Geographic profiling was primarily used to aid law enforcement officials in capturing violent crimes such as rapists, arsonists, and serial killers, but it has been researched to help aid in the capture of burglars as well. Geographic profiling attempts to analyze connected criminal activities as well as the location of the crimes, in an effort to determine an offender’s address. Geographic profiling is another form of using a multidisciplinary approach, as it uses a variety of information to gather information, including forensic science, psychology, mathematics, enumeration, sociology, and of course geography. Criminology expert Dr. Kim Rossmo developed the theory behind the digital program called Criminal Geographic Targeting, which uses computerized based data that anticipates the region that is more likely to include an offender’s house. “The underlying mathematical process involves the scanning of every point in the offender’s hunting area, and then the assigning of probabilities based on the distances from the point to each of the crime sites…The result is presented in a manner similar to a topographic map of a mountain range, with the high points representing the most likely areas for the location of the offender’s residence” (Holmes et. al, 2009, pg. 244).
Geographic profiling can also be referred to as ‘Environmental criminology’ which is a type of Social Structure theory. Social structure theories attempts to explain criminal activity in regards to the relationships between individuals and their locations. Environmental criminology expounds on the notion that individuals, and location is related to criminal activity, and purports there is a factor that exists between geographic proximity, the structure of a building, and whether criminal activity is more likely to occur as a result. “It emphasizes the importance of geographic location and architectural features as they are associated with the prevalence of victimization. Such ‘hot spots’ of crime, including neighborhoods, specific streets, and even individual houses and businesses…” (Schmalleger, 2009, pg. 265). Environmental criminology also attempts to explain an offender’s ability to move, as well as his or her perceptions to explain why he, or she targets a victim, in other words a predator’s hunting typology. For instance, some theorists maintain that predators are more likely to target their victims according to the areas that the perpetrator is more comfortable, and knows, as well as where he, or she will end up disposing the body after the crime. According to environmental criminology it is thought that perpetrators intentionally target victims’ in areas that are in their buffer zones, and the distances that surround their family, social, and other personal activities are thought to be included from a perpetrator’s selection, and ‘disposal’ site. “When a criminal selects a target, there must be a suitability for victimization, which may have something to do with the ‘rightness of the place.’ Is the area appropriate for predation? Does it contain sufficient and suitable victims? Is it familiar? Does it possess a feeling of comfort? Is the risk of apprehension low? Are there escape routes? As the offender considers these factors, so must the profiler” (Holmes et. al. 2009, pg. 239-240).
The type of crime location in regards to an offender’s hunting typology, as well as disposing the victim also have different factors including whether the offender has a mode of transportation, (i.e. whether the offender is traveling by foot, has a car, or has to take public transportation.) If an offender does not have a vehicle, then the offender most likely will not be able to transport the body to a different dumping site. Holmes et. al state depending on the offender’s crime, and method depends on the location of the crime. Another factor involves an offender’s personality characteristics. For example, a disorganized asocial offender generally targets their victims based on the offender’s immediate vicinity, and after they have committed the crime they will leave the victims body at the crime site. “If all the crime locations are the same, then we have reason to believe that the offender is more disorganized” (Holmes et. al. 2009, pg 242). On the other hand, an organized nonsocial offender does not have a problem with traveling farther distances in order to stalk, and kill their victims, and will often move the victim’s bodies to a different dumping site after the crime. “Since the more organized offender usually travels longer distances to stalk, attack, or dispose of his victims, it is more likely that this type of offender lives farther from the initial contact site” (Holmes et. al. 2009, pg. 242).
Using a variety of profiling techniques can aid in the criminal investigation. Geographic profiling is also a very useful tool for profilers, and should be encouraged, and incorporated into investigations. We all understand that using an inductive approach in profiling does not adequately aid investigators, and in order for an accurate profile to be conducted a thorough analysis of the crime scene, and its physical and non-physical evidence should be studied, as well as geographic profiling. As Dr. Rossmo states, “It is important to stress that geographic profiling does not solve cases, but rather provides a method for managing the large volume of information typically generated in major crime investigations…Geographic crime patterns are clues that, when properly decoded, can be used to point in the direction of the offender” (Kim Rossmo, 2000, pg. 2).
Holmes, R., & Holmes, S. (2009). Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool. (4th ed). California: Sage Publications, Inc.
Rossmo, K. (2000). Geographic Profiling. Florida:CRC Press
Schmalleger, F. (2009). Criminology today: An integrative introduction. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.