The History of Criminal Profiling

Behind every action is an individual with certain motivations, so it stands to reason that criminals leave psychological clues behind at their crime scenes (Discovery Channel, 2007). This would lead investigators to turn to profiling, therefore eliminating suspects and getting a clearer picture of who they are looking for. It has been studied and researched for many years and often proving to narrow down suspects and eventually lead to a conviction. Profiling looks at the behavior patterns and personalities. There are many different tools used in this process and although examining a crime scene for clues, profiling is mainly done sitting at a desk, using crime scene photographs, witness statements and evidence reports. Profiling looks at the unique details that indicate the perpetrators background, degree of experience and motivation (Discovery Channel, 2007) all of which will be explained to greater detail. Also noted is the history of profiling dating as far back as early 1800’s, although not recognized till sometime in the 1970’s. The future of profiling can be very beneficial to unsolved cases and can also lead to early detection in youths showing clear signs of the behaviors and educators can reinforce the necessary procedures.

Profiling is an investigative technique and forensic science with many names including offender profiling or criminal profiling, the next most common names used in dictionaries and encyclopedia’s would include psychological criminal profiling or just psychological profiling. The FBI approach came up with a name criminal personality profiling. Criminologists think of it as a type of applied criminology or clinical criminology (History of Profiling, 2007). Profiling can be a useful tool for investigators when they are trying to build a picture of their suspect, often with not enough evidence otherwise. Definitions of profiling by some psychologists would include Bumgarner in 2004 “in its plainest sense, criminal justice profiling occurs when criminal justice officials strategically consider characteristics such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation (age and other factors) to make discretionary decisions in the course of their duties”. Turvey quoted in 2002 “It is the process of inferring distinctive personality characteristics of individuals responsible for committing criminal acts”. Egger in 1999 quoted “It is an attempt to provide investigators with more information on the offender who is yet to be identified”. Copson in 1995 “It is an attempt to determine attributes of the unknown subject (UNSUB) or perpetrator based on evaluating minute details of the crime scene, the victim, and any other obtainable evidence”. And finally Gerberth quoted in 1981 “It is an educated attempt to provide investigative agencies with specific information about the type of individual who committed a certain crime” (History of Profiling, 2007). To be a good profiler, one needs to have knowledge of sociology, psychology, psychiatry, and criminology, as well as the ability to blend the theories of these disciplines with common sense (History of Profiling, 2007) It is clear to see from these definitions that the perpetrator of such crimes are greatly researched and based on recent ongoing research and previous research there has been significant results and similar traits of the criminal mind and behavior associated with specific crimes in these studies.

As pointed out by Fredrickson and Silinger in 2002, profiling can be either Proactive of Reactive. Investigators using profiling to solve crimes that have already been committed, this being the reactive process and is seen to be over glamorized. Proactive profiling is an attempt to interdict and foil crime before it happens and can be defined as follows “To make judgments about another, relative to possible criminal activity, based on a number of overt and subtle factors which may or may not include things such a persons race, manor of dress and grooming, behavioral characteristics, when and where observation is made, the circumstances under which the observation is made, and relative to information the officer may already possess”(Fredrickson & Siljander, 2002). Other techniques would include the inductive deductive approach. Inductive criminal profiling would be the process of profiling criminal behavior, crime scenes, and victims from the known behaviors and emotions suggested by other criminals, crime scenes and/or victims and an example of this logic is as follows, 80% of known serial killers that attack college students in car parks are white males aged between 20-35 who live with there mothers. Our offender attacked three college students in a car park on separate occasions. Therefore, the offender who is part of this large group who fits the profile called serial killers is a white male aged 20-35 and lives with his mother (Knowledge Solutions, 2007). Deductive profiling is the behavioral evidence analysis a specific criminal, crime scene and victim exclusively from forensic evidence relating to the crime scene and victim of that offender alone. An example of this, the body of a female victim is found nude in a remote forest with 4 shallow, careful incisions on the chest, cutting across her nipples, her genital areas also removed with a sharp instrument. No blood is found at the crime scene, nor are clothes. The victim bares ligature marks around her wrists. Petechiae, which are coloured spots on the skin are evident in the eyes, neck and face above pattern compression to the neck. Fresh tire impressions are found approx 20 yards from where the body is located. Therefore, clearly the offender bound the victim while restraining her as she was still alive due to the marks left on her wrist from associated with struggling, obviously this was removed before the body was disposed as there was nothing found at the scene. The location where the body was found was clearly not the actual location of where the victim died. The victim likely been asphyxiated with a material ligature about the neck, indicated by the pattern compression and petachiae. The tire marks indicating the offender was mobile. All these together indicate a competent intelligent offender who is likely to be in employment and likely to be a sexual sadist. This is deductively suggested by the vehicle, the use of a secondary scene to dispose of the body to avoid transfer evidence, the removal of the victims genitals, and deliberate cutting of the victims nipples intended to cause pain but not serious injury (Knowledge Solutions, 2007).

Historically, 90% of profiling has involved murder (65%) and rape (25%) cases (Holmes & Holmes, 2002). 70% of all serial murder is sexually motivated (Newton, 2000). Other crimes included in profiling are child molestation, kidnapping, extortion, obscene telephone calls, and suicide. Bank robbers have been profiled as young (age 26-30), white (61%), unemployed (56%), school dropouts (49%) who have no criminal record (only 15% do) and commit fewer than four offenses (Haran & Martin, 1984). Arsonists have also been extensively profiled (Rider, 1980) and so have anonymous letter writers and telephone callers (Casey-Owens, 1984). According to Gerberth in 1996 the crimes most suitable for profiling would include sadistic torture in sexual assaults, evisceration’s, post-mortem cases of slashing and cutting, motiveless fire settings, lust and mutilation murders, rapes, occult crimes, child sexual abuse including pedophilia, bank robberies and obscene and terroristic letter writing (Gerberth 1996; Holmes & Holmes, 2002)
The history of profiling dates as far back to the early 1800’s when criminal anthropologist’s tried to connect criminal psychology to physical characteristics. Jacob Fries (1773-1843) would have been one to start these lengthy enquirers which would be carried through to the late 19th century with the work of Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909).
Dr Thomas Bond, a police surgeon in the 1880’s would have been what some consider the worlds first profiler, he performed the autopsy on Mary Kelly aged 24 who took the brunt of Jack the Rippers frenzied attack, she was also the last of his five victims. All five victims were prostitutes and to date prostitutes are always an easy target for serial killers. On November 8th 1888, Mary apparently invited a man into her room, when she was killed the perpetrator spent approx two hours disemboweling her. Her chest and legs had been skinned, her heart was removed and never found, chunks of flesh cut from her legs and buttocks (The Crime Library, 2007). All the killings escalated in brutality and clearly were of a sexual nature, an intense element of rage. These killings would be quick, clean and often done out in the open with some form of disemboweling (The Crime Library, 2007). Except for the last one, Mary Kelly. Bond attempted to reconstruct this crime, interpreting the behavior of the perpetrator and concluding signature personality traits for the police to investigate. Bond claimed in his notes on 10th November 1888 that all five victims had been killed by a physically strong man, who worked alone. He was cool and daring, he suggested the man would be quiet and inoffensive in appearance, middle aged, neatly attired, probably wearing a cloak to hide the blood from his victims that were killed out in the open. He would be a loner, without a real occupation, eccentric and mentally unstable. He claimed he might be a sufferer of a condition called Satyriasis, a sexual deviancy. People who knew him would be aware he was not mentally stable (The Crime Library, 2007). Bond added that the killer had no anatomical knowledge, but this was later contradicted by Don DeNevi and John Campbell writers of a book Profile of a Criminal Mind’. They argued that Bond noted the killer had great surgical expertise suggesting he may have been a surgeon or butcher (The Crime Library, 2007). There was another victim, Alice McKenzie, that Bond performed an autopsy on and was convinced it was the same man. Contrary to Bond’s findings the killer who was nicknamed Jack the Ripper’ was never caught.
In 1943 a psychiatrist named Walter Langer who was asked to help by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to profile one of the worlds feared men Adolf Hitler. His psycho dynamic personality profile approach concluded that Hitler had a need to prove his manhood to his mother (Oedipal Complex), he also pointed out his Coprophilia (also known as fecophilia, fecalphilia or coprolagnia) this would involve sexual pleasure through human feces, or rather to its excretion. Coprophilia is the attraction to the smell, taste, texture, or sights and sounds of the act and has as a primary mean of sexual arousal and gratification (Wikipedia, 2007). Another fetish he noted Hitler to have was Urolagnia (also known as urophilia or undinism and in more recent years being referred to as Golden Showers’) again this is sexual pleasure from urine and urination (Wikipedia, 2007). Hitler, it was claimed had an incestuous relationship with his niece, Geli Raubal who once told Otto Strasser an ex Nazi leader with a grudge against Hitler that he had once asked Geli to crouch over his face naked and urinate on him (Wikipedia, 2007). Langer also predicted Hitler would commit suicide at war’s end (History of Profiling, 2007)
Body type theorist Ernest Kretschmer (1888-1964) among others carried on the work of Lombroso in to the 20th century. Lombroso and Kretschmer made early attempts at profiling. In 1925 Kretschmer explained three personalities;
The Cycloid Personality heavyset, soft body type, vacillates between normality and abnormality, lacks spontaneity and sophistication, most likely to commit non-violent property crime.
The Schizoid Personality most likely to have athletic, muscular body; some can be thin and less lean, schizophrenic-like, commits violent types of offenses.
The Dis plastic Personality mixed group, highly emotional, often unable to control self, mostly commits sexual offenses of crimes of passion.

Lambroso-Ferrero in 1972 came up with ten body types and characteristics;
1 – An aquiline beak of a nose.
2 – Fleshy, swollen, or protruding lips.
3 – Small receding chin.
4 – Dark hair and bushy eyebrows that meet across the nose.
5 – Little or no beard.
6 – Displays an abundance of wrinkles.
7 – 4 to 5 times greater taste sensibility.
8 A cynical attitude, completely lacking remorse.
9 More likely to wear a tattoo and finally
10 Attaches no importance to dress as is frequently dirty and shabby (History of Profiling, 2007).

A psychiatrist heavily influenced by Kretschmer’s ideas, Dr James Brussel worked along side the New York City police department on many different cases including serial arson, bombing and murder between 1957 and 1972. His work included profiling the Mad Bomber’ and the Boston Strangler’. One description that Brussel provided for police almost completely fit the description of the man that came to the attention of authorities. Dr Brussel had written a book called Case Book of a Crime Psychiatrist’. A man named Howard Tetan who had read his book, in 1973 and visited Dr Brussel at his home in New York, and over the next year they frequently met to examine the similarities and differences in their approaches. Tetan worked for the FBI and later aided in forming the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) in 1974.

In 1970, Howard Tetan while previously working as a crime scene specialist used his concepts and set up a course called Applied Criminology’ later referred to by other specialists in the field as Psych-crim. This course was one he had thought about on the early sixties, he had to examine solved cases over a seven year period and check with several psychiatrists to ensure he was clear about the characteristics of different mental problems, it was then he was ready for presenting it. Over the next two years he gave presentations on profiling to many police specialists, detectives and the U.S Military Academy, these courses went well. Because of the necessity to expand the course Tetan requested the assistance of Pat Mullany who was then an FBI Agent. It was in 1972 that the FBI Academy opened and continuous training was given in this field. In 1974, the year the BSU was set up, Tetan and Mullany developed a Hostage Negotiation programme using principles underlying the profiling process which was then carried on by Hassel and Strentz, who later specialized in this area (History of Profiling, 2007). In 1979, Tetan left the BSU, being promoted to chief of research and development. In that same year Ressler and Douglas modified the original profiling approach to that commonly referred to as the Organized Disorganised approach; this was done to facilitate teaching profile techniques with little or no background in psychology. This programme has considerable grown since then.

In summary, profiling has been massively researched since its birth in the 1800’s. Time and time again researchers have come up with similar personality characteristics and behaviors associated with serious crimes, mainly being serial killers and rapists. A lot of less serious crimes and criminals have also been studied and results have shown to be beneficial in aiding police enquiries. Although not 100% accurate in some cases, the percentage of crimes it has helped would suggest profiling is a useful tool. The future of profiling will be greatly beneficial in other areas like a hostage situation, understanding the criminal mind and being able to manipulate it for the benefit of innocent people and also the behaviour patterns would help predict what the suspect is likely to do next therefore police can be one step ahead in these situations. Another benefit would be the early detection of common behaviours associated with these personality characteristics in young offenders and school children and hopefully target these problems before they turn to more serious ones. Always remember, history doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes!