Professor David Canter
The British Psychological Society
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Geographical profiling

Geographical profiling or geographic profiling has been developed from Environmental Psychology, which studies the relationship between human behaviour and the physical environment (Cassidy, 1997).

Full list of studies on Geographical Offender Profiling
Latest books on Geographical Offender Profiling

Studies have indicated that the location of an offender’s home or base has a tendency to be within the boundaries laid out by the locations of the crimes (Canter, Coffey, Huntley & Missen, 2000).

Stuart Kind (1987) is thought to have been the first person to incorporate the use of geographic models into an ongoing investigation. He was a forensic scientist and although his work was largely overlooked during his lifetime, it went on to be considered “the origins of present-day geographical profiling” (Canter, 2004). He was assigned to the Yorkshire Ripper enquiry and managed, with some accuracy, to determine where the perpetrator lived. However, on this occasion, it was not this information that ultimately led to Sutcliffe’s eventual capture (Kind, 1987).

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Professor Canter has suggested that there are two types of offenders – Marauder and Commuter. Each of these types of crime has its own characteristics and describes the behaviour of an offender in a different way (Laukkanen & Santtila, 2006)

Marauder Crimes
  • Static, localised or geographically stable serial offender;
  • Commits crime within a confined area;
  • Bounded by psychological barriers and landscape features;
  • Operates within his/her awareness space;
  • Likely to have an anchor point (the haven) from which to operate;
  • Offender's haven lies within the distribution of crime sites.

Commuter Crimes
  • Mobile dispersed or geographically transient serial offender;
  • Commits crimes over large areas;
  • Cross cultural and psychological boundaries;
  • Most offences occur outside the offender's awareness space;
  • Involves complex hunting strategies;
  • Hunting area lack a definable anchor point.

Geographical Profiling Software

Dragnet is a geographical prioritization package, developed at the Centre of Investigative Psychology, which is based extensively on empirical research into the spatial behaviour of offending populations. Using a series of crime locations, Dragnet prioritises the surrounding area in order to determine the most likely region or regions for the perpetrators home or base.

The software is invaluable, not only as an operational tool for police and law enforcement agencies, but also for research into the spatial behaviour of offending populations and analysis of patterns and trends in data on the journey to crime.

Interactive Offender Profiling System (iOPS) is a new system that is being developed and is changing the way that investigators think about and record crime not to mention how investigations are carried out. The software allows the police to explorer information about crimes and criminals directly onto a map and enables them to determine where the perpetrator of a given crime may live and simultaneously provide details of offenders living in that area.

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