Saturday, December 11, 2010
I confess. I occasionally watch Criminal Minds. In fact, one of my all-time favorite episodes of any television program ever is a Criminal Minds show. If you can get your eyes on one called Riding the Lightning, don't hesitate. Just make sure you have some tissues nearby. I will watch that one I-don't-care how many times. And I don't care how accurate it is. It gets to me.
But as a series, CM has never felt quite right. Too many leaps. Too many things that seem to be pulled out of a hat, magician-style.
At Lee Lofland's Writers' Police Academy I attended a class on profiling serial offenders by Rick Helms. In addition to being a retired forensic psychologist, Helms is an award winning author of ten published novels.
This presentation covered inductive verses deductive criminal profiling, and for the sake of brevity, I'll boil it down to a seriously low level.
Inductive profiling (the kind we see most often on television) is focused primarily on a broad criminal base. Time after time, in actual cases, this line of reasoning has proven fallible, and is often referred to as 'cookbook forensics.' It uses demographic characteristics, primarily of those criminals who are behind bars—not necessarily the smartest examples of criminal behavior.
A strong cornerstone of inductive profiling is the Macdonald Triad: animal cruelty, obsession with fire setting and bedwetting.
Deductive profiling (which to many professionals is the preferred method) drills down to the individual criminal with a heavy emphasis on victimology. It also calls for strong analysis of the crime scene, forensics and motivation.
The motivation analysis for deductive profiling suggests that:
-no offender acts without motivation
-no two cases are alike
-motivations are unique to the offender
-behavior develops uniquely
-most recent offense may not resembe the first offense
-an offender is capable of multiple motives
-those motives can change
So, when you're writing your law enforcement response to a killer, you might want to check out the difference between what used to be used with regularity (and is the staple of most television programs) and what professionals are relying on today.
CR: Skin Deep by Timothy Hallinan.
It's all better with friends.