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CP501 Syllabus

Criminal Profiling

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Lecture 1: An Introduction to the Art

      1. History and Definitions of Criminal Profiling

  • An educated attempt to provide investigative agencies with specific information as to the type of individual who could have committed a certain crime. - Geberth

2. The purposes of Criminal Profiling

3. Types of cases that can benefit from profiling & how

4. Physical evidence: the foundation for Criminal Profiling

5. The elements of a Criminal Profile

Note: The following associated readings are recommended only. They are not required for the completion of CP501.

Readings 1:

Lecture 2: Profiling and the Law

1. Objectivity & Ethics

2. Inductive Profiles and Syndrome Evidence

3. The Deductive profiling model

4. Admissibility Issues

Lecture 3: The Equivocal Forensic Analysis

1. The Importance of an Equivocal Analysis

2. The staged crime scene

  • The staged crime scene occurs when someone purposely alters the crime scene prior to the arrival of the police.
  • Both Douglas et al and Geberth provide excellent foundations for discussions on what elements to look for in a staged crime scene, as well as case examples.

3. Investigative Strategies

4. Case Example

Lecture 4: Developing a Crime Scene Profile  

1. Organized/Disorganized crime scenes as a continuum

  • It is important to conceptualize crime scenes (and offenders) not as either organized or disorganized, in fixed black and white terms, but rather as existing along a continuum. The more experienced an offender is, the more skillful he may become; the more planning, the more patient, the more organized he may become. It’s not so much then about age as it is experience and personality.

2. Determining the Crime Scene Type

3. Determining the Crime Scene Characteristics

4. Determining offender risk

5. Case example

Lecture 5: Developing a Crime Scene Profile

1. Linking crime scenes: Overcoming Linkage Blindness

  • Linking unrelated crimes is one of the most helpful ways in which profiling quickly assists an investigation. It keeps investigators focused on the series of crimes at hand and help to avoid distraction.
  • Signature is used to link crime scenes when physical evidence is not adequate to the task. MO alone does not always indicate linkage. Signature, being comprised of more unique and individual behaviors, is a more competent indicator of what crimes may be related.
  • ViCLAS and ViCAP

2. MO vs. Signature

  • The offender's MO (modus operandi) is comprised of the actions that are necessary for the completion of the crime.
  • Signature behavior is comprised of the actions committed by the offender that are not necessary for the completion of the crime; behavior that the offender did not have to do.

3. Case example

Note: The following associated readings are recommended only. They are not required for the completion of CP501.

Readings 2-5:

  1. Burgess, A. & Douglas, J. & Ressler, R. Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, Lexington Books, 1988, Ch. 8-9
  2. Douglas, J. & Munn, C., "Violent Crime Scene Analysis: Modus Operandi, Signature, and Staging," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, February 1992, pp. 1-10
  3. Geberth, Vernon, "The Signature Aspect in Criminal Investigation" Law and Order, November 1995, pp. 45-49
  4. Geberth, Vernon, "The Staged Crime Scene", Law and Order, February, 1996, pp. 89-93
  5. Keppel, Robert, "Signature Murders: A report of Several Related Cases" Journal of Forensic Sciences, Vol. 40, No. 4, July 1995, pp. 670-674
  6. Turvey, Brent E. "The Impressions of a Man: An Objective Forensic Guideline to Profiling Violent Serial Sex Offenders" Unpublished Article, June, 1996


Lecture 6: Victimology                 

1. Definitions:

  • Victimology is simply the study of victim characteristics. The victim is a reflection of the offender’s desire; of the offender’s fantasy. The victim must also be accessible to the offender. By profiling the victim’s behavior, it is more determinable how the offender is selecting his victims, and further how his victims satisfy his fantasy motives.

2. Profiling the Victim

  • Victim Characteristics: Holmes gives a list of important victim characteristics (below), and Sexual Homicide discusses both victim and offender risk. Both are critical in assessing how an offender chooses a victim population (schoolgirls, prostitutes, homeless, daycare, etc.…) and subsequently acquires a single victim from that population.
  • Script: The offender’s script to and for the victim during the attack speaks a great deal about that offender (Behavior Evidence). A victim’s statement about an attack can also lend itself to profiling inferences about his/her attacker (Adams).

3. Victim Risk Assessment (not to be confused with a blame assessment)

4. The Use and Misuse of Statement Analysis

5. Case example

Readings 6:

  1. Adams, Susan "Statement Analysis: What Do Suspect’s Words Really Mean?" FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October 1996
  2. Burgess, A. & Douglas, J. & Ressler, R. Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, Lexington Books, 1988, Ch. 13
  3. Dietz, P. & Hazelwood, R. & Warren, J. "Compliant Victims of the Sexual Sadist" Australian Family Physician, Vol. 22, No. 4, April 1993, pp. 474-479
  4. Holmes, Ronald & Holmes, Stephen, Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool, Sage Publications, 1996; Chapter 9

Lecture 7: Offender Profiling      

1. Organized/Disorganized Offenders, as a continuum

  • An organized or disorganized crime scene indicates an organized or disorganized offender. However, this dichotomy has some major flaws which need to be addressed. Correlated traits are listed in both Geberth and Burgess

2. Fixated v. Regressed

  • Fixated and regressed are helpful classifications of child molester offender types based on how they came to be motivated to molest.
  • The fixated offender is a chronic fantasy addict. Their interest in a victim type endures time and dominates their fantasy. They are the most likely to reoffend.
  • The regressed offender is one who is more responding to pervasive feelings of control loss. Likely they have suffered a series of emotional setbacks or hardships such as divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, failure to be promoted etc.… This offender is less likely to reoffend than the fixated, given the proper intervention and treatment.
  • It should be noted that most family incest relationships have an average length of two years, and in this author’s opinion most then do not qualify the offender as regressed.

3. Script

  • The script is not only what the offender says to the victim, but what the offender forces the victim to say. Sources can be audio or video tapes the offender made of the attack; a journal that offender keeps; fiction that the offender writes; or a statement made by a victim about an attack.
  • It is very important not to ignore the script because it gives direct insight into the fantasy of the offender; a good analogy is that the offender is the director of his fantasy, and he is also the writer of the script, and he casts the victim in the role he requires, and he combines all of those elements and more to make the movie that is his fantasy.

Lecture 8: Offender Profiling

1. Child Molester Typologies

2. Rapist Typologies

3. Proposed Serial Killer Typologies and the problems they present

  • There are many different kinds of serial killers. Many can be classified by the serial rapist typology above quite easily. This is due to the fact that for many serial killers, the killing is incidental to the fantasy that they are enabling with the victim. They kill to cover their tracks, and prevent discovery.
  • Holmes gives interesting breakdown of four types of serial killers(Visionary, Mission-Oriented, Hedonistic, and Power/control). It is useful because it is simple. It is not a perfect typology and there is a great deal of cross-over in real life. I include it because it provides a good discussion of practical motives for serial killings.

4. The offender’s perspective

  • It is very important to understand what the offender thinks that he is doing with his victims. If investigators can understand that, then they can understand his fantasy, and understand what the offender is going to have to do to make his fantasy come true. This will provide investigative proactivity into future victims.

Note: The following associated readings are recommended only. They are not required for the completion of CP501.

Readings 7-8:

  1. Burgess, A. & Groth, A., & Holmstrom, L. & Sgroi, S., Sexual Assault of Children and Adolescents, Lexington Books, 1978, Chapter 1
  2. Geberth, Vernon, Practical Homicide Investigation, 2nd ed., CRC Press, 1993, Chapter 17, pp. 489-538
  3. Gilgun, Jane, Ph.D. "How Perpetrators View Child Sexual Abuse," J. Social Work, 1989
  4. Groth, A. Nicholas, Men Who Rape, Plenum Press, 1979, Chapter 2, pp. 12-83
  5. Hazelwood, R. & Warren, J., "The Criminal Behavior of the Serial Rapist," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, February 1990, pp. 11-16
  6. Henry, Joseph "My life Molesting Children" Statement by a convicted child molester before the Permanent Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs, February 21, 1985
  7. Holmes, Ronald M., Serial Murder, Sage Publications, 1988
  8. Marshall, William L., & Laws, D. & Barbaree, H., Handbook of Sexual Assault: Issues, Theories, and Treatment of the Offender, Plenum Press, 1990, Chapter 14
  9. Turvey, Brent E. "Behavior Evidence: The Role of Behavioral Profiling in Unsolved Serial Rape" Unpublished Article, June, 1996

Lecture 9: Profiling & Investigative Strategy

1. Linking crimes that appear unrelated by MO

2. Reducing the Suspect Pool

3. Search Warrants and Probable Cause

4. Psychological value of physical evidence: Collateral materials

Lecture 10: Profiling & Trial Strategy

1. It's never too late: Rendering a profile at any stage in the adjudication process

2. Understanding the Physical Evidence; finding experts

3. Understanding Fantasy Behavior & Motive

4. Offender State of Mind before, during, and after the crime

5. Understanding the usefulness of MO and Signature


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Return to CP501 Course Description


Rape Investigation Handbook
Criminal Profiling, 2nd Ed.
Career Guide to Criminal Profiling
Journal of Behavioral Profiling

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