Criminal profiling

Criminal profiling, also known as offender profiling and even psychological profiling, has began to rise as a important method used by investigative and law enforcement agencies across the nation. Profiling helps investigators put together a certain profile of an unknown and wanted offender based on certain characteristics of the offense such as the style and nature of the crime. There is more then one method of criminal profiling including a method, used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, the “Five Factor Model” and the “Behavioral Evidence Analysis” method. Criminal cases such as “The Mad Bomber of New York City,” “Jack the Ripper,” and Adolph Hitler have all included criminal profiling in the tactics of understanding, analyzing and even locating wanted offenders.

When developing a criminal profile for, mainly murder investigations, there are a numerous number of phases that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), police and other law enforcement agencies try to follow. The first of about six stages consists of collecting all information such as physical evidence, photos, testimonies from witnesses and reports. At the second stage, the analyst will take all the collected information and develop a meaningful report consisting of possible motives and a possible sequence of action before, during and after the offense. The third stage takes the collected information and analyzes the actual crime and, the behavior and actions of the criminal and his/her victim. This stage tries to answer questions such as what lead to this outcome and what were the motives for the specific cause of death. The fourth stage actually creates the profile for the wanted offender. Based on the initial studies, the profile will consist of physical attributes such as gender, race and age, but will also include other characteristics such as behavioral patterns, psychological factors and morality. After the report and profile is completed, the fifth stage consists of the actual investigation of suspects. At this point in time, investigators usually have at least one likely suspect that they can now compare against the profile for further examination. If for any reason new evidence is obtained throughout any part of the investigation, the report and profile may and will be revised to fit any changes that might have to be made. The sixth and final stage of the profiling is the actual apprehension and arrest of the correct offender.

Psychological studies have shown that the personality and other mental developments of the offender can lead them to make certain decisions when committing an offense. Highly trained specialists and psychologists take these behaviors and combine them with evidence and other factors to create profiles. The work of certain profilers such as, David Canter, have lead to the development of what is known today as the “Five Factor Model.” The first factor is known as “Interpersonal Coherence.” “Interpersonal Coherence” explains the relationship that the offender and victim might have and the manner in which the offender would have treated his victim, during and outside the crime. The second factor is known as “The Significance of Time and Place.” This factor tries to provide information such as how the offender views and interacts with his surroundings. Other clues provided by the second factor can help determine any attributes of the offender's personal life. The third factor is called “Criminal Characteristics.” This factor helps investigators and researchers classify certain behavioral characteristics with different classes of offenders. By studying the behaviors and characteristics that are linked to each crime, investigators can almost know what to expect when dealing with certain crimes. The fourth factor is known as “Criminal Career.” Depending on the nature of the crime and other circumstances, investigators can get an idea of the offender's past, whether it be criminal or not. If investigators have a suspicion that the offender has a criminal past, then the “Criminal Career” factor will help link certain crimes with other ones that may have been committed beforehand. The fifth and final factor of the model is called “Forensic Awareness.” The “Forensic Awareness” factor tries to analyze and interpret the criminal knowledge of the offender. Criminal knowledge includes factors such as knowledge of policing procedures and techniques including how they analyze a crime scene and obtain evidence. Cantor has also developed a theory known as the “circle theory.” The “circle theory” has two classifications called “Marauder” and “Commuter” in which they both attempt to map out the locations of the offenses and a possible range and location of the offender

Besides the previous two methods for criminal profiling, there is a third method that was developed by Brent Turvey. Turvey created a method of profiling known as the “Behavioral Evidence Analysis” (BEA) that can be broken down into four steps. The first step is known as “Equivocal Forensic Analysis.” This step instructs the investigators to analyze the evidence, knowing that there might be more the one meaning. The investigators can then evaluate the situation with the given information and conclude on the best and most relevant meanings. The second step of the analysis assesses the victim through a process called “Victimology.” Turvey believed that the victim should be profiled just as the offender is. By profiling the victim, investigators can develop an accurate outline of past victims and even future victims. The theory of “Victimology” helps create a picture of targeted victims and sometimes may even provide information that is useful in developing the criminal profile. The third step is called “Crime Scene Characteristics.” The third step uses “distinguishing features of a crime scene as evidenced by an offender's behavioral decisions regarding the victim and the offense location, and their subsequent meaning to the offender.” Basically, the investigators analyze the crime scene and look for any stand-out features that would be relevant to identifying the criminal and creating a profile. The forth and final step is called “Offender Characteristics.” With information collected from the previous steps, the “Offender Characteristics” phase helps to organize and develop all the possible and most likely personality and behavioral factors of the offender. If any new information surfaces or if any old information is found irrelevant, then the profile and characteristics must be revised.

Besides the four stages of the BEA, there are also two phases in which the BEA will be most useful. The first phase is known as the “Investigative Phase.” The “Investigative Phase” consists of the period of time when the crime was first committed and the investigation by law enforcement has begun or “the unknown offender for the known crime.” There are many key points during this phase including identifying relevant suspects and investigating them, linking related crimes, identifying potential behaviors and creating relevant strategies. The second phase is called the “Trail Phase.” The “Trial Phase” refers to the phase in which there is a criminal defendant or a “known offender for the known crime.” The second phase aims to evaluate the evidence, interrogation, comprehend motives, understand plans and strategies, and link crimes again, but this time using modus operandi.

The criminal case in which criminal profiling played the most dramatic and successful role throughout the investigation was the hunt for the “Mad Bomber of New York City.” The “Mad Bomber” was a serial bomber throughout the 1940's and early 1950's that terrorized the city of New York. The “Mad Bomber” targeted areas such as theaters and phone booths, and even larger venues such as Grand Central and Pennsylvania Station. In 1956, the last year of the bombings, the NYPD requested the help of psychiatrist James A. Brussel. Dr. Brussel worked out of Greenich Village and also held the position of “assistant commissioner of mental hygiene” for the state of New York. After joining the investigation, Dr. Brussel studied documented photographs and other evidence of the crime scenes. He also studied and analyzed the letters written by the “Mad Bomber” to observe his writing style and interpret any mental behaviors that might have been portrayed. Following further investigation and studies, Dr. Brussel was able to form quite an extensive and very detailed profile of the wanted bomber. Based on previous and historical knowledge of bombings, Dr. Brussel concluded that the bomber was male. He was also able to classify the offender as a paranoid and also used the offenders paranoid behaviors taken from the writing style and strict construction of the bombs to classify the offender as middle aged. Based on the writing style of the letters, Dr. Brussel was also able to determine that the bomber was either foreign or at least spent a good amount of time with foreigners. The letters also portrayed the intelligence of about a high school graduate, but not quite college material. Dr. Brussel was also able to determine that the offender was either a Slav or Roman Catholic because they are well known to use bombs as a form of weaponry. Even though letters were mailed from both New York and Connecticut addresses, Dr. Brussel concluded that the bomber lived in Connecticut because of its' large population of Europeans which supported the fact that the bomber was foreign. Dr. Brussel concluded that the offender had a personal grudge against a New York company call Consolidated Edison and could be either a current or past employee. In brief, the profile stated the bomber was “…a heavy man. Middle aged. Foreign Born. Roman Catholic, Single. Lives with a brother or sister," and “…when you find him, chances are he will be wearing a double breasted suit. Buttoned.” With help from the profile, the police tracked down and arrested George Metesky from Waterbury, Connecticut. When Metesky was located and arrested in 1957 he confessed to everything. Surprising enough, Dr. Brussel was extremely accurate with his profile when the investigation concluded that Metesky met many of the profiles characteristics, being an over-weight, single, foreign and Catholic male. Metesky was even taken away wearing a double breasted suit, buttoned. After his work on the “Mad Bomber” case, Dr. Brussel continued to work with the NYPD up until 1972. He continued to help profile numerous offenders and also helped to profile and apprehend Albert DeSalvo who was convicted as the “Boston Strangler.”

The work of Dr. Brussel also sparked the interest of Howard D. Teten who in 1962 joined the FBI. After meeting with Dr. Brussel, Teten was very interested in applying profiling into his investigative techniques. Teten teamed up with Patrick J. Mullany to form the BSU (Behavioral Science Unit) of Quantico in 1972. Their studies and theories of profiling faced its first test when the unit was on the hunt for the kidnapper of a seven year-old girl in the Rocky Mountains. Using their newly developed profiling and investigative techniques, Teten, Mullany and Robert K. Ressler composed a profile. The profile listed the offender as “most likely a young, white, male, homicidal Peeping Tom; a sex killer who mutilates his victim after death, who sometimes takes body parts as souvenirs.” David Meirhofer was soon arrested, and could not have fit the profile any better. After searching Meirhofer's house, investigators were able to uncover body parts of both Susan Jaeger, the kidnapped girl, and another body from a previous murder victim. The profiling techniques of the FBI were then renamed as the “Criminal Investigative Analysis Program (CIAP) and Meirhofer went down as the “first serial killer to be caught with the aid of the FBI's new investigative technique called offender profiling or criminal investigative analysis.” This is a second example of how criminal profiling was a successful tactic throughout an investigation.

One of the first cases in which criminal profiling was used for investigation was the case of “Jack the Ripper.” “Jack the Ripper” was an unidentified serial killer of London, France who took the lives of women earning a living by way of prostitution. Although the identity of the “Ripper” has never been discovered, many studies and analysis have developed a numerous amount of suspects. Throughout the 1880's, Dr. Thomas Bond became famous for assisting in the autopsies of the “Rippers” last victim, Mary Kelly. Dr. Bond was originally called to the investigation to analyze the surgical knowledge of the “Ripper” because of the manner he removed internal organs from his victims. As the investigation continued, Dr. Bond furthered his studies by recreating and examining crime scenes in order to analyze the behavior that was portrayed at the time of the offense and the wound patterns. On November 10, 1888, Dr. Bond actually noted that because of the sexual nature of each crime, the offender suffered from some sort of rage and hatred towards women. Dr. Bond finally released a criminal profile and told the police that “the unknown offender would be quiet and harmless in appearance, possibly middle-aged, and neatly attired, probably wearing a cloak to hide the bloody effects of his attacks out in the open.” The profile also stated that the offender was of strong build and that same person committed all five murders. As for the surgical knowledge, Dr. Bond concluded that the offender had no knowledge of anatomy, but others disagree with this belief and actually state that in his notes, Dr. Bond actually describes the offender as having both anatomy and surgical knowledge. When combining profiling with other investigative tactics, investigators can create a pretty detailed description of a wanted suspect such as this one for “Jack the Ripper”: “A white male, average or below average height, between 20 and 40 years of age in 1888, did not dress as laborer or indigent poor. had lodgings in the East End, did have medical expertise, despite 1-2 opinions to contrary, may have been foreigner, right-handed, had a regular job since the murders all occurred on weekends, was single so that he could roam streets at all hours.” Despite the fact that the identity of “Jack the Ripper” remains unknown, the work of Dr. Bond in developing a criminal profile is considered the first of its kind as many people deem Dr. Bond to be the pioneer of the profiling field. Unfortunately, the case of “Jack the Ripper” was an instance in which criminal profiling was unsuccessful in locating and apprehending the offender.

Besides criminal cases, offender and psychological profiling played a large role throughout World War II. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the now CIA) wanted a criminal profile of Adolph Hitler, so they asked psychoanalyst Dr. Walter C. Langer to develop what he could. Since Hitler was taking over Europe and threatening the well-being of the United States, the OSS wanted to know his mind and how it worked. The OSS was looking for a psychological and behavioral analysis of Hitler and his plans. Not only did the OSS want the profile to be used in understanding and predicting strategies, but might also be used to develop an interrogation method if Hitler happened to be captured. Dr. Langer was able to construct a 135 page paper of Hitler's traits based on interviews, speeches and Hitler's book entitled “Mein Kampf.” Dr. Langer's paper included many behavioral and mental traits of Hitler including a fear of germs, an oedipal complex and a tendency to speak in long monologues. The most significant prediction was the fact that Hitler would most likely commit suicide if defeat was certain, considering death by natural cause and death in battle were unlikely. As predicted by Langer, Hitler did commit suicide in an underground bunker after receiving news of definite defeat.

Unfortunately, criminal profiling does not always work, but there are certain cases in which profiling will work better then others. While profiles can provide information such as gender, age and even mental characteristics such as Modus Operandi, there must be a minimal about of information available for analysis. Profilers of modern times have many resources available to them besides evidence from the current crime, including past cases, criminal studies, interaction with past criminals and personal experience. As profiling becomes more and more psychological, current theories can help profilers and investigators interpret thought patterns, education levels, mental traits and defects and even what drives the offender to do the things they do.

As criminal, offender and psychological profiling continue to become more popular throughout investigations, changing criminal methods and minds have even affected the methods of profiling. While there are more then one way to go about profiling a wanted criminal, the factors of the specific case and personal preferences and knowledge of the investigators will determine which method is best suited for the current case.