Week 6 Lecture
Behavioral Analysis and Other Related Evidence
Sometimes perpetrators operate under nontraditional motives and, as a result, investigators are left with no meaningful leads or suspects. These situations are best approached through the use of behavioral analysis. Through crime scene profiling, geographic profiling, and linguistic analysis, investigators can focus investigations to certain types of offenders.
Behavioral Analysis Defined
- Behavioral analysis is a broad term that includes crime scene profiling, geographic profiling, and linguistic analysis. It is used to help identify an unknown perpetrator by developing information on the type of person to look for based on the analysis of certain features and characteristics of the crime.
The Construction of Psychological Profiles
There are several steps in the construction of a profile.
1. First, one must develop an understanding and classification of the crime in question.
a. An organized crime scene classification suggests that the crime scene is orderly and reflects a high degree of control. This offender is likely the same age and race as the victim, younger than 35, married, above-average intelligence, outgoing, employed, has military background, and lives away from the crime scene.
b. A disorganized crime scene classification is likely to be sloppy and, as its name suggests, disorderly. This offender is likely to be the same race as the victim, 16 to late 30s in age, below-average intelligence, single, mentally ill, unemployed or has a job that requires little skill, lives or works near the crime scene, and sexually or socially incompetent.
It is important to note that these distinctions are ideal scenarios and many crimes show indicators of both classifications.
2. It is necessary then to examine the victimology of this crime.
3. One must consider the suspected motivation for the crime.
4. Then, it is necessary to identify characteristics of offenders who have committed this type of offense in the past.
5. A description of the overt characteristics of the perpetrator is then provided.
The Meaning of Perpetrator Actions and Crime Characteristics
There are several inputs into the crime scene profiling process.
1. The crime may reveal whether the offender has committed a similar crime before and if they are likely to commit one again.
a. Souvenirs provide the perpetrator a memory of the victim or the incident.
b. Trophies have an intrinsic value to the offender. They are viewed more of as a rewards for committing the crime.
2. Crime scenes may reveal if they were committed by the same person.
a. An Modus Operandi (MO) refers to the actions taken by the perpetrator in the committing of the crime.
b. A signature is what is done by the perpetrator as a way to attain emotional satisfaction.
3. Information about the victim may reveal characteristics of the offender. A detailed victimology is essential to the criminal profiling process.
4. An assessment of the overall risk associated with the crime is also important.
5. The offender’s method of approach and/or attack may provide clues regarding his or her characteristics as well.
6. Evidence of depersonalization may be indicative of a relationship with the victim, an important characteristic to know about a perpetrator.
7. The use of duct tape can be indicative of military service or prison time.
8. The presence of staging may provide clues regarding the perpetrator’s characteristics. Though staging is a distraction meant for the police, it can be revealing, so long as it is identified as staging.
The Effectiveness of Crime Scene Profiles
- The most commonly cited benefit of a psychological profile is that it helps focus an investigation.
- Psychological profiles can help identify a suspect or hinder the identification of a suspect.
- Expert profilers are better at predicting an unknown offender than non-profilers but are still not very accurate.
- More research is needed, as results are inconclusive at best regarding the use of psychological profiles.
Geographical profiling is a process that can help identify the location where a perpetrator lives through the analysis of the crime scene locations.
The premise used in geographical profiling is that human beings do not move randomly throughout their environment. There are comfort zones where people spend the majority of their time.
- Anchor points are areas where the individual spends the majority of his/her time.
- Familiar routes to and from these places create an individual’s cognitive map.
- Distance decay is the concept that as the distance away from a perpetrator’s home increases, the chances of him or her committing a crime decreases.
- The buffer zone is the area close to the perpetrator’s home where the perpetrator has a strong inclination not to commit a crime.
Psycholinguistics involves the analysis of spoken or written words to:
- Reveal information about the person responsible for the statement,
- Associate crimes based on the similarities of writing style and communication, and
- Identify deception of the statement.
The analysis of language can reveal a person’s geographic origins, gender, race, age, educational attainment, and even personality traits.
Statement analysis is most useful in focusing an investigation, like in the investigation of the anthrax letters where linguistic experts were able to determine that the letters were written by the same person and he was concealing himself as an unintelligent, foreign terrorist.
The use of pronouns, possessive pronouns, nouns, and verbs and how they are used in statements can help with the identification of deception.
Information from the Public, the Media, Electronic Networks, and Other Sources
Many investigations simply would not be able to go any further without witnesses coming forward. However, not all witnesses are aware that they have valuable information about a crime. Investigators have various strategies to reach out to potential witnesses who normally would not come forward. Moreover, law enforcement agencies reach out to each other for help in the identification of perpetrators and witnesses of crimes that cross jurisdictional boundaries. Information sharing therefore, is essential to the investigative process.
The Role of the Public and Media in Criminal Investigations
People may have knowledge about a crime or perpetrator and not even be aware that their observations were related to the crime. To identify and obtain information from these individuals, the police use several different strategies including tip lines, television shows, special alerts, and other strategies.
- Crime Stoppers offer cash rewards for information that leads to an individual’s arrest.
- Tip lines have also been established on the Internet, like after the Boston Marathon Bombing.
Televisions shows like America’s Most Wanted disseminate information about unsolved crimes with the intention that the public will have information regarding the crimes and contact authorities.
In order to send out an AMBER Alert, some criteria need to be satisfied:
- Confirm that there has been a child abduction.
- There has to be reason to believe that the child is in danger of harm or death.
- There has to be enough reliable information about the facts of the case (suspect description, child description, vehicle used, etc.).
- The theory behind AMBER Alerts is that children who are abducted by strangers, often are harmed quickly (within the first three hours). Therefore, the public’s help is needed to quickly and safely bring the child home.
There are limitations to AMBER Alerts:
- AMBER Alerts are designed for stranger abduction cases, which are infrequent.
- Most AMBER Alert cases result in a child recovery, though the Alert is not the reason for the recovery.
- AMBER Alerts involving a stranger abduction are less likely to result in the recovery of the child.
- In cases where there was a child recovery, only 17% was within six hours of the abduction (a child is usually harmed within the first three hours).
Other Information Disseminating Strategies
Individual police agencies will have their own “most wanted” lists that they disseminate to the public through “crime alerts”, media, billboards, and “FaceCrook” (computer application available to inmates).
These various strategies have their limitations:
- The police easily get overwhelmed by the massive amounts of information they receive that is likely irrelevant.
- False information can lead to attention on innocent “suspects.”
- The fair distribution of reward money is an issue.
- The credibility and motivation of citizens to contribute information is something to consider.
- Publicity on the case may effect a witness’ perceptions of the facts of the case.
- Publicity can affect other dimensions of the case, like the ability of a defendant to receive a fair trial.
- Should money be paid for someone performing what is arguably someone’s civic duty?
Confidential Informants (CI)
Confidential Informants are those who actively assist law enforcement in an on-going capacity (usually for drug-related crimes where an undercover investigation is required). This differs from informers who provide the police information on a one-time basis.
The use of a confidential informant is a controversial practice but it is viewed as a necessary evil. The problems associated with them can be lessened if coupled with constant vigilance and strict adherence to policies and procedures.
There are four types of informants:
- The hammered informant is coerced by the police to provide information.
- The mercenary informant is motivated by money to provide information to the police.
- The vengeful informant is motivated by revenge against others.
- The police buff informant is one that is a fan of the police and wants to obtain information for them.
Crime Mapping and Analysis, and Geo-Spatial Analysis
Crime analysis involves the collection and analysis of data pertaining to a criminal incident, offender, and target. This information can inform patrol allocation decisions and make predictions of future occurrences for preventative purposes.
- Methods of geographical-based crime analysis are based on the idea that crime is a non-random phenomenon. Therefore, through the use of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and COMPSTAT, the police are able to identify patterns to develop policing strategies.
Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP)
- ViCAP is a national computer database system that is operated by the FBI to identify the MO or signature aspects of crimes for the purposes of identifying crimes that are committed by the same person.
Electronic Database and Information Networks
Interdepartmental databases are used to share information across law enforcement agencies, like NCIC and NLETS, among others.
- NCIC is the largest crime information network system in the U.S. operated by the FBI. It has information on wanted persons, missing persons, unidentified persons, criminal histories and fingerprint classifications, stolen and recovered vehicles, stolen and recovered firearms, stolen and recovered heavy equipment, and much more.
- NLETS is a network that links law enforcement agencies, other criminal justice agencies, and motor vehicle and licensing departments. It has information on vehicle registrations by license or VIN, driver’s licenses and driving records, criminal history records, boat registrations, and much more.
- ICTS contains information on specific cases involving international criminal activity.
- CIS contains information on legal immigrants, naturalized citizens, and aliens.
- IBIS contains information on bullet and casing markings.
- EPIC contains information on illegal drug use, alien smuggling, weapons trafficking, and other related criminal activities.
- Sentry contains information on all federal prisoners incarcerated since 1980.
- Equifax contains credit information on individuals.
- Other databases also exist regarding band record, motor vehicle registrations, credit card information, attendance records for school or work, telephone records, and sex offender registries.
- The primary limitation of such databases is that they are only as good as the information they contain.
Social Networking and Other Internet Sites
- Facebook holds a wealth of information for investigators. Investigators find information on a person’s friends and activities through anonymously “stalking” a person or requesting to be a person’s “friend” to look at information on their page.
- Twitter can also be a useful source of information.
- Craigslist is a great way for investigators to find information on criminal behavior and perpetrators.
- YouTube is a potential source of information for investigators as well. Many individuals will post videos of them doing illegal activities.