Offender Profiling

Forensic psychology takes many forms one of them being offender profiling. There are two different stlyes of offender profiling American and British. The British style was originally developed by David Canter who used it in order to aid the police in their investigation of the Railway Rapist who later became known as the Railway Killer and eventually apprehend the perpetrator John Duffy. Whereas, the American style was developed by the FBI and is used by their behavioural analysis unit to solve many cases. The British style is centred around the individual so is therefore only specific to a particular case hence, the profile developed cannot be generalised to other crimes of a similar nature. But, the American style is focused on assigning specific characteristics relevent to all of the individuals that commit a specific crime. This techniques was first devloped in 1972 by Howard Teten and Patrick Mullany who were the founders of the FBI's behavioural analysis unit. The basic principal of the technique was to analyse a crime scene by looking for any characterisitics that could have manifested through mental illness, and this in turn was aimed to help the detective's deductive reasoning.

This technique was put to the test in the summer of 1973 when a seven year old girl was taken from a Rocky Mountain camping site in Montana. The girl was taken from a tent where she was quickly overpowered so as not to alert her parents who were sleeping nearby, after an extensive search of the surrounding area failed to produce the girl the case was referred to the FBI. Who developed a profile claiming that the offender would most likely be a young, white male who could be classed as a homicidal peeping tom, a sexually motivated killer who mutilated the bodies of his victims after he killed them and most likely took body parts as souvenirs. This profile later led to the arrest and capture of David Meirhofer a local twenty three year old white man who was also a suspect in another homicide. A warrant was issued to search his house whereupon investigators found body parts belonging to both victims which he had taken as souvenirs. Meirhofer was the first serial killer to be arrested using this technique.

Although offender profiling has proven to be successful on many occasions it is regularly criticised by other psychologists. As they pose the question as to whether or not an accurate assupmtion of an individuals personality can be gathered from one isolated aspect of their behaviour. As surely it would take multiple instances for any characteristics to be successfully identified, which poses the question as to whether or not this technique is only relevent for the study of serial offenders.

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