Profiling and Serial Crime: Theoretical and Practical Issues / Edition 3

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The third edition of Profiling and Serial Crime illustrates the promise, purposes, and pitfalls of behavioral profiling in the investigation of serial crime, and provides a theoretical and practical foundation for students. Part one, on profiling, examines inductive and deductive reasoning, profiling methods (including geographic profiling), metacognition, expert evidence, and more. Parttwo examines serial crime in detail, including cyber-bullying, stalking, rape, murder, and arson.

This edition has been thoroughly revised throughout to reflect the latest research in criminal profiling and serial crime. Specific updates include six all-new chapters, including serial harassment and cyber-bullying and the motivations of victim and offender, and two replacement chapters on serial rape and serial arson.

  • Provides a theoretical and practical foundation for understanding the motivation and dynamics in a range of serial offenses
  • Ancillary online materials for instructors and students, including lecture slides, test bank and case studies
  • Numerous case examples show the real world uses of behavioral profiling in investigations
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The third edition…illustrates the promise, purposes and pitfalls of behavioral profiling in the investigation of serial crime, and provides a theoretical and practical foundation for students…This edition has been thoroughly revised throughout to reflect the latest research in criminal profiling and serial crime. Specific updates include six all-new chapters including serial harassment and cyber-bullying and the motivations of victim and offender…"--The Journal, Fall/Winter 2013 "The first part of this textbook on serial crime and behavioral profiling treats the history, theory, underlying assumptions, and methods of behavioral profiling, paying attention to controversies over the accuracy of behavioral profiling. Part 2 gathers chapters devoted to various types of serial crime, such as stalking, murder, and arson…this third edition contains five new chapters on harassment, bullying, staging, case linkage, and motivation."--Reference & Research Book News, December 2013

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455731749
  • Publisher: Elsevier Science
  • Publication date: 2/8/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 915,974
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Wayne Petherick is Associate Professor of Criminology at Bond University in Australia. Wayne’s areas of interest include forensic criminology, forensic victimology, criminal motivations, criminal profiling, and applied crime analysis. He has worked on risk and threat cases, a mass homicide, stalking, rape, and a variety of civil suits involving premises liability and crime prevention. He has presented to audiences in Australia and abroad, and has published in a variety of areas including social science and legal works in the areas of criminal profiling, expert evidence, stalking, serial crimes, criminal motivations, and victimology. Wayne is co-editor of Forensic Criminology, and editor of Profiling and Serial Crime: Theoretical and Practical Issues, now in its third edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Profiling and Serial Crime

Theoretical and Practical Issues

By Wayne Petherick

Elsevier Science

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-12-405901-6



The Evolution of Criminal Profiling: From Whitechapel to Quantico and Beyond

Gareth Norris

Introduction 3
Early Beginnings 4

James Brussel and Forensic Psychiatry 6
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Crime Scene Analysis 8
David Canter and Investigative Psychology 9
Kim Rossmo and Geographic Profiling 10
Brent Turvey and Behavioral Evidence Analysis 11
Conclusion 12
Questions 14
References 14


Criminal profiling, also known as offender profiling, psychological profiling, offender analysis, behavioral profiling, or just profiling, is an investigative practice that was initially developed to provide behavioral advice to police investigations and has become synonymous with the crimes of the serial killer. Likewise there exist numerous definitions of what actually constitutes a profile, and what the overriding aims of this advice are deemed to be. Geberth (1996, p. 492) suggests that it is "[...] an educated attempt to provide investigative agencies with specific information as to the type of individual who would have committed a certain crime." Whereas numerous variations exist in form and content, the general aim of a profile is to provide the police with a composite "sketch" of the likely offender(s). This usually includes common demographic variables, such as age, ethnicity, and marital status, and the more specific considerations of past criminal history, possible motivation, and likely area of residence (Ault & Reese, 1980). The level of detail, and indeed the overall style of a profile, will depend not just on the actual technique being utilized but also very much on the individual who is creating it. With a range of often conflicting schools of thought providing the theoretical paradigm on which profiling is based, there are often contradictory accounts of the various elements, from evidence examination to the nature of investigative advice. Depending on who is consulted to provide such a profile, therefore, could have a profound influence on the investigation of a crime—should it rely on the profile for guidance.

In the screen version of Thomas Harris's fictional tale, The Silence of the Lambs, there is an interesting exchange between the FBI agent, Clarice Starling, and the incarcerated psychiatristcum-serial-killer, Hannibal Lecter. During one of these encounters, Lecter advises Starling on how to decipher the behavior of "Buffalo Bill"—he suggests:

First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

However interesting these musings are, there is somewhat a giant leap to extrapolate motivations through to investigative priorities. The majority of profiling knowledge is gleaned from the myriad of TV shows and movies that have its core principles intertwined within the plot. Additionally, the central characters are often the profilers themselves, and the cat-and-mouse game of power between investigators and the offender provides a ready-made script with which to satisfy our curiosity with the criminal mind. Numerous accounts of the accurate representation of profiling and its depiction in mainstream media precede this writing (Alison & Canter, 1999; Petherick, 2003); however, many of these fictional accounts bear little resemblance to actual practice in live investigations. Similarly, the knowledge and procedures imparted to the viewer are often lacking in scientific rigor and provide a rather skewed account of the abilities eschewed to these fictional professionals. It is hoped this chapter will provide some background to the field and a chronological account showing the reader how the context and development of these endeavors has led us up to the present day.

Early Beginnings

One of the earliest examples of profiling comes from the infamous case of Jack the Ripper, who terrorized the streets of Whitechapel, London, in the late 1800s. Police pathologist Dr. Thomas Bond was to infer that the offender may have been suffering from a condition known as satyriasis—excessive and uncontrollable sexual desire in males (Rumbelow, 1988, p. 140). Contrary to popular belief, Bond also cast doubt on previous speculation that the offender was a surgeon or butcher, allegedly due to the deft use of his weapon of choice. Whereas some had speculated over the proficiency of dismemberment, the physical evidence suggested to Bond that the offender did not have particularly specialized anatomical knowledge. Unfortunately, and in a similar vein to many modern attempts at profiling, the offender in this case has never been identified, and people still speculate as to the likely perpetrator to this day. A similar case involving early manifestations of profiling—the Dusseldorf Vampire, Peter Kurten—also included a number of psychological considerations by pathologist Dr. Karl Berg in 1929. In this case, Berg believed the offender to be a narcissistic psychopath due to the degrading treatment of his victims (Berg, 1945). Both of these examples demonstrate how the two pathologists speculated as to the type of individual who was likely to have committed these crimes. As medical personnel, their remit was to determine the cause of death and, somewhat unintentionally, the opinion served to indicate who the authorities should be looking for, even though these affirmations may have been uninformed.

Although doctors and other professionals (including coroners and police officers) made what we identify as the first criminal profiles, as a branch of medicine, psychiatrists have also engaged in various forms of assessment of unknown suspects. Whereas pathologists and other medical specialists are occasionally involved in criminal investigations, psychiatrists are more often frequently found in forensic settings, primarily in the assessment of mental illness and fitness to plead/stand trial. Similarly, military psychiatrists/psychologists are more often employed in the assessment of personnel; however, one other aspect of their work may involve the creation of propaganda materials, such as creating information for leaflet drops behind enemy lines. Judging the opinions of those involved in a conflict has often been used to guide strategy, and there are numerous accounts of German psychologists who were involved (involuntarily or otherwise) in the Nazi war effort (Billig, 1978). Recent claims were made against the use of psychologists in the designing of torture techniques following the September 11, 2001 attacks and the apprehension of terrorism suspects (see APA, 2007/8).

The use of behavioral theories by the military is well documented in relation to strategy and related concepts, such as morale. However, in 1943 a psychiatrist named Walter Langer was asked to provide a more specific psychological profile by the US Office of Strategic Services. With psychodynamic theory being at the forefront of behavioral analysis at the time, the resulting assessment indicated the individual to be a neurotic psychopath in dire need of expressing his manliness to his mother. He predicted that at the ultimate climax to conflict, the individual would most likely commit suicide. The focus of this profile was Adolf Hitler, and although a thorough comparative clinical examination could not be performed, Langer was at the very least correct about Hitler committing suicide, who did so in his Berlin bunker two years later. Interestingly, commentators place much emphasis on the suicidal realization of Hitler when, in fact, the prediction was the most probable in a list of eight such scenarios:

1. Hitler may die of natural causes—deemed to be a remote possibility because he was in good health aside from a stomach ailment, probably linked to a psychosomatic disturbance.

2. Hitler might seek refuge in a neutral country—unlikely because it would cast doubt on his myth of immortality by fleeing at the critical moment.

3. Hitler might be killed in battle—a possibility because he may desire to expose himself as a fearless leader and may have the adverse effect of binding the German people to his legend.

4. Hitler might be assassinated—another plausible outcome, which he himself had speculated over.

5. Hitler may go insane—he was believed to exhibit many characteristics of a borderline schizophrenic, and if faced with defeat, it was likely his psychological structure would collapse.

6. German military might revolt and seize him—an unlikely event due to the unique position he enjoyed in the eyes of the German people, but he may be confined in secret should he become unstable.

7. Hitler may fall into our hands—the most unlikely eventuality because this would be the scenario he personally would do his utmost to avoid.

8. Hitler might commit suicide—the most conceivable conclusion due to his inordinate fear of death, which he had already envisaged, stating, "Yes, in the hour of supreme peril I must sacrifice myself for the people."

What is important to understand at this period in time is that although clinical assessment was becoming an important and emerging field, seldom was any evaluation conducted with the person not in situ. What Langer was attempting to provide was a psychological picture of someone whom he had not physically examined and also to provide some indication of his likely future actions. Indeed, Langer was to comment that such as study "was a far cry from the firsthand data with which a psychoanalyst usually works" (Langer, 1972, p. 26). Langer's eventual profile was exhaustive and included a number of sections on how the German people viewed Hitler, the way in which his associates regarded him, and the way Hitler believed himself to be. The overall aim was to both tentatively guide future dealings with him and, specifically, to aid in the propaganda effort against him.

Although Langer documents each circumstance and its likelihood of occurrence, a more detailed review of the text indicates the tenuous nature of the profile in general. There is some level of psychiatric assessment—for example, that he could be a borderline schizophrenic or a hysteric—but significant interpretation on his actual behavior relies on Hitler's own assertions, gleaned primarily from his writings and speeches. Nevertheless, Langer's work led the way for others to analyze "unknown" individuals based on the observation of their behavior. Similar evaluations of major political leaders have also been constructed; Freud's seldom-cited psychological profile of former US President Thomas Woodrow Wilson (Freud & Bullitt, 1966) is another similar example.

James Brussel and Forensic Psychiatry

Following the work of Langer, the New York-based psychiatrist James Brussel provided a profile of the "Mad Bomber," who had been terrorizing the city for a number of years (Brussel, 1968). The apprehension of George Metesky in 1956, being almost the mirror image of Brussel's prediction, right down to the legendary double-breasted suit Brussel predicted he would be wearing, was to guide profiling into a new era. Whereas Langer had information on his subject and was aware of him as a person in the physical sense, Brussel had been able to provide his assessment on the basis of other information and with no prior knowledge of the actual offender. From his examination of the crime scene actions and other materials (e.g., the letters sent to the police), Brussel suggested that the offender was suffering from paranoia and most probably held a grudge against the Edison Electrical Company (the organization was defamed in numerous letters discovered at the bomb sites and also the target of the first bomb). In particular, the letters written by Metesky to the police contained numerous phrases that were uncommon among the colloquial language of resident Americans and led to the (correct) assumption that the bomber was therefore more likely an overseas immigrant. Geographically, Brussel also examined the locations where the letters were posted and determined that the bomber most likely commuted to Manhattan by train and therefore could quite probably live somewhere in Connecticut. According to Brussel, when apprehended and taken in for questioning, Metesky appeared almost relieved that his vendetta could now come to an end (Brussel, 1968). Confined to a secure facility, Brussel would sporadically come into contact with Metesky, who he described as a gentleman and model patient.

Excerpted from Profiling and Serial Crime by Wayne Petherick. Copyright © 2014 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Elsevier Science.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Criminal Profiling: A Continuing History by Gareth Norris

Chapter 2: Induction and Deduction in Criminal Profiling by Wayne Petherick

Chapter 3: Behavioural Consistency, The Homology Assumption, and the Problems of Induction by Wayne Petherick and Claire Ferguson

Chapter 4: Criminal Profiling Methods by Wayne Petherick

Chapter 5:Geographic Profiling - From Maps and Pins to GIS by Gareth NorrisNEW

Chapter 6: The Fallacy of Accuracy in Criminal Profiling by Wayne Petherick

Chapter 7: Case Linkage by Michael McGrath NEW

Chapter 8: Staged Crime Scenes by Claire Ferguson NEW

Chapter 9: Investigative Relevance by Claire Ferguson

Chapter 10: Metacognition in Criminal Profiling by Barry Woodhouse and Wayne Petherick

Chapter 11: Criminal Profiling as Expert Evidence by Wayne Petherick, David Field, Andrew Lowe and Elizabeth Fry

Chapter 12: Where to From Here by Wayne Petherick


Chapter 13: Serial Harassment and Bullying by Wayne Petherick and Yolande Huntingdon NEW

Chapter 14: Serial Stalking: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places by Wayne Petherick

Chapter 15: Serial Rape, Alicia Jenkins and Wayne PetherickNew replacement chapter

Chapter 16: Understanding Serial Sexual Murder: A Biopsychsocial Approach by Robert J Homant and Daniel B Kennedy

Chapter 17: Serial Arson by Ross Brogan New replacement chapter

Chapter 18: Motivations: The Offender's Perspective byWayne Petherick and Grant Sinnamon NEW

Chapter 19: Motivations: The Victim's Perspective byWayne Petherick and Grant Sinnamon NEW

Glossary of Terms

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