Critically evaluate the evidence for and against geographical profiling
Birmingham City University
There are many possibilities that criminals can have that will affect their choice regarding their location to commit a crime. Geographic profiling is an investigative methodology that analyses the locations of a connected series of crime to determine the most credible area of an offender’s base (Rossmo, 2000). Its key purpose is to assist the police in managing information via suspect prioritisation. Whilst geographic profiling was originally established for analysing serial murder incidents, it has now been extended to include rape, sexual assault, robbery and more recently to various other crimes such as kidnapping, burglary and vandalism (Rossmo, 2012). This essay will aim to emphasise evidence in contrary to and in favour of geographic profiling.
Geographic profiling stems from the ideas and principles of environmental criminology which highlights the factors influencing criminal spatial behaviour and location they choose to commit a crime (Rossmo, 2000). Incorporated into the literature are various essential theories that are important to geographic profiling. The first theory, Routine Activity Theory (Cohen and Felson 1979; Felson, 1994) posits that an offender will encounter opportunities to commit crimes in the areas they are familiar with and so therefore there is a relationship between crime locations and their awareness space. The next theory, Rational Choice theory (Clarke and Felson, 1993; Cornish and Clarke, 1986) postulates that the judgment to offend is due to the decision-making process that weighs the expected efforts, rewards and costs that are involved (Clarke and Felson, 1993). The penultimate theory, the Crime Pattern Theory, combines the previous two theories. It states that offences will take place where an offender’s awareness space combines with the apparent suitable targets. (Tonkin et al, 2010). The literature ultimately highlights that there is a relationship between the areas that an offender frequents and the locations in which they commit a crime, offenders will not travel long distances to commit a felony and finally, taking into account of previous offender locations, predictions can be made of the sequential location in the offender will choose. All in all, these theories provide the fundamentals that underline geographical profiling.
It is undoubted that the area in which an offender is familiar with will influence the possible locations a perpetrator will choose to commit a crime. Two heuristics that are frequently mentioned in geographic profiling literature include the assumptions of democentricity and distance decay. Canter and Larkin (1993), identified the term demoncentricity as a means of describing the greater likelihood that an offender would commit their crimes in the area surrounding their home than outside. This was known as the “circle hypothesis” which identifies that criminals do not commit cri...