Paula Atienza


Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Predicting rapist type based on crime-scene violence, interpersonal involvement, and criminal sophistication in U.S. stranger rape cases”, by Mellink, I. S. K.; Jeglic, E. L. and Bogaard, G. (2022), in which authors carry out a study in which they investigate the particularities of serial rapists and single-victim rapists cases, to know which are the proper elements of each case and make a comparative analysis that helps in the criminal profile of similar cases. 

Sexual violence is a serious public health problem worldwide. Only in the United States, one in six women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Therefore, there appears to be an urgent need to better understand those who commit sexual assault in order to increase conviction rates. 

Physical evidence, such as DNA or fingerprints found at the crime scene, is often not found or, if found, may not be conclusive. Therefore, if we establish a link between the crime and the offender using other means, it will be valuable to the investigation by narrowing the list of potential suspects. 

Criminal profiling is one of many techniques that aid in the process of investigating, identifying, locating and arresting offenders in general and in rape cases in particular. 

In criminal profiling, crime scene characteristics are used to infer information to help narrow down the suspect list and apprehend the offender.

By attending to observable crime scene behaviors, police forces can identify clues about the type of offender they are dealing with, such as the likelihood that the offender is either a serial rapist or a single-victim rapist. 

Why is this last point important? Precisely because, if there are crime scene characteristics that associate the case with the offender being a serial rapist, this could indicate that he has committed other similar crimes, which, in turn, would give investigators the idea to search their databases for the criminal history of suspects and, thus, reduce the list of possible offenders. 

To better understand those who commit violations, offenders can be classified based on behavioral or modus operandi variables.

From the point of view of most experts, rape is viewed as an event in which the offender treats his victim similarly to how he would treat others in a non-criminal context. 

This, coupled with other findings, suggests that it is possible to link a crime and an offender by their behavior. This linkage is based on two ideas: consistency and variability. Consistency refers to the fact that a subject’s criminal behavior is consistent, meaning that the same person is likely to behave similarly in other crimes. And variability is based on the fact that two offenders will not behave in exactly the same way, which makes it possible to distinguish between them. 

Authors decide to focus on the differences that exist between serial rapists and single-victim rapists and that can be extracted based on their behavior at the crime scene. There is a dearth of empirical literature on this, but a 1987 study gives some interesting insights, such as that single-victim rapists are more likely to be known to their victims than serial rapists, and prefer to use a safe approach rather than a quick attack. With serial rapists the opposite would happen. 

In the present study, authors used data relating to the cases of 3,168 inmates in a New Jersey prison, who were serving time at the time of writing for sexual offenses. 

They found that single-victim rapists and serial rapists can, indeed, be differentiated from each other based on their behavior; and further, experts often classify the cases according to three categories: violence, criminal sophistication, and interpersonal behavior. 

Single-victim rapists are more likely to have a crime scene with violent characteristics, and are more likely to digitally penetrate and threaten their victims. 

Serial rapists, on the other hand, have a more criminally sophisticated crime scene, for instance, they incapacitate the victim or use a weapon. This is in line with previous research showing that serial rapists are more sophisticated in general. 

Serial rapists are more likely to use weapons, which tends to be a gun or knife, and, in addition to incapacitating their victim more often, as mentioned above, they also tend to groom the victim and guide or lure them somewhere. These types of rapists are also less likely to use drugs or alcohol during or immediately prior to the crime in order to remain criminally sophisticated and avoid detection, as it does not pay for them to risk their success by using these substances. 

Despite gaining some interesting insights, authors point out the need for further research on the entire criminological process of rape, from victim to perpetrator, and what is related to the crime scene, as only by knowing and understanding these data will we be able to improve prevention.

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Master of Science in Criminal Profiling or our Master of Science in Anti-Fraud Behavioral Analysis, 100% online programs that can be taken in Spanish or English, with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “A Systematic Review of Risk Factors Implicated in the Suicide of Police Officers”, by Krishnan, N.; Steene, L. M. B.; Lewis, M.; Marshall, D. and Ireland, J. L. (2022), in which authors carry out an investigation on previous literature about the suicide of police officers, trying to identify which are the most important risk factors.

Mental health problems are a major complication for approximately 300 million people worldwide. Within these, there are suicidal behaviors and/or suicidal ideation, which are of considerable concern to the general population, with more than 700,000 suicide deaths per year worldwide

In small communities and closed groups, such as law enforcement, physicians, or emergency service workers, the immediate and long-term impacts of suicide can be exacerbated by the “ripple” effect that can occur from witnessing trauma firsthand. 

Data from the UK Office for National Statistics, shows that there have been a total of 169 suicides by police officers between 2011 and 2019, averaging approximately 21 deaths per year. 

Taking global statistics into account and comparing them with UK law enforcement statistics, some researchers have described the phenomenon in the latter context as an “epidemic” of great severity.

Despite these strong claims, other authors have questioned the classification of suicide as the leading cause of death among law enforcement officers. Problems in the assessment and collection of suicide statistics make accurate estimation of the problem increasingly difficult. 

Regardless of whether police officers experience higher rates of suicide compared with the general population, it is also of concern because officers are assumed to receive, at least in the United Kingdom (the context of this study), adequate support through training, health-related benefits, and counseling. 

Therefore, authors decided, in this study, to investigate the risk factors and predictors underpinning suicide in this population group

While general expert consensus holds that suicide causation is multidimensional, the literature reports three keys, or three particular levels of stressors believed to be involved in completed suicide in law enforcement personnel: first, personal or individual stressors appear; then, occupational factors; finally, organizational problems

Personal stressors refer to factors internal to the officer, such as mental disorders or substance use. Occupational factors refer to the demands that are considered part of the job, such as interacting with victims and offenders of crime and interacting with the justice system. And organizational issues include concerns about how little support they may receive at times, bureaucratic duties, and lack of career advancement opportunities in certain contexts. All of these can increase the likelihood of suicidal behavior. 

To delve further into the topic, authors decided to investigate previous literature related to suicides and police officers, in order to further expand information on risk factors. 

Five apparent determinants were revealed: problematic substance use at a time close to death, the presence of depression and previous suicide attempts, differences in the response to trauma they may experience, excessive and prolonged exposure to work-related stress, and the absence of a stable intimate relationship. When these factors coexist, they appear to be associated with an increased likelihood of suicidal behaviors. 

40% of the included studies identified problematic substance use as pervasive and directly related. More specifically, the findings indicated an increasing trajectory of substance use in the days and hours prior to the suicidal event. 

Mental health problems, most particularly depressive disorders and previous suicide attempts, were identified by the majority of police studies (50%). Interestingly, female officers reported higher depression scores compared to males.

Contradictory findings were also found that suggest the need for further research on the subject, since, in a 2004 study, the idea was proposed that officers with more years in police service were less susceptible to trauma-related stress and, therefore, to suicidal tendencies, but there is another view, which is the most predominant one, and holds that people exposed to multiple traumatic episodes are more likely to present symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

On the other hand, it seems that having a partner is not enough for it to be considered a protective factor, but that the quality of the relationship is the key, and what actually provides the protective function. 

As we can see, there are some findings that coincide, but others that can generate great debate, so the authors suggest continuing to investigate and study this topic, so that light can continue to be shed on it and, consequently, to prevent it.

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Master of Science in Criminal Profiling or our Master of Science in Anti-Fraud Behavioral Analysis, 100% online programs that can be taken in Spanish or English, with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “The seductions of cybercrime: Adolescence and the thrills of digital transgression”, by Goldsmith, A. and Wall, D. S. (2022), in which authors think about what seduces young people from cybercrime, and also give ideas on what can be done in terms of criminal policy and education to mitigate the negative effects of new technologies.

The Internet is a public tool that has been with us in our daily lives for more than 30 years. However, in this time, it has captivated and seduced more than half of the planet’s population. It is estimated that approximately 4.5 billion people were internet users as of June 30, 2019. 

Young people under the age of 30, who have grown up with the internet and have grown up with it, are more likely than older people to have access to it and spend more time surfing the web, searching, playing games and using social networks, among other activities. 

Internet possibilities are virtually limitless, as is its appeal for entertainment, leisure and distraction. Given its relative novelty and global reach, much attention has been paid in recent years to the disadvantages that have emerged. 

Above all, there is great concern about Internet safety, such as its use by adults to exploit children, or its use by children to bully other minors. 

In this article, authors explore the importance of the Internet in terms of attractiveness to teenagers between 12-19 years. 

To do so, they use as a basis a 1988 study by Jack Katz on juvenile burglars and graffiti artists because authors believe it provides them with some useful analogies for thinking about the connection between the emotional impulses of young people and the commission of crime.

But why are young people a special population group? We have already discussed it in older posts, but let’s dig a little deeper. 

This group has three main socioemotional tasks: developing an identity, learning about intimacy, and discovering their sexuality. They seek information and validation, through communication with their peers in particular. In addition, they are often drawn to extreme and risky content and stimuli, but as they grow older, they are also interested in personal autonomy and adult life. During adolescence there is also considerable impulsivity that often limits young people’s capacity for self-control. 

The Internet responds to these needs for autonomy, competence and relationships. 

Within environmental criminology, Clarke proposes the idea that individuals without pre-existing dispositions to crime may be drawn into criminal behavior by the proliferation of opportunities. That is, situations could shape motivations through suggestion and intensification of feelings, along with opportunities to commit crime. And we already know that the Internet is, first and foremost, the opportunity for opportunity. 

Authors focus on several crimes: they talk about piracy, harassment (sexual and not sexual) and other crime typologies, but they focus on the consumption of pornography as a criminogenic factor. 

In an experiment conducted in the UK, an apparently legal website was observed for 88 days, which, once inside, offered the opportunity to connect to hardcore pornography websites. It had 803 visitors during this time, and of these, 457 people clicked on the advert for the pornography page, leading the researchers to the conclusion that most internet users would not resist the temptation. 

There seems to be little doubt that, at least in some cases of serious sexual offenses, online pornography consumption is involved in one way or another. Of great concern is that the first exposure to online pornography is occurring earlier and earlier, during early adolescence or even childhood. The exposure of minors to the Internet for long periods of time and without supervision makes them more vulnerable to this type of content, to which they sometimes access involuntarily. 

If we add this to the idea that young people look for strong emotions, are more impulsive and are attracted to the most extreme and transgressive content, often out of simple curiosity, we have a problem that can be serious. 

For many young people, the Internet is a rich, seductive place, full of attractive offers and “forbidden” emotions. For those who are prone to curiosity and sensation seeking, it can be very difficult not to give in to its charms.

Without ignoring class, peer influence, family background, poverty or addictions, there must be a deeper understanding of the persuasiveness of technologies in operating in young people’s lives. 

Policy should consist of interventions that consider, in general, the lack of life experience of young people who commit their first offenses under the influence of or through the Internet, and authors argue that punitive responses should be applied sparingly. 

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Master of Science in Criminal Profiling or our Master of Science in Anti-Fraud Behavioral Analysis, 100% online programs that can be taken in Spanish or English, with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Analysis of Cybercrime on Social Media Platforms and Its Challenges”, by Almansoori, A.; Abdallah, S.; Alshamsi, M. and Salloum, S. A. (2021), in which authors carry out an analysis of crimes that have been committed in the last few years and that are closely related to the development of technologies, internet and social networks.  

Cyberspace has reached every part of the planet, and is like a universe accessible from every corner of the globe. 

Advances in cybersecurity, technology and methods to protect software, networks and data associated with computers, have managed to prevent millions of attacks from malicious individuals and, in general, cybercriminals. 

Shockingly, the greatest cybersecurity efforts do not completely prevent cyberattacks, and so the need to remain vigilant and protect against these activities has become increasingly important in recent years.

This may seem simple, but a factor that makes this task extremely difficult comes into play, which, moreover, is an unprecedented phenomenon: social networks. 

We can define them as a group of Internet applications that allow the creation and exchange of content generated by different users. LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat… help to build social relationships and online communities that can become very strong, which is considered a valuable asset for many purposes. 

They provide many novel opportunities for socializing and interacting with users that have redefined the previously known approach to information sharing: from publicly expressing opinions, to news circulation, to online business or advertising. All of this, due to the global presence of the Internet, allows content to reach as many parts of the world as possible. 

And, as good as this is, it has a dark and dangerous side: people become easy and obvious targets for cybercriminals through social networks. 

To safeguard the integrity and security of individuals, organizations are constantly increasing technology and security budgets so that these social networks can be protected in a way that seals the information available from them. 

This research aimed to understand the characteristics of the crimes being committed through the Internet and social networks, and to identify what kind of efforts the police should make to control them. What types of attacks and crimes are occurring? What are the demographics of the majority of offenders? 

Authors conducted an analysis of different social networking platforms focusing on threats and offenses, arriving at 574 observations. Each of these observations was identified with a person suspected of having committed any form of cybercrime on these social networks. Cases were counted from 2014 to 2018. 

Most crimes occurred in 2018, with 28.1% of the total; then 2015 with 20.1%. According to the data, there were 300 cases of fraud, 100 cases approximately of child pornography, and other statistically less relevant crimes, such as stalking or grooming. 

Most of the offenders were found to have prior criminal records. About 70% had a prior record for some crime, while 30% did not. 

As for the educational background of the suspects, they had little formal education, about 70% had only basic education, and 30% had graduated from some form of higher education. 

About 61% of the offenders came from very poor backgrounds, while those from middle and upper class constituted the remaining 39%. 

On the other hand, most offenders were between 20 and 25 years old, with a significant peak at 22 years old. 

Online social networking sites must identify the core aspects of human and social connectivity through accurate and robust methodologies that ensure privacy, protection and build trust between the platform and the user at all times. 

Governments, along with intelligence services, must be trained to adopt and frame the technologies. The amount of data flowing in social networks must be analyzed in a very rigorous way. 

Another important point is the awareness of the individual, as people must be responsible with the content they share and the social networks they use. 

Knowing the demographics of the majority of cybercriminals can be of great use to law enforcement, as they can then follow a basic guide as to where they should focus resources and investigations, thus helping to identify the individuals most likely to be the perpetrators of this type of crime. 

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Master of Science in Criminal Profiling or our Master of Science in Anti-Fraud Behavioral Analysis, 100% online programs that can be taken in Spanish or English, with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “From verbal account to written evidence: do written statements generated by officers accurately represent what witnesses say?”, by Milne, R.; Nunan, J.; Hope, L.; Hodgkins, J. and Clarke, C. (2022), in which authors carry out a study to know how exact police agents are when it comes to transcript the statements of victims and/or witnesses. 

Witnesses are central to most criminal cases; in fact, there are many experts who believe that they provide the most compelling evidence at trial. 

Consequently, much attention has been paid throughout the history of the psychology of testimony to the development of techniques to help elicit reliable, relevant and detailed information from witnesses during their interviews. 

Traditionally, witnesses provide their narrations at two distinct points in the criminal justice process: first, when they are interviewed during the investigation, and then when they testify at trial.

The written statement that is produced when the interviewer assimilates the information provided by the witness at that first point is a key element for the investigation that must be an accurate representation of what the witness reports. 

The criminal justice system relies precisely on the accuracy of this document to avoid misinformed judicial decisions.

The production of written statements often takes place at the same time the witness is interviewed, however, this depends on the circumstances. For example, the type of crime and its seriousness, the training or preferences of the officer, among others. 

To date, research in psychology has focused on improving the understanding of how the interview process can affect the witness’s memory, and what techniques can be used to improve the quality and quantity of obtained information. 

Currently, there are some guidelines that are generally followed for the proper conduct of the interview. For example, we try to encourage free recall, open-ended questions, and limit closed questions at the end of the interview. All this, while taking notes by hand or computer, or recording, for example, by audio or video recording.

In practice, a frequent method of recording the interaction between the witness and the officer relies on the interviewer’s own memory of what the witness said, and there is usually no actual record of the questions used by the interviewer to elicit the statement, nor does there appear to be a completely accurate record of what the interviewee says. 

Some experts, in fact, have argued that written statements are mistakenly treated by the criminal justice system as a verbatim record of the interview, when they are not. 

In a 1994 experiment, the statement-taking process was examined and it was found that statements written by the interviewer immediately after the interview contained only ⅔ of the information reported by the witness.

In 2011, another similar study revealed that 68% of the information provided by the witness was omitted, and of this percentage, 40% was information relevant to the crime. 

These types of errors of omission may be due to the cognitive load inherent in the multitude of tasks that constitute the statement-taking process, such as active listening, asking pre-chosen questions, assimilating the reported information, and finally taking notes. 

Using cases drawn from different UK law enforcement agencies, the article’s research focused on examining the consistency between interview information and the resulting written statement. Officers were asked to videotape their interviews and a total of 15 were collected for the study. 

A number of categories were formed to which attention had to be paid: consistent details mentioned by the witness and included in the statement, omissions, distortions, contradictions, and intrusions of unmentioned information. 

For each case, two subjects would have to write a document from the interview, which were later compared with the video.

The 15 final statements contained errors. Their content diverged from the original verbal account provided by the witness in several ways.

The most common type of error was omission errors, which ranged from 4.76% to 51.81%. This was followed by distortions, ranging from 1.85% to 19.28%. Three statements contained contradictory information and only two statements did not include any errors. 

In this sample, therefore, the evidentiary product (the written statement) was never an exact replica of what the witness actually said, except in the two cases mentioned. In fact, in some cases there were considerable discrepancies between the verbal account and the written record, which is worse. 

This may be, as we have previously mentioned, because of the cognitive demand associated with the interview. In addition, research examining memory for conversation has found that we tend to function by retaining the gist of a speech, rather than every word. 

What the authors recommend to alleviate these mistakes is, whenever possible, to take advantage of technological means to record the statement, both audio, or audio and video, especially when we are dealing with a crime involving a particularly sensitive victim or important violence. 

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Master of Science in Criminal Profiling or our Master of Science in Anti-Fraud Behavioral Analysis, 100% online programs that can be taken in Spanish or English, with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Anti-Asian American Hate Crimes Spike During the Early Stages of the Covid-19 Pandemic”, by Han, S.; Riddell, J. R. and Piquero, A. R. (2022), in which authors carry out a study with police reports from different American cities to know how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected hate crimes committed against people of Asian origin in North America. 

Hate crimes are a different and special form of violence and aggression directed at a certain group of people because of their religion, race, gender…. 

Experts have proposed many reasons to explain why they occur. For example, some argue that critical events of local, national, or global significance could affect the frequency, severity, and demographic target of hate crimes. Traditionally, terrorist attacks, economic crisis, among other events, are believed to contribute to increases in hate crimes. 

They usually occur because there are a number of prejudices towards a group, which is discriminated against, resulting in a differentiation of society into two groups: insiders and outsiders. 

Recent cases of hate crimes in the United States have raised concerns about the risk of victimization of certain groups, such as Asian Americans. 

In March 2020 several members of an Asian-American family were stabbed by a man because he believed they were infecting people with coronavirus. In another event, a 65-year-old woman was beaten while receiving racial insults, in March 2021. 

The beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic was marked by accusations towards Asian people, even some people called the disease “the Chinese virus”. 

Experts believe that these circumstances favored the increase of hate crimes and aggressions against people of Asian origin. In addition, Asians have been viewed in the United States as permanent outsiders in society for several decades, which could amplify discriminatory attitudes.

According to the 2021 Anti-Asian Hate Crime Report, hate crimes against the Asian population in the United States increased, in 2020, 145% in the country’s 16 largest cities compared to 2019. In addition, a Covid-19 survey revealed that more than 30% of respondents had seen someone blaming the Asian population for the spread of the disease. 

This study examines whether the recent increase in hate crimes against this particular population group was related to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures that should have been taken to mitigate the effects of the disease (staying home, wearing masks, and so on). 

Data for this study were obtained from hate crime data from various police departments in San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., from January 2019 through March 2021. 

Two notable findings emerged. First, three out of four cities in the sample experienced a dramatic increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, while, hate crimes in general, trended downward. 

Additional empirical analysis also revealed that hate crimes against Asian Americans increased after March 2020 when labels such as “Chinese virus” were used in public by political officials. 

In addition to the prevailing discriminatory culture, labels blaming Asian Americans for the measures that were taken to curb the negative effects of Covid-19 are believed to have contributed to increased violence toward them. 

It is also important to note that the increase in hate crimes against this group of people was not sustained over time, but rather declined after the height of the pandemic. 

What is certain is that hate crimes often have a long history, and significant events are likely to trigger guilt labels toward a certain group of people. To address adverse effects, experts in the field and law enforcement should continue to study the effects of the pandemic on people’s well-being. 

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Certificate in Criminal Profiling, a 100% online program certified by Heritage University (USA), with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Different places, different problems: profiles of crime and disorder at residential parcels”, by O’Brien, D. T.; Ristea, A.; Hangen, F. and Tucker, R. (2022), in which authors carry out a study to know how the crime varies according to the place in the city.

In the past few years there has been a growing interest in the study of problematic areas in cities, as they are considered to have very high concentrations of crime and social disorder. 

Literature to date has revealed that there are important differences in the different zones: what crime is like, what the disorganization is like in them… but there hasn’t been a deep study of the subject. 

With the most recent research, it has been seen that there are many variations of disorder and criminality depending on the neighborhood; for example, there are some of them with social disorder, but no physical disorder, and so on. Understanding this diversity would be very important in order to prepare better the interventions to mitigate the negative consequences of the issue. 

In the current study, plots of different areas of Boston are studied. The first objective is to know whether they all exhibit crime and disorder in similar ways or whether they differ in multiple profiles. On the other hand, the authors aim to get, with the typology obtained, how, and to what extent, different types of crime and disorder coexist. 

One idea mentioned by the authors is that, as a general rule, much more attention is usually paid to places with a high crime rate, which, ironically, represent a very small proportion of the communities. 

This is something that criminology specialized in the subject has already mentioned in the most recent studies. It explains that between 4 and 6% of problematic streets in a city represent more than the 50% of the crimes that occur in the whole city, regardless of its type or its size. 

It has also been shown that concentrations of crime on a certain street tend to persist over time, and when crime increases or decreases on that type of streets, it is often an indicator of citywide crime trends. 

On the other hand, based on previous literature, it looks that property parcels that experience many burglaries maintain this trend over time. 

It is interesting to mention the “crime pattern theory”, which argues that the activities and people associated with a particular place determine the frequency and way in which offenders, victims, and context interact with each other. This, in turn, shapes the likelihood and nature of crime and disorder in the place. 

Thus, situational crime prevention emphasizes the need to use small modifications in these places so that they alter their opportunity structure. For example, providing better lines of sight to those in charge of security in the area, or designating the role of “place manager” to property owners in the area. 

The current study analyzes the distribution of various types of crime and disorder in a series of residential parcels in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). For this purpose, records from the emergency telephone number, 911, were used. A total of 81,673 plots were studied. 

The analysis identified several disorder and crime profiles in the areas analyzed: four of the most important were public denigration, private neglect, private conflicts, and gun-related events. It also identified the existence of so-called “violent centers” that concentrate many types of problems. The latter were almost completely isolated from other troubled neighborhoods. 

The authors comment, interestingly, that the crime and disorder profiles of each parcel tended to specialize in a single type of problem, with the exception of violent centers that combined several problems (but accounted for only 0.2% of the total). 

This tendency can be understood in terms of routine activities and related theories. Each place is characterized by the people who frequent it, their propensity to offend, the contextual factors of the place… This makes the specialization more striking, as it could be that something about the individuals involved, or something in their dynamics, makes them prone to experience a problem or live events and circumstances that make them more vulnerable to one type of delinquency. 

The findings are important because they show the need to take measures that are tailored to the neighborhoods where they will be applied, so that their effectiveness is as expected, and the tools used are specialized and nuanced to perfect the interventions. 

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Certificate in Criminal Profiling, a 100% online program certified by Heritage University (USA), with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Unlocking the potential of forensic traces: Analytical approaches to generate investigative leads”, by Varela-Morillas, A.; Suhling, K. and Frascione, N. (2022), in which authors carry out a revision of previous literature about forensic and criminalistic research methods, to explore new horizons that appear with the idea of improving methodology and technique. 

The objective of forensic analysis is to gather information from the traces found at the crime scene through an objective examination. It is a process that provides supporting information for the criminal investigation, and even in many occasions, decisive information. 

Currently, there are many lines of investigation that are trying to accelerate (and some are already doing so effectively) the way in which the information obtained from the analysis of biomaterials is collected and connected. It is also important to mention that the technology used for this is increasingly portable, allowing for rapid, on-site analysis of samples. 

However, recent research in the field of forensic analysis has shown that this represents only a fraction of all the information that could potentially be gathered from such data. 

Driven by this need, experts decided to investigate what else can be obtained from forensic biological traces and how to meet the new needs of the field by looking beyond common analytical approaches such as physical and microscopic examination.

In particular, data that can help reconstruct the chain of events, elucidate crime scene dynamics, and discover more about the actual nature of the trace and the identity of the donor, who, in this case, is the individual who left a particular trace. 

The purpose of the review conducted by the experts, which can be viewed in full in the original article, is to evaluate how research has approached the acquisition of investigative information from some of the most common types of biological traces found at crime scenes: bodily fluids, finger marks, hair…. 

Authors specify that special attention is given to analytical techniques that can be used in scenarios where traditional analysis is not possible, where both the environment and the samples allow for non-destructivity. 

They mention several types of samples, but lets’s focus on biological fluids to explore the main idea of the article.

In the initial stage of a crime scene investigation, stains of possible bodily fluids are sometimes encountered. A well-known technique for this task is the use of alternative light sources to enhance the viewing of latent stains. 

Once the stain is found, its nature must be determined. The idea is to discriminate between a body fluid stain, such as blood, from a visually similar substance, such as wine; which is valuable information in suspected violent crime scenes. 

In addition, there are cases where further discrimination is required, such as determining whether a bloodstain is peripheral or menstrual, which can also play a very relevant role in cases of suspected sexual assault. 

Most standard methods employ reagents that, when exposed to a body fluid, produce a characteristic signal output, for example, a color change, indicating the type of body fluid present. Although useful, they can give false positives.  In addition, it may be the case that a limited amount of dye is available.

Due to the limitations shown by current techniques, efforts have been devoted to the development of more robust methods to identify these types of fluids. 

One study demonstrated the possibility of extracting RNA from samples that had been stored for long periods of time. This information could be of great value in criminal investigation, especially in cases of suspected sexual assault, where the true nature of the crime is still unclear. 

Standard practices in the examination of biological fingerprints, strands of hair, lifted fingerprints…, over the past several decades, primarily involved visual examination of the print to identify unique physical characteristics or chemical reactions indicating a particular composition. These methods have proven to be not as reliable as one would like, as they can sometimes fall into subjectivity and unspecificity, as they can be cross-referenced with other substances. 

One field that has proven valuable in solving this type of problem is forensic genetics. Through the study of DNA, it has been possible to collect much data from minute biological fingerprints. 

Authors propose, throughout the original article, some novel methods that have been explored before and reflect on the need for more research in the forensic field to design methods that adjust to the changes in crime as society advances. 

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Certificate in Criminal Profiling, a 100% online program certified by Heritage University (USA), with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Youth Serial Killers: Psychological and Criminological Profiles”, by García-Baamonde, M. E.; Blázquez-Alonso, M.; Moreno-Manso, J. M.; Guerrero-Barona, E. and Guerrero-Molina, M. (2022), in which authors make a revision of previous literature on youth that has committed serial murders, to know some interesting data to elaborate their criminal profiles. 

The phenomenon of serial murders occupies a unique place in the field of criminology, but also in the criminal justice system, especially when the perpetrators of these and other types of violent crimes are minors.

In addition, there is a great lack of understanding of the phenomenon of serial murders. The issue is surrounded by great media sensationalism that always arises around the question of whether serial killers are born or made.

On the other hand, there are many media that classify those who commit these crimes as “monsters” or “demons”, this being one more part of the media circus that surrounds these cases both at the judicial and social levels. This contributes and feeds the collective mentality influenced by the media that does not skimp on giving details about the crimes and that, sometimes, can even turn the perpetrators into celebrities.

In order to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of serial murders, their extent and seriousness, and focusing on those committed by young people, authors carried out a review of the literature on the topic. 

Authors consider that legal and social problems do not occur only in cases in which young people or minors commit serial murders, but since they commit violent crimes.

Despite the terminology often used by the media, young offenders are not monsters or beasts, and often have no criminal record.

Sometimes these first crimes take place because they cannot refuse peer pressure. Normally, there will usually be an explanation.

One thing that strikes the authors, and is of particular concern to them, is that since the mid-1980s and around the early 1990s, there has been an unprecedented growth in youth homicides. The data suggests that young people are currently involved in more crimes than previous generations.

The most common case is these young people belonging to street gangs, a very particular criminal phenomenon, since it has specific variables that make it different from the rest of juvenile delinquency.

Based on these data, the psychosocial and criminological profile of young people who commit homicides is not comparable to the criminal profile of common murderers. 

It should also be mentioned that cases of serial killers where the perpetrators are children or young people are, of course, much less frequent than cases of adults.

Some of these young people come from broken families where they are not able to acquire a stable personality. Thus, they continually seek to satisfy their desires through fantasies of domination and control.

Similarly, some may have experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse, often simultaneously.

Research on the impact of child maltreatment on violent behavior has shown that maltreatment and exposure to violence, in any form, is an important predictor of criminal behavior.

On the other hand, psychopathy appears, which we all know, and which generates serious problems in the affective, interpersonal and behavioral dimension of humans, so much that psychopaths can victimize others without their ethical awareness being affected.

Many features of psychopathy begin to emerge in childhood and can be more or less easily identified, as well as in adolescence and young adulthood. For this reason, attention should be paid to minors who experience risk factors such as mental health problems, problems in their upbringing, a history of substance abuse, very intense impulsiveness, emotional instability, total absence of guilt, etc.

This article has some limitations. For example, there is a low prevalence of juvenile serial killers, which makes it difficult to study these specific cases, so the analysis should be taken with caution.

However, despite the limitations, the original article underlines the importance of some psychosocial factors for a better understanding of the process by minors who end up committing crimes as serious as serial murders.

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Certificate in Criminal Profiling, a 100% online program certified by Heritage University (USA), with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Necrosadism: exploring the sexual component of post-mortem mutilation of homicide victims” by Pettigrew, M. (2022), in which the author examines a real case of four homicides perpetrated by the same man, investigating whether there was necrosadism or not and why.

Necrosadism is a topic that hasn’t been researched like necrophilia-related behaviors and, as a result, is not only misunderstood, but poorly defined, according to the author of this article.

Normally, it is understood as “sexual contact with a dead person”, and necrosadists are defined as “people who commit murder to have sex with the corpse of the victim”.

It is in 2009 when Aggrawal defines more correctly what necrosadism would be: “the sexual paraphilic disorder that involves deliberate attacks on corpses, subjecting them to considerable humiliation and senseless mutilation.”

It has been argued in some cases that the term “necrosadism” is somewhat contradictory, since the essence of sadism is domination, degradation. It is the gratification derived from inflicting pain through psychological or physical suffering. Therefore, if the recipient of such behavior is a corpse, it is not a living being, it is incapable of feeling and, therefore, what is done to it are simply acts of gratuitous, unnecessary and cruel destruction. This is reflected in some legal systems that do not recognize necrophiliac acts as sexual in nature.

However, there is an important debate around the term, and although in the eyes of the author it is somewhat contradictory, the term “necrosadism” persists in its use.

Post-homicide behaviors are important areas of analysis in two ways: the psychology of the offender and law enforcement.

Regarding the psychology of the criminal, we can say that while the modus operandi of a criminal may change, his signature remains relatively unchanged. This signature is what relates to the psychodynamics of the offender. This term refers to the mental and emotional processes that underlie human behavior. The victim is treated as an accessory that’s used to fulfill the offender’s violent sexual fantasies, and this will leave its mark at crime scenes.

For example, when an offender puts the victim in a specific position, inserts certain objects, mutilates his/her corpse…, he may be enacting sexual fantasies.

All this is something that has been gaining interest for experts on criminal behavior, however, it seems that not much attention has been paid to it when sadistic, paraphilic and necrophilic behavior occurs between men against men.

For this reason, the author decides to explore a real case study through police interviews, crime scene reports, autopsies, crime scene photographs, witness statements, etc.

The offender was a 49-year-old single white male who committed four murders. He enjoyed sexual relations with men, within which he carried out sadomasochistic practices (BDSM), slavery, discipline, sadism in general…, and he was always the dominant part of the couple. His sexual arousal and the humiliation of his sexual partners seemed indissoluble.

His first victim was approached at night, there was a verbal exchange and the offender pounced on him, stabbing him frantically, receiving a total of 27 stab wounds.

In such a frenzied attack, it is conceivable that the criminal could have stabbed the victim post-mortem without knowing that he had already died, so this point needed to be clarified. The offender confirmed that he did know the victim was dead at the time he pulled down his pants and stabbed his buttocks. He also admitted a necrosadic desire to inflict puncture wounds on the victim’s limp body, as he went to pick him up the next day to continue stabbing him.

Another victim was also stabbed, post-mortem, intentionally. A different victim was found in a cruising area, with his penis exposed and stabbed.

Although the criminal’s modus operandi varied, the way of killing remained constant. There were wounds that were inflicted after death, and the offender admitted knowing that the victims had died before he made those wounds. In addition, the offender commented that he returned to the scene of the crime the next day and searched for the body to continue attacking him.

The offender was sexually aroused by inflicting the injuries, as noted by forensic psychiatrists.

It is the time factor that confirms the necrosadic impulse. An offender may stab or mutilate the victim during the homicide, and some of these injuries may be inflicted post-mortem, but this is not necessarily indicative of necrosadism. The necrosadic behavior, in this case, is confirmed by the time lapse between death and the making of the post-mortem wounds, in addition to the fact that the offender wanted to return to his victims within hours of having committed the murder to inflict more wounds on them.

It is the certainty that the victim was dead that provides evidence to say that there was a necrosadic component. As such, and considering that the author stabbed his victims in the penis and buttocks, it is logical for the author to point out that there is a relationship between necrosadism and paraphilias, leaving a door open for future research.

The author recommends that researchers focus on the gratification produced by these behaviors, study the offender’s sexual history, his perception of himself, among other more detailed aspects in the original article.

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Certificate in Criminal Profiling, a 100% online program certified by Heritage University (USA), with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.