The Psychology of Criminals Essay Example

The global crime rate has increased considerably over the last few years; and more cases of violent crimes have been reported of in many parts of the world. This augments the need of the criminal profiling in order to draw a sketch of the wanted criminals in order to anticipate future crimes. Understanding criminal psychology behind a crime will help the police department to narrow down its list of suspects and be preplanned to catch any criminal red handed. The research questions that will be covered to address this objective are of (1) is there any difference in the past and present prospect of criminal psychology and profiling? (2) What are the stages in criminal profiling, from evidence searching to apprehending the criminal? The research paper will use secondary sources and reports of crime bureaus to analyze the current crime scenario and the contribution of criminal profiling for criminal apprehension. The result of the study indicates that being victim of childhood brutality, damaged ego and societal settings play a vital role in developing a criminal behavior in later stages of life.

Criminal Behavior Theories

The presence of criminals is a global issue that is threatening peace and harmony of societies all over the world. The criticality of the problem lies in the fact that it is hard to locate all criminals and have strong evidence against them to arrest them legally. As many criminals are not behind prison, there is always a risk of criminal and offensive activities taking place in the country. Moreover, crimes cannot be confined to the suspected criminals; and serial killers only as many other people are also driven towards such immoral acts due to their personal enmity, grievance, crave revenge or social injustice. Police officers cannot be present at a crime scene before it is being commenced.

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It is merely impossible to secure every person and every place in the country. This accounts for the need of “criminal profiling” in order to analyze the nature and purpose of a criminal act to protect from future crime acts by the same offender. As Kocsis (2006) illustrates, criminal profiling is the practice of portraying the personality of a criminal based on the way the crime has been committed. The job of police officers is to be at the crime scene and save a victim. They are not responsible to predict the crime based on the evidence of previous crime scenes which were similar in nature (Kocsis, 2006). The practice of criminal profiling is utilized by police agencies and investigative bureaus to create a rough sketch of the criminal based on the nature of the crime conducted and to be able to incarcerate the hunted criminal.

In criminal profiling, the three general categories in which the criminal is categorized are of organized, disorganized and mixed behavior. If an offender commits a crime in an organized manner by using some proper tools and leaving behind no traces, then the criminal is categorized as the organized criminal (Andrews & Bonta, 2006). If the crime scene seems spontaneous, where the criminal has not planned the details of how the crime would be conducted, then the criminal can be termed as a disorganized criminal. In such a setting, traces can be found of tools or other objects related to the crime. Furthermore, in instances where the crime scene can neither be regarded as completely planned or completely spontaneous, then the criminal is termed as mixed. Often, the police department has suspected criminals but has not enough proofs to arrest them for the certain crime (Kocsis, 2006). For example, if the police department is in the investigation of a serial killer’s case, the department would locate a number of city criminals who had been involved in the similar cases before. However, it cannot be assured whether the wanted person is one among the suspects or not. With the help of criminal profiling, the police officers will be better able to illuminate the personality and psychology of the criminal and narrow down their list of suspects and catch the right one ultimately (Andrews & Bonta, 2006).

The history of criminal profiling dates back to the early 1880s in the United Kingdom. After the few decades, it was practiced in the United States and few other countries of the world. The first informal criminal profile was prepared by two physicians George Phillips and Thomas in the hunt of the serial killer called “Jack the Ripper”, who had never been caught (Dechant, 2009). For almost six decades, the roots of criminal profiling have been attached to the cases of serial killers and murder suspects. It was in the late 1950s that criminal profilers rendered their services in the cases of theft, rape and other social crimes (Dechant, 2009).

This research paper will shed light on the modern theories related to criminal psychology and how criminal profilers use social, environmental and criminal psychology settings to anticipate the purpose of the crime and also the personality of the criminal.

To meet these requirements, this research will answer the following questions:

  • Is there any difference in the past and present prospect of criminal psychology and profiling?
  • What are the stages in criminal profiling, from evidence searching to apprehending the criminal?

Research Method

A qualitative research analysis, which is carried out in this research paper, takes into account the discussion from the secondary sources and pertinent case studies. The research will go through a theoretical analysis of the past and current prospects of criminal psychology and its impact on the criminal profiling practices. A qualitative research approach is adopted by a researcher when the nature of a study is descriptive, and the primary focus is done on the comprehension and interpretation of the issues under consideration (Hennink, Hutter, & Bailey, 2011). The investigation process is also qualitative, in which the investigation is based on the analysis and comparison of different secondary sources, leading to the research conclusion. In this research, the number of old and contemporary theories on criminal psychology will be discussed. It will prepare the ground for analyzing the current and future prospects of criminal profiling. The case study is used to comprehend the stages and considerations in a criminal profiling process (Hennink, Hutter, & Bailey, 2011).

Literature Review

This section of the paper will deal with the literature gathered from different sources pertinent to the main topic. A collection of theories on criminal psychology is presented in this section that will be critically analyzed in the next one.

Rational Choice Theory

A rational choice theory is one of the most common theories, which has been used in forensic psychology of criminals. Dr. William Glasse, a father of the rational choice theory, describes that it is the personal choice and will of any criminal to commit a crime or not. The reasons of revenge, anger and enmity will not drive every individual towards a socially immoral act. However, some of them will be provoked to do it. For this reason, it is the rationality created by the person based on his/her psychology and the situation. Siegel (2005) further adds to the rational theory by stating that, “It is the free will of a person to choose a criminal or conventional behavior” (p.74). The criminal behavior can, therefore, be controlled by imposing a greater fear and penalty to the crime, which can alter the rational choice of the individual. A person planning to commit a crime will certainly think of the after-effects and sentence that will be imposed onto him/her. If the fear is able to overpower the choice of adopting the criminal behavior, then, only such activities can be controlled and stopped (Siegel, 2005).

Trait Theory of Criminology

A trait theory corresponds to the physical appearance and biological traits of the person to determine the likeliness of showing criminal behavior. The trait theory of criminology is based on the Eysenck’s theory of personality and crime. It describes that some humans are more probable to commit crimes due to their biological settings and a nervous system response to environmental conditions. Explaining the trait theory of criminology, Schechter states that neuroticism is a biological setting that is distinct for each individual and deals with the reaction of the person on stressful and deplorable events. Individuals who are identified with a high level of neuroticism will achieve an emotionally unstable level in response to a stressful event similarly to any other person. However, they will remain in this mental condition for a longer period. For this reason, their anger and frustration exists for a long time and urge these persons to criminal behavior (Schechter, 2003).

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Schechter (2003) identifies some of the physical features of the person with a high level of neuroticism. People with small skulls, inclined foreheads, protruding or squeezed ears, small teeth size, barrel chests, jutting brows and disproportionately long arms can be regarded as the ones with a greater tendency to adopt criminal behavior. The research conducted by Alison, Bennell, Mokros, and Ormerod (2002) addresses the fact that people with health conditions of hypoglycemia, that is a low glucose level in the body and low autonomic arousal, will be more likely to be driven by some negative emotions of revenge and resentment.

Social Structure Theory

Dechant (2009) argues that if criminal psychology is only related to biological and mental traits, then why poor and deprived people have a higher ratio in terms of criminal records. Thus, overlooking the impact of a social structure and environmental conditions on crimes will be a big error. Andrews and Bonta (2006) illustrate that societies in the modern world are divided into a cluster of layers as per the status and wealth of the society. The term “stratified society” is often used to address the societies with layers of upper, middle and lower classes. This discrimination is based on the wealth attained by the people in the society. The authors describe that the lower class people have fewer resources and wealth to achieve their goals. These goals can be of education, business ownership, or living a life full of luxuries. On the one hand, people who are satisfied or have accepted their poor societal status compared to the upper and middle class will continue living with their normal brain functionality. On the other hand, the lower class people not accepting their poor status and considering the national wealth distribution system to be unfair will take the route of murder or theft to accomplish their goals (Andrews & Bonta, 2006).

Psychodynamic Trait Theory

Id, ego and super-ego are the three pillars on which a psychodynamic trait theory stands. According to Sigmund Freud, every individual grows up in a different environment. Some needs and emotions are from his/her childhood (Siegel, 2005). The “id” parameter is linked to the biological, inherited and impulse instincts of the person to achieve satisfaction or happiness. For example, many of criminal profilers found that criminals involved in rape cases have been brought up in the environment where they were treated inferior to females, rejected by females or mocked by a female or a group of females. This leaves a mark on the person’s mind and builds hostility for women until the time when the feeling gets uncontrollable. The person then commits the crime for the personal satisfaction and is freed from the fire of vengeance (Dechant, 2009).

Dechant (2009) establishes the concept that a damaged or hurt ego often ignites the tendencies of an immoral act. It can be regarded as a stimulator of the id parameter and desires of the person. It has been observed that being the victim of violence and brutality at an earlier age often damages the ego of the person and causes some improper brain functionality. This can result into the adoption of offensive personality attributes in the later stages of life. The super-ego is based on moral principles that judge the situation. If the super ego regards murdering of the particular person to be justified, then the criminal will be driven towards the murder crime. Unless there are no fears and barriers, the person will commit a murder attempt (Dechant, 2009).

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Case Study: Murder Case

A body of a young woman was found hanging from the roof of the apartment in the unclothed condition. She was badly beaten, sexually abused and then murdered by s criminal. There were several writings on the body of the victim with words like “You can’t stop me”. The criminal investigation and proofing stages of this case are descibed below (Alison, Bennell, Mokros, & Ormerod, 2002).

Profiling Inputs

First of all, everything that has been used by the murderer in the crime scene is taken into consideration. It was found that a cloth piece from which the woman was hanged was a scarf of the woman. The pen used for writing on her body was also belonging to the victim which she carried with her on the way to her job. The crime was carried out when the victim was leaving for her job, as she did not reach her office. Furthermore, no weapon was used by the murderer. The death occurred due to a continuous beating and striking her head against the wall (Alison et al., 2002).
Crime Assessment
The nature of the crime tells that the intention of the criminal would be a sexual motive. The killer can be categorized as “mixed” because he did not bring any weapon or tool with him, but had planned the time and location of the crime (Kocsis, 2006). As the crime was conducted in the premises of the building, it could possibly be the person whose presence was not suspicious there. Furthermore, the person had an access to the roof of the building, which illuminated that the person could be a resident or a worker in the building.

Criminal Profile

The report submitted by the criminal profiling bureau states that the murderer would be a middle aged person, based on the energy depicted in the crime scene. As the intent of the crime was a sex drive, the offender would not be married and would have little or no interaction with women. Furthermore, the person would not be an alcohol or drug addict. The entire crime scene from taking control of the victim to her murder and hanging her onto the roof had taken nearly two hours; and a drug addict could stay focused for so long without ingesting some drug in between. The physical torture to the woman and writings on her body indicated the hostility of the criminal with either the victimized woman or with all women, in general (Alison et al., 2002).

Apprehension

As the criminal profile was sent to the police department, there were 22 suspects, including some of the residents, a janitor, an elevator man, and few of the colleagues of the victim. The investigation lasted for nearly a year, after which the criminal was spotted and sentenced. The criminal was a 30-year-old resident of the apartment, an unemployed and struggling actor, who had some psychiatric problems. The bite marks were matched with the suspect’s teeth impression; and it was a perfect match. As all these details were highlighted in the criminal profile, it was easier for the police department to locate and apprehend the correct suspect (Alison et al., 2002).

Results

Based on the presented literature review, it can be analyzed that criminal psychology takes root from both biological and environmental settings. The process of criminal profiling will, therefore, require an analysis of the personality’s attributes and some societal settings in which they live to better comprehend the intent behind the crime. The psychodynamic trait theory illuminates the aspects of childhood personality and ego of the person that drives him/her to conventional or criminal behavior in the later stages of his/her life. Thus, another area of consideration for criminal profilers is to assimilate facts and pertinent stories of early childhood of the suspects in order to draw a conclusion regarding the egocentric crime.
One thing that can be observed from the case study is that the criminal profilers did not take into account some evidences of fingerprints and teeth prints in the process of criminal profiling. These evidences were used later by the police department to match their suspect with the wanted criminal. This tells that criminal profiling focuses primarily on the crime setting and intent rather than conventional evidences that are collected from the crime scene. This illustrates that criminal profiling is a deductive approach in which a general hypothesis is created. It is then tested on each of the suspected individuals.

Discussion

As discussed in the results’ section, theorists have different opinions regarding criminal psychology and likeliness of the person to adopt criminal behavior. According to the trait theory, which takes its roots from the Eysenck’s theory, the natural biology and physical appearance give enough evidence to judge whether the person will be driven by criminal behavior or not. This theory has been criticized by many recent theorists who believe that criminal behavior is the combination of environmental conditions and personality traits. For this reason, judging any person as a criminal suspect primarily on the basis of his/her color, physical appearance and racial background is a mistake. As the case tells, the criminal was a normal looking person. His criminal attitude was not visible from his face or the way of dressing up. The major influence was of societal conditions and the environment that surrounded the suspect and urged him to commit the crime. Therefore, in the current criminal profiling practices, the racial background of suspects is less significant in the profiling stages than the environmental conditions as well as the relation of the suspect to the victim.

The number of crime cases has increased dramatically across the globe over the last one decade (FBI, 2013). The police department and FBI operating in the US have been able to control the national crime rate. However, its complete eradication is still a very long path. The FBI reported 1,420,000 violent crime cases in 2002, which dropped down to 1,214,462 in 2012 (FBI, 2013). It should also be noted that the FBI took the services of criminal profilers in around 6,000 cases in 2002. In 2011, the number of cases investigated by criminal profilers grew to 10,800. This gives the picture that the growing involvement of criminal profilers in national crime security and police service has helped in reducing the rate of violent and other crimes (Callinan, 2011).
Criminal profiling is more prominent in Western countries where criminal profilers are consulted for a number of murders, rapes and serial killer cases. On the contrary, there is less exposure of criminal profiling in Asian and African countries where investigations and criminal profiling are conducted by the police department only (Siegel, 2005). It has been reported that the law and order system of Western countries is superior in comparison to the majority of Asian and African countries. This can be considered as one of the prime reasons of the absence of the structured criminal profiling in most Eastern countries. Thus, as the law and order of Asian and African countries improve, it is apparent that the need and demand for criminal profilers will grow in these countries as well. As criminal profilers study criminal psychology, they are better equipped with the understanding of the purpose of crime and its consequences.

Conclusion

Analyzing the criticality of criminal cases, it can be concluded that the need for criminal profiling will further expand in both Western and Eastern/African countries. It is quite likely that criminal profiling bureaus or individual criminal profilers will be integrated with the FBI and police departments and involved in the investigative procedure of every criminal case. As police forces have the tasks of locating and chasing criminals and offenders, it is often difficult for them to carry out an extensive investigation for each criminal case. The general method practiced by the security forces is to take every suspect into charge and force them by the means of torture or other fears to reveal the truth. This can be considered inhuman for suspects who are innocent and not responsible for the investigated crime. For this reason, the practice of criminal profiling is adequate in order to apprehend only those people who closely match the criminal profile prepared by criminal profilers. This also speeds up and eases the tasks of police departments and FBI agents, as they will then have to deal with fewer suspects and with greater probability of accomplishing their goal of criminal apprehension.

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