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Geographic Profiling

Geographic profiling is an investigative aid that predicts the serial offender's most likely location including home, work, social venues, and travel routes. Using information from a series of related crimes, a geographic profiler uses a mathematical model to analyze the locations of the crimes and the characteristics of the local neighbourhoods in order to produce a map showing the areas in which the offender most likely lives and works.

Geographic profiling helps focus investigative efforts on the probable location of the suspect, within an area defined by the 'geoprofile'. It has the potential to reduce the time and effort spent investigating and apprehending an offender. Geographic profiling complements usual investigative techniques and is best used together with criminal profiling.

Geographic profiling is useful in serial crime when the offender is unknown. A minimum of five crimes or related sites are required for a complete profile, however some forms of analysis can be done with less. It is used most often for violent crimes:

  • homicides and missing bodies;
  • sexual assault;
  • predatory crimes such as child molestation;
  • bombings;
  • arson;
  • robbery and break and entry; and
  • other multiple location crimes such as exposings, telephone harassment, and credit card theft.

Geographic profilers are experienced police investigators with many years training in serial violent crime and the computerized mathematical modeling used to create the geographic profiles.

The main consulting services that geographic profilers offer to investigators include:

Developing a geographic profile: A geographic profile provides the investigator with a geographic focus for the investigation. A series of maps identify the probable home and work locations of the offender. The maps also identify paths to use when searching for the offender. A geographic profile can also list multiple suspects in a priority order based on their residence or work locations.

Identifying a catchment area: A catchment area is the geographical area served by an institution, retail, or other facility. Using a mathematical process (a Thiessen polygon analysis), a geographical profiler can determine the catchment areas of a series of locations. For example, the process could identify the catchment areas of the grocery stores in a city. This service is useful for identifying the area of investigation in some cases.

Time, speed and distance calculations: These calculations can help an investigator who needs to know how far an offender can travel in a given period of time or how much time an offender would require to travel a given distance. A geographic profiler can determine time, speed, and distance calculations for walking, jogging, riding a bicycle or driving a vehicle.

Producing maps: Geographic profilers can help investigators produce maps related to a crime or a series of crimes. Such maps are useful for court, briefings, presentations, and reconstructing historical cases.

Requesting Geographic Profiling Services

Geographic profiling services should be requested early in the investigation in cases where the crime is serial in nature, where the offender is unknown, where help is needed to narrow the focus of the investigation and/or where special circumstances exist.

Canadian and international police services requiring the services of a geographic profiler should contact the RCMP . These services are limited to our policing partners.