise suspects and may predict what an offender may do next (Canter & Youngs, 2009). However, it’s important to assess the reliability of such psychological procedures as they are frequently applied to serious and violent forms of crime
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A more recent approach to profiling will also be investigated to establish whether the problems from previous approaches can be ameliorated:
- Investigative (Statistical) Profiling (Canter, 2000)
This report will aim to guide practitioners within the criminal justice system (e.g. police) by providing a succinct review of research around the approaches. The approaches should be considered with knowledge of the problems involved and what potential solutions are required to avoid them. The Criminal Investigative Approach:

The National Centre for the Analysis of Violent Crime (Formerly known as FBI Behavioural Science Unit) described the Criminal Investigative approach as ‘trait based’ profiling. This approach is based on psychological theories and data gathering, intended to class offenders/crimes into different categories. After the initial data assimilation phase (e.g. collecting witness statements/pathologist reports), the crime scene is classed into a ‘type’. Ressler et al (1986) proposed the classification of crime scenes by ‘organised’ or ‘disorganised’. An ‘organised’ crime scene classification indicates an intelligent and skilled offender who has planned the crime and removes the weapon/body from the scene. A ‘disorganised’ classification indicates little planning and
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The methods of classification emerged from interviews with 36 convicted killers (Ressler, et al, 1988). As the sample was relatively small, it’s difficult to generalise these typologies to other offenders. These typologies also cannot be generalised to offenders that have committed other crimes e.g. rape and assault. Furthermore, Canter et al (2004) criticise the approach by explaining that the criminals interviewed would tend to be manipulative and an unreliable source of information. Although the reliability/validity problems within the origins of offender profiling cannot be solved by practitioners, it’s important to be aware of the background from which the approach emerged, in order to make an informed decision on which profiling techniques to

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