Offender Profiling...............USA or UK?

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Aneeq Mushtaq

Offender Profiling……………USA or UK?

Offender profiling aims to present a composite description of a perpetrator, based on biographical and behavioural cues that can lead to the apprehension of that perpetrator. Profiling techniques have been used to narrow the focus of an investigation (by specifying the perpetrators location, sex or age) or to provide suggestions for interviewing suspects (McCann, 1992). As a result of collecting data and analysing evidence, the use of such techniques have led to arrests of serious criminals such as John Duffy (UK), who murdered his victims near railways

(Canter 1989). This assignment will aim to compare and contrast the FBI’s ‘Crime Scene Analysis’ of offender profiling with that of David Canter’s ‘Five Factor Model. The strengths and weaknesses of each approach will be highlighted including the main differences between profiling in the USA and UK.

Due to the rapid increase of serial murders and rapes in the USA within the 1970’s, the FBI invented the first systematic approach of offender profiling. Counteracting the rising numbers of serial murders lead to the development to the Behavioural Sciences Unit (BSU). BSU interviewed 36 convicted sexually orientated murderers and classified them into organised (average / above average intelligence, crime planned) or disorganised (low intelligence, messy crime scene, clues left behind) typologies, depending on demographic and crime scene characteristics (Burger et al, 1986). The typologies were incorporated into the crone classification manual, a guide for the FBI investigators producing offender profiles

(Ressler et al, 1992).

Although the FBI claims that their work is backed up empirical research, their results are criticised for methodological weaknesses present within the research. Coleman and Morris (2000) state that results gained from research that lacks a control group should be generalised to other groups within society. Also, Canter and Alison (2000) consider FBI profiling to be retrospective self reporting information and caution should be taken due to the factor of recall bias. The FBI profile has also led Wilson et al (1997) to argue that the organised / disorganised typology depends on offenders having a consistent pattern of motivation, which is not always the case. The validity and reliability of the crime classification manual have also come under criticisms, due to the absence of an underlying psychological theoretical framework (Muller 2000).

In contrast to the USA, the United Kingdom has no one agreed definition of offender profiling, rather consisting of profilers who exhibit differing conceptual models. Whilst at the university of Surrey, Professor David Canter was approached by the metropolitan police for his psychological assistance in catching the railway killer John Duffy. As a result of the profile produced by Canter, John Duffy was located, arrested and charged with 2 murders and 5 rapes in 1988. Canter (1994) argued that offenders have an internal consistency, where their behaviour at the crime scene will be similar to their behaviour in the non-offending everyday world. As a result of this Canter (1994) brings to mind the importance of interviewing victims of what was said to them by the offender at the time of the crime, perhaps giving an indication of how the offender normally interacts with others in the non-offending world. For example, a rapist who apologises after committing the sexual act may have raped as a result of not knowing how to form intimate relationships in the non-offending world (Canter & Heritage, 1990).

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A positive feature of Canter’s work, in contrast to the FBI research, is that the academic community can examine and reproduce his work as it is published in scientific journals (Rossmo, 1995). Although Critics of Canter believe that statistical analysis is creditable, crime data is flawed by poor police data collection and potential victim/witness mistaken memories (Coleman & Norms, 2000). In spite of that, FBI approaches have undoubtedly contributed to our understanding to certain types of crimes as well as identifying the kind individuals most likely to commit these crimes.

In the USA, between 1979 and 1983 the ...

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Highly detailed. A brilliant essay. 5 Stars.