Instinct or Science
The apparent success of psychological profiling is based on a combination of two important ingredients: A close co-operative working relationship with the police who provide other evidence relevant to the case. A combination of instinct and scientific procedures adopted by the profiler. Most profiling research indicates that psychological profiling is in its infancy.It is most successful in serial crimes such as murder, rape, and abduction. DR. L.F. LOWESTEIN investigates.
It is least effective with crimes such as burglary, vandalism, vehicle crimes and other similar offences. Investigative profiling in the form of a behavioural analysis based on the crime scene was carried out in 1995. The best profiling came from cases involving serial murders and rape and sexual homicides as well as child molestation and ritualistic crimes. The analysis attempted to differentiate between types of rapists albeit there was a considerable overlap from time to time. The differentiation was as follows.
Power rapists. These needed to be reassured of their manhood. They would only do what their victims permitted and suffered from premature ejaculation. They also tended to be assertive and were involved in date rapes and some had difficulty ejaculating due to drinking.
The second type was the anger rapist. His attitude was to punish women. They tended to adopt a selfish blitz type approach. They were usually married, hot-tempered and used excessive force. Some were sadistic and suffered from psychopathic tendencies including the likelihood of torturing their victims. They often carried rape kits and again had difficulties with ejaculation. They sometimes used bondage and weapons such as guns and knives. Their victims were often severely injured or killed.
The third type was the opportunistic rapist who committed crimes of robbery and then incidentally, raped his victim. It also attempted to differentiate with three types of child offenders of a sexual nature. The first was the paedophile. Such individuals had a tendency towards children and adolescents and had probably practised such behaviour since their own adolescence. They often had police records. In their own lives they avoided competition and sport and were, on the whole, immature, shy, withdrawn and had a non-decision making type job. They tended to have little or no sex with adults and they, on the whole, had no history of alcohol or drug abuse. The main criminal act was to fondle or touch but they were premeditated in this approach.
A different type of child sex offender was one who had a primary sex orientation towards adults and was often married, but nevertheless, engaged in sexual relations with children. Again such individuals were premeditated and often reacted to stress, and rejection by adult women, and the victim on the whole tended to be a stranger or a stepchild. In this case fondling and genital and anal sex were the most common responses. Finally the child rapist was one who was attracted to both children and adults. They may possibly have brain damage and are often violent in their attacks. They frequently used alcohol in many cases.
A British study by Anne Davies (1997) carried out specific profile analysis using data from the scene of the crime, witness statements and other available information, obtained from the police. She felt that analysis of police data had great potential, particularly if the quality of the data was to be improved.
A Dutch study by Jackson et al (1997) attempted to differentiate between experienced detective work and offender profiling. Of special interest was the examination of criminal antecedents of rapists.
An effort was made to predict offender profiles from victim and witness descriptions by Farrington & Lambert (1997). The aim was to investigate how far existing data collected by police forces might be used as the basis for a computerised system of offender profiling. The authors adopted a more statistical approach and focused on the more common offences of burglary and violence. This led them to consider how existing data collection methods might be improved both by increasing the accuracy of existing data and by collecting additional data.
A very specific study considering the speech of rapists was carried out by Dale et al (1997). They described different types of rape and examined the discourse strategies associated with them. They examined the speech of 252 offences of rape committed by 25 offenders. All the offenders in the sample attacked victims who were strangers to them. The offences were committed primarily, but not exclusively, in the London area. The object was to develop a linguistic profile of such offenders.
Peters & Murphy (1992) reviewed case law on the psychological profiling of defendants in child sex abuse cases. Except for courts in California, virtually every appellate court that had ruled on the admissibility of such testimony had rejected it. Although the reasons varied, most courts seemed to recognise that the fatal flaw of this type of evidence was that goodness of fit with a profile never determined whether a given defendant committed a specific act at a specific time. It was concluded that evidence regarding the psychological profile of a child molester had no place in the courtroom.
A review of the literature on offender types indicated that it was possible to generalise from various behavioural aspects of a crime scene to show characteristics of the perpetrator. There was some evidence that it was possible to type offenders and crime scenes as organised or disorganised and that this categorisation was related to certain aspects of offender personality. There was also some evidence that those who were FBI trained in profiling in the USA, performed better at the task.
At this time, however, the evidence for the validity of profiles was weak and it was recommended that profiling was not to be relied upon to the exclusion of other alternatives. There was a need for more specific validity research, especially when profiling was generalised beyond its original purpose of providing leads and focusing investigations. Here again we have the important aspect of co-operation and communication between profilers and the police as a whole for the most effective approach to catching criminals who have committed serious offences.
It must be understood that criminals themselves being aware in some cases of being "type-cast" may alter their criminal activities in order to disguise any pattern, which would be useful in apprehending them. The best type of profiling must be associated with the best kind of police work and the two together combining their findings could lead to the most positive and constructive way of identifying and apprehending criminals who have committed serious offences such as murder, rape, abduction, arson, etc. The outline, which follows, presents aspects in order of importance.
Crime Scene Analysis This may present evidence as to the organised or disorganised manner in which the crime was committed. It includes photographs of the victim or victims and the manner in which the crime was carried out.
Victim Characteristics Here, questions such as why the victim was selected particularly, their age, sex, race, height, weight, dress, hair colour, education, occupation, being socially adequate or inadequate etc.
Forensic Science Information based partly on autopsy and other information.
Police Report or Reports as to their assessment.
Witness Reports, if there are any of the crime that was committed.
Attempts at Reconstruction of the Crime i.e. was it planned or unplanned?; was it based on anger or cold calculated approaches?
Hypothesis of behaviour of criminal to victim.
Motives for the crime i.e. was it theft, anger, rape, for power or anger, was there a history of drinking or drugs?
Typology of the crime - was the alleged criminal a socially inadequate individual or adequate, skilled or unskilled; intelligence factors? Were weapons used? How were they used, was there the use of gloves, blindfold of victims etc?
Demographic information such as age, race, occupational status, marital status as well as socio-economic level of alleged criminal. Are there any other factors involved i.e. family characteristics, possible military background, habits of the criminal, residence in relation to the crime scene?
Possible Suggested Interview Techniques if and when an alleged subject is apprehended.
Conclusions and Recommendations
It must be concluded that psychological profiling of criminals is still in its infancy and is very often based on instinct, rather than scientific know-how. Despite this, scientific methods have a place.
The best type of rofiling is one, which is associated with working closely with the efforts made by the police using other approaches towards discovering and apprehending criminals.
Police Magazine January 2000