Geographic Profiling: A Tool for Law Enforcement
The D.C. Sniper case was one of the most high-profile cases in recent memory. For three weeks in October 2002, a shooter or shooters terrorized the Washington, D.C. area, killing ten people and injuring three others. The case captivated the nation and stumped law enforcement for nearly two weeks until they finally caught the suspects, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.
One of the tools that law enforcement used to catch the snipers was geographical profiling. Geographical profiling is a tool that law enforcement can use to map out crime and establish where offenders may be living or working. In this paper, we will discuss what geographical profiling is, how it was used in the D.C. Sniper case, and the advantages and disadvantages of using this tool.
2. What is Geographic Profiling?
Geographic profiling applies Geographic Information tools to assist law enforcement officers to map out crime, establishing where law offenders may be living or working (Carty, 2004). It is important to note that geographic profiling is not a perfect science, and there are many factors that can impact the accuracy of the results (Bernier & LeSage, 2009).
There are two main types of geographic profiling: criminal geographic targeting (CGT) and spatial-temporal association of crime (STAC) (Bernier & LeSage, 2009). CGT is typically used when there is a large amount of data available and STAC is used when there is less data available.
In the D.C. Sniper case, CGT was used because there were a large number of shootings over a short period of time. CGT relies on two main assumptions: first, that offenders return to their base after committing a crime and second, that offenders will commit crimes close to their base (Bernier & LeSage, 2009).
3. How was Geographic Profiling Used in the D.C. Sniper Case?
Geographic profiling was used in the D.C. Sniper case to help narrow down the search for the shooters. Initially, law enforcement had very few leads and no idea who the shooters were or where they were located. However, they did have a large amount of data on where the shootings occurred.
Using CGT, law enforcement was able to map out where the shootings occurred and identify potential areas where the shooters may be living or working. This information helped them to focus their search and eventually led them to John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.
4. What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Geographic Profiling?
There are both advantages and disadvantages to using geographic profiling. One advantage is that it can help law enforcement to focus their search for suspects by identifying potential areas where they may be located. This can save a lot of time and resources that would otherwise be spent searching for suspects in a larger area.
Another advantage is that it can be used in conjunction with other methods of investigation such as traditional police work or psychological profiling (Bernier & LeSage, 2009). This can help to provide a more holistic picture of who the offender(s) may be and where they are likely to be located.
However, there are also some disadvantages to using geographic profiling. One disadvantage is that it is not always accurate. There are many factors that can impact the results of the analysis, such as the type of data used or the assumptions made about the offender’s behavior. This can lead to law enforcement searching in the wrong area or even considering the wrong suspects.
Another disadvantage is that it can be time-consuming. The process of mapping out crimes and identifying potential areas where offenders may be located can take a significant amount of time. This can be an issue when time is of the essence, as it was in the D.C. Sniper case.
Geographic profiling is a tool that law enforcement can use to map out crime and establish where offenders may be living or working. It can be a valuable tool in investigations, but it is important to note that it is not always accurate and can be time-consuming.