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Overview of Criminal Profiling Methods

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It is the primary concern of the police to safeguard the protection of the community this also includes the apprehension of offenders. Law enforcement agencies are seeking the help of psychologists that specialize in human behaviour when conducting a criminal investigation in the search of a suspect. Criminal profiling often known as offender profiling which was coined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Criminal Profiling has been recognised as one of the most useful techniques in offender profiling, which is a technique that is employed to help provide the definition of the behaviour of an offender/s before they are able to commit too many crimes. An offender profile is conducted by using both geographical and typology approaches. Sammons (2020) states that both these approaches tries to identify the characteristics of the offender/s from the characteristics of the offence this information can aid the police to link crimes and to narrow down the list of possible suspects. Holmes and Holmes (2008) concludes that offender profiling should consist of three main objectives. One to provide the police with essential information of the characteristics of the offender including but not limited to age, race, employment and Marital status, to be able to identify if the offender may have taken anything from the crime scene (for example souvenirs) that would associate them with the crime and finally to suggest any interviewing strategies that the police may be able to put in place when questioning the suspect. However, Godwin 2002 suggests that profiling is wholly instinctive and epitomises a less than educated attempt to provide detailed information about an unknown individual who has committed a crime.

Investigative psychology’s main goal is to expand the understanding of criminal behaviour and the investigative process, which was created by David Canter to reflect the ever growing influences of psychology in police investigations (Taylor, Snook, Bennell and Porter n.d). Canter (2000) states that this technique is an empirical method of supporting the police investigations, by producing a scientific contribution to law enforcement practice that can deliver on two levels one is to provide evidence based advice to the ongoing investigations and secondly to help the improvement of the investigative strategies and policies (Alison Goodwill, Almond, Van den Heuvel, & Winter, 2010).

Investigative psychology as suggested by some as statistical profiling and this method encompasses geography and behaviourism when analysing crime scenes this process uses the principle that when a crime is committed this contains characteristics that are predictable to the behaviour of the offender (Ainsworth, 2001).

Geographic profiling originates from psychological expertise and is based on empirical, quantitative, statistical methods which uses environmental studies to concentre on the location of the crime scene using them to provide offender information (Young, 2006). David Canter proposed that offenders expose information about themselves through the locations of where they commit crimes. Godwin and Canter (1997) suggests that each offence allows for that location to be documented with increasing accuracy as the locations increases from a predominant location using the two furthest locations a circle can be drawn surrounding most of the offence locations and the home base. Base on this idea Sammons and Putwain, (2018) puts forward the circle theory. Using a map and placing pins in the locations of the linked crimes, then drawing a circle around these creating a geographic area of probability, that an offender resides within this themselves with this in mind he suggested that “85% of offenders lived inside the circle”.

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This approach links the crime scene locations to the possible home or base of the offender with this in mind it is expected that the offender is highly likely to operate in and around areas that they are very familiar with for example home, work or their childhood home an offender is suggested to have a crime range of a two-mile radius (Rossmo, 1999). The offenders are placed into one of two categories and these are either the Marauder which is when the offender lives in close proximity to the crime scene and the other is a Commuter which the offender has to travel to the crime scene but still have a great knowledge of the area (Canter and Gregory, 1994). The choice of location in which the offender picks to commit their crime is not chosen at random in that they have some meaning to the offender and their every day life and the resources they have available to them, research suggests that the more resources the offender has to their disposal the further they are likely to travel. If the offender has chosen a certain type of victim can take the offender to locations far and wide however if the offender motives are that of emotion the are they will commit their crimes closer to home (Canter and Youngs,2009)

Canter, (2017) suggests that the journey an offender takes regularly is a basis to their comfort zone, creating a belief of confidence for an offender to act in an area they believe to be safe. Also suggesting that more than one crime by the same offender may be committed in a smaller geographic area.

Notwithstanding that the information provided by geographical data of the location of the crimes is not enough by itself there needs to be information provided on the behaviour of the offender at the scene and also of the victim also the geographical approach necessitates several scenes of crime to operative effectively, this technique however, has been proven to be successful as it was the geographical approach along with the Typology aproach used by David Canter in the capture of the Railway Rapist John Duffy (mytutor, 2019), The profile that was produced by Canter however was not used to prove that Duffy was that attacker it was used to reduce the amount of suspects so the investigation could be targeted more effectively (Sammons 2020). Geographic profiling can help by narrowing down the environment search for an offender but by solely relying on location alone can be problematic, the main problem of the approach is it relies on the idea that the majority of all offenders fit into the category of marauders (Kocsis and Irwin, 1997), this leads to the possibility of the geographical profile not take into account the idea of a drifter as they lack a permanent base.

Linking crimes that have been committed by the same offender plays an important role when there is little or no physical evidence available from the scene of the crime (Grubin, Kelly & Brunsdon 2001), which is achieved by determining if a series of crimes has been committed by a single offender (Bennell, Snook, MacDonald, House & Taylor, 2012). Linking crimes increases the effectiveness of investigations by providing all available information from multiple locations that the crimes have been committed. Linking crimes is even more effective with the use of geographic profiling (Rossmo, 1999). One of the drawbacks of using this method is that it draws from information about the crime and the offenders that commit the crimes this leads to the problem of the data can only come from crimes that have been identified this can only paint a picture of the crimes that have ben reported and investigated and does not include the crimes that have gone unreported or unsolved (Canter and Youngs, 2009). Despite the flaws in investigative psychology it has been able to establish a scientific frame work that has provided the ability to draw inferences of offenders features from their criminal activities.

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Overview of Criminal Profiling Methods. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from
“Overview of Criminal Profiling Methods.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Overview of Criminal Profiling Methods. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Feb. 2023].
Overview of Criminal Profiling Methods [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from:
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