There are any number of reports that an intelligence unit can produce for a police department. But, among the many kinds of reports that an intelligence unit could provide for criminal investigators, perhaps the four most important are criminal profiles, geographic profiles, time—event charts, and link analysis.
Although criminal profiling is a staple of television shows such as Criminal Minds, profiling has only been around since the 1960s. Howard Teten was the first FBI agent to come up with a profile for the FBI. Prior to joining the FBI in 1962, Teten worked for the San Leandro Police Department in California. He was appointed as an instructor in applied criminology at the National Police Academy in Washington, DC, but showed an interest in offender profiling and included some of his theories about profiling in his applied criminology' course.
Teten studied under, and was inspired by, Dr. Paul Kirk, who in 1937 became head of the University of California—Berkeleys criminology program. Kirk became well known for investigating the bedroom in the Dr. Sam Sheppard case in the 1950s and later testifying in the retrial of that case. Howard Teten was also inspired by the work of Dr. Hans Gross and Dr. James Brussel. Dr. Brussel was a psychiatrist whose criminal profile of a serial bomber in New York City in the 1950s led to the arrest of the man the media designated as “The Mad Bomber” (Winerman, 2004).
It was Tetens work with the FBI that advanced the development of profiling in the 1970s and led to the establishment of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU). Since renamed the Behavioral Research and Instruction Unit (BRIU), it continues to provide services to other law enforcement agencies during investigations.
Criminal profiling, by definition, means developing a psychological portrait of an unknown offender. While criminal profiling has come under criticism in the past few years because of a lack of scientific rigor, research continues to play a role in advancing the scientific base for criminal profiling.
These days, profiling rests, sometimes uneasily, somewhere between law enforcement and psychology' (Winerman, 2004). As a science, it is still a relatively new field with few boundaries or definitions. Its practitioners don’t always agree on methodology' or even terminology. The term profiling has caught on among the general public, largely due to movies like The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and TV shows like Profiler. But the FBI calls its form of profiling “criminal investigative analysis,” one prominent forensic psychologist calls his work “investigative psychology'” and another calls it “crime action profiling” (Winerman, 2004).
Despite the different names, all of these labels share a common goal: to help investigators examine evidence from crime scenes and victim and witness reports to develop an offender description. The description can include psychological variables such as personality traits,psychopathologies, and behavior patterns, as well as demographic variables such as age, race, or geographic location. Investigators might use profiling to narrow down a field of suspects or figure out how to interrogate a suspect already' in custody.
“In some ways, [profiling] is really still as much an art as a science,” says psychologist Harvey Schlossberg, PhD, former director of psychological services for the New York Police Department (Winerman, 2004, p. 66). But in recent years, many psychologists—together with criminologists and law enforcement officials—have begun using psychology’s statistical and research methods to bring more science into the art.
To date, there is a lack of scientific evidence in support of the techniques used in criminal profiling, and the proclaimed successes of criminal profilers. The unscientific basis of profiling calls into question the validity of the methods it has spawned, and the ways in which these methods are used today. Academic evaluation and criticism promote the need for further research and scientific research on whether profiling can be a useful tool in criminal investigations (European Association of Psychology and the Law, 2011).
Some empirical evaluations of criminal profiling have been conducted. Two studies attempted to profile stranger rapists’ criminal histories from their crime scene behavior, and both reported some limited success (Abumere, 2015). A study that tried to predict the characteristics of burglars from their crime scene behavior also achieved some success in predicting criminal demographics and previous criminal history (Abumere, 2015).These studies have searched for relationships between criminal characteristics and actions at the behavioral level.There are several researchers (such as Craig Bennell at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada) who are studying the effectiveness of offender profiling.
The term geographic profiling was coined by D Kim Rossmo, a former detective inspector with the Vancouver Police Department. While studying for his doctorate, Rossmo conceived of the idea of using geographic profiling to target the residence of offenders, and he was instrumental in developing the first software package to be able to do this.
The premise of geographic profiling is that given a sufficient number of crimes, with adequate information for analysis, a probabilistic map of the area in which the offender’s residence is located can be calculated (Swanson et al., 2012).
Although designed to analyze the locations of a connected series of crimes to determine the most likely area of offender residence, geographic profiling allows investigators and law enforcement officers to more effectively manage information and focus their investigations. Despite some anecdotal successes with geographic profiling, there have also been several instances where geographic profiling has either been wrong in predicting where the offender lives or works or has been inappropriate as a model (Paulsen, 2006).Thus far, none of the geographic profiling software packages have been subject to rigorous, independent, or comparative tests to evaluate their accuracy, reliability, validity, utility, or appropriateness for various situations. As Swanson and colleagues point out,
As in the case of other recently developed investigative technologies, geoprofiling is in a state of transition as refinements are developed. It is not a perfect tool, and its capabilities can be decreased if the number of cases in a series are roughly less than 5 or the crime linkage is inaccurate.
(Swanson et al., 2012, p. 200)
Time–Event Charting and Link Analysis
Follow-up investigations often result in the accumulation of significant amounts of data. As a result, financial transactions, relationships, places, events, telephone calls, and other data can be obscured and their importance overlooked, resulting in an unnecessarily lengthened or even truncated investigation. Software has been generated that creates a variety of charts, saving investigative time and effort for other uses. Two commonly used investigative tools to offer shortcuts for crime investigators are time—event charting and link analysis.
A time—event chart depicts in graphic form the chronology of an individual’s or a group’s activities. A time—event chart is simply a timeline that offers investigators a way to focus on individual incidents in order to develop a general, graphic overview of a crime. In this sense, a time-event chart answers the question, “What were this individual’s activities leading up to a crime?”
Link analysis refers to analyzing relationships among people or organizations and is used to find matches in data for known patterns of interest, find anomalies where known patterns are violated, and discover new patterns of interest.
In intelligence work for police departments and investigators, one of the major goals of data mining is to discover patterns, links, and relationships hidden in the data. By discovering relationships—links—intelligence analysts may be able to provide detectives with valuable leads in unsolved cases.
As this chapter clearly indicates, intelligence is essential in modern police work, especially in criminal investigations. Given the importance of an intelligence unit as part of the investigative team, Chapter 7 will go into more detail about how intelligence is collected.