Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Relationships Between Offenders’ Crime Locations and Different Prior Activity Locations as Recorded in Police Data”, by Curtis-Ham, S.; Bernasco, W.; Medvedev, O. N. and Polaschek, D. L. L. (2022), in which authors carry out an exhaustive study to know more about the patterns of geographical choice of criminals, to discover whether a relationship between them and the offenders’ routines exist. 

We know from routine activity theory and crime pattern theory that crimes occur when opportunity (that is, the presence of a suitable and available target) overlaps with offenders’ known locations through their routinary noncriminal activities, such as where they live, work, or socialize with family or friends.

Recent theoretical development suggests that some types of activity locations are more important than others for offenders’ crime location choices. Understanding which they are more likely to choose to commit their crimes has very important implications for crime prevention and investigation. It can help identify high-risk locations and inform the most appropriate risk management strategies. It can also help in geographic profiling for crime investigation. 

But, despite the practical importance of being able to predict, at an individual level, where a person will commit a crime, there is little research that empirically explores the extent to which various types of activity locations differ from one another in their influence on crime. 

Studies to date have only compared a limited subset of locations (e.g., the offender’s home, homes of family members, or locations of prior offenses). This study leverages a large national dataset of widely disparate locations pertaining to offenders’ pre-crime activities recorded in a police database in a previously unresearched context (New Zealand). 

Drawing on environmental psychology, crime pattern theory emphasizes the role of people’s routine activities in generating awareness of criminal opportunities

First, offenders might identify criminal opportunities more easily and more frequently near their places of activity, called nodes. Qualitative studies have confirmed that home, work, and other places of non-criminal activity have the potential to generate crime opportunity awareness. Recent quantitative studies have estimated the greater likelihood of offenders committing crimes near their homes, the homes of close relatives, and the locations of previous offenses, compared to other locations.

On the other hand, the role of routine activities in generating awareness of criminal opportunities means that the probability of offending tends to be highest near activity nodes and decreases with distance. This pattern of decreasing distance reflects that people are more familiar with areas closer than farther away from their activity locations, and familiarity is an important factor in the choice of crime location. 

All this also reflects the principle of least effort: in theory, people travel the shortest distance necessary to find the opportunity to commit a crime. 

The main objective of the article is to expand the understanding of how all these associations happen in reality. To do this, data on crimes and nodes of offender activity were collected from the National Intelligence Application (NIA), a New Zealand Police database. The offenses included were all residential and non-residential burglaries, commercial and personal burglaries, and extra-familial sexual offenses committed between 2009 and 2018. In addition, in all of these, an offender was identified with sufficient evidence to proceed against him/her. 

The results obtained revealed that almost all nodes were significantly and positively associated with the choice of crime location. 

Consistent with expectations based on crime pattern theory, crime was almost always more likely in the surroundings of activity nodes and decreased with distance. Crime near home showed the strongest associations, followed by immediate family homes. This information is especially relevant and novel for nonresidential burglary and extrafamilial sexual offenses.

In addition, it appears that individuals are more likely to offend near immediate family homes versus more distant relatives’ and intimate partners’. 

These findings, the authors note, are interesting because they may help to identify more accurately who is more likely to have committed a crime in a particular location, given the nature of the 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. Ask us about our grants!

Friends of Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Characteristics of Sexual Homicide Offenders Focusing on Child Victims: a Review of the Literature”, by Page, J.; Tzani-Pepelasi, K. and Gavin, H. (2022), in which authors carry out a revision of existing literature about criminal profiles of sexual murderers, focusing specifically, in those cases where children or young teenagers are the victims.

Sexual homicide has become increasingly popular in recent years from the point of view of scientific research, especially those in which the victims are children.

Although sexual homicide is a rare phenomenon, representing only 1-4% of homicides recorded in North America and the United Kingdom in recent years, the public opinion considers these crimes as the most abhorrent, and tends to give them much more prominence. 

When the victim is a child, it also attracts intense levels of media attention, and the public scrutiny of investigating police forces and the pressure to make an arrest quickly are severe. 

However, there have been problems in defining sexual homicide, which has made it difficult to classify these crimes. Most of the studies reviewed in this article have used the FBI definition, which considers a sexual homicide one in which, at the crime scene there is: “victim’s clothing or lack of clothing, exposure of the victim’s sexual parts, sexual position of the victim, insertion of foreign objects into the victim’s body cavities, and/or evidence of sexual intercourse.” 

However, this definition may be a bit simple. In 2015, Chan expanded the concept by including criteria that may not be available at the crime scene, such as the offender’s confession or the offender’s personal effects, broadening the scope of what may qualify as sexually motivated homicide. 

The main objective of this study was to review the existing literature on sexual homicides and compare the findings with child sexual homicides to see if there are similarities. For this purpose, databases and online libraries were used, where relevant studies were found for review, reaching a total of 72. 

In 2002, Beauregard and Proulx developed a model of sexual homicides that suggested two types of modus operandi: sadistic and irate, then expanded this model to include the third type: opportunistic

The sadist had a tendency to premeditate murder, mutilation, humiliation and hiding the body. He had an anxious personality, with traits of an avoidant, dependent and schizoid personality, as well as some sexual deviance and hypersexuality. In addition, they were more likely to have low self-esteem. Their modus operandi of the crime would be characterized by the subject’s deviant sexual fantasies. 

Sadistic behaviors at the crime scene would include strangulation, insertion of foreign objects, mutilation, and use of restraints on the victim, which could demonstrate the offender’s sadistic sexual fantasies. 

The irate offender does not plan the crime, but is more likely to leave the body at the scene and experience loneliness prior to the murder. They have dramatic personality traits, including narcissistic and dependent personality traits, an antisocial lifestyle, and their modus operandi is based on their desire for revenge against people they believe are responsible for their problems, including high levels of anger, impulsivity, and extreme violence. Because of the latter, murder may occur, even though the sexual circumstances may have been consensual at first. 

The opportunist has a dramatic personality profile as well, including traits of narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder. They would have no problems in their life, but would be sexually dissatisfied. Their modus operandi would be characterized by their need for sexual gratification and the belief that other people exist only to satisfy their needs. Sexual assault is often a crime of opportunity, for example, the primary crime may have been a robbery and then a sexual assault occurred as a result of the victim’s availability. 

What about this type of crime regarding children? These same authors set out their own model in 2019, following a review of the existing literature, on 72 cases of sexual homicides committed in France. 

The first of the categories is that of the “intentional/prepubescent” killer (20.9%), with mostly male victims and of young age (9 years old). The offenders would be familiar with the crime scene and would attack their victims inside a residence. Most of them penetrated and sexually touched the victims and moved the body after death. This type of offender was the most likely to consume drugs or alcohol prior to committing the homicide. 

On the other hand, there was the “unintentional/pre-teen” type (11.1%), with mostly male victims. They targeted unknown victims (75%) and most were killed by strangulation, but were not sexually penetrated.

The most common group was “intentional/pre-teen” (22.2%). Male victims were also predominant. These offenders were prone to drug use prior to the crime. Sexual penetration was always performed and humiliation occurred frequently. In addition, the victims were also beaten assiduously. They did not attempt to hide the body and usually buried it partially. 

The “unintentional/pre-teen” aggressor (11.1%) was one of the least common and was characterized by the exclusivity of female victims, as well as choosing them because of their young age (10 years or younger). Most of the victims were unknown girls (75%). Sexual penetration was always practiced, they rarely moved the victim’s body and did not try to hide it. 

The “intentional/adolescent” type (16.7%) targeted victims approximately 12 years of age. They practiced sexual penetration and strangulation, moved the victim’s body after the crime, appeared to avoid social contact with others, and were the most likely to exhibit sadistic sexual behaviors at the scene. 

Finally, there is the “indiscriminate/adolescent” group (18.1%) that was characterized by criminality and prior history. The majority of victims were females of approximately 14 years of age, usually unknown.

This proposed model is quite good, as it mentions the age of the victims, behaviors at the crime scene, and provides approximate characteristics of the offender that the police could use in the early stages of an investigation. However, it could be expanded to include more details about previous criminal history or geographic data regarding the victims and the offender, which would strengthen the model and make it a much more useful investigative tool. 

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. Ask us about our grants!

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Bringing Light into the Dark: Associations of Fire Interest and Fire Setting With the Dark Tetrad”, by Wehner, C.; Ziegler, M.; Kirchhof, S. and Lämmle, L. (2022), in which authors carry out a study to know whether a relationship between the traits of the so-called Dark Tetrad and the fascination with fire or arson exists. 

Fire has always played an important role in humanity, whether as a source of heat and light, as a means of cooking, or as a source of entertainment. However, tragic cases such as forest fires, or the Notre Dame fire in 2019, bring to public awareness the destructive potential that fire also possesses. 

Whether deliberately or by accident, an uncontrolled fire causes serious damage to both people and property. Fires caused 3,655 deaths in the United States in 2018, and of those, 350 were the result of arson. 

Because of this destructive potential, there is a need to explore fire-setting behavior and investigate what factors lead an individual to that point. 

Research has identified several psychological vulnerabilities that qualify as potential risk factors. One of these is an interest or fascination with fire, as well as with starting fires. 

Many studies have focused on the importance of integrating findings on personality disorders and mental pathologies to the fire issue. A better understanding of the relationship between complex and dark traits and fire setting may improve prevention efforts, or may even help to develop theories about how a pathology that leads to this behavior develops. 

It has been hypothesized that two traits associated with interest in fire and fire setting are impulsivity and thrill seeking. The link between fire setting and impulsivity, in particular, has been empirically demonstrated.

Since psychopathy includes impulsivity as one of its core aspects, authors consider it potentially relevant to the prediction of fire setting. 

Other variables include other traits of the Dark Tetrad. This is better known as the Dark Triad, but some authors call it the “Tetrad” by adding one more factor, in total: psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism and sadism. 

When we think of arson, the first thing we think of is pyromania. This is classified by a great interest in fire, but also by experiences in which before setting a fire, one feels tension and excitement and after the act, a great relief. Because of these criteria, it is complicated to diagnose pyromania, so the vast majority of people with this disorder do not know about it and, worse, do not treat it. 

One theory that incorporated interest in fire as an important factor in triggering them is the Multi-Trajectory Theory of Firesetting (M-TTAF). It describes how psychological vulnerabilities and other factors, such as cultural or developmental aspects, as well as situational context and social learning, can trigger a fire. Authors suggested four possible trajectories within this theory: antisocial, grievance, interest in fire and need for recognition, with a fifth, which would be a combination of the other four. 

To this end, authors conducted a study in which 222 people participated and were given a series of questionnaires related to the fascination with fire, the Dark Tetrad and the M-TTAF. 

Psychopathy and direct physical sadism were found to be significantly correlated with interest in fire and the environment. Direct verbal sadism was positively correlated, on the one hand, also with interest in fire, and on the other hand, with fire provocation. 

The latter two tendencies correlated positively, in turn, with the M-TTAF, suggesting that interest in fire is an important factor for some people, but not for all. For example, someone who follows the grievance trajectory proposed by the model would be more motivated by revenge or retribution when committing a fire than by interest in the fire itself. 

Vicarious sadism was related, on the other hand, to the satisfaction produced only by seeing the fire of an active fire. 

In addition, the relationship between impulsivity and fire setting was seen once again. And psychopathy showed the strongest relationship among the other Dark Tetrad traits. Since impulsivity is a key facet of psychopathy, it seems logical to cautiously relate fire setting to psychopathy.

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. Ask us about our grants!

Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Masochist or Murderer? A Discourse Analytic Study Exploring Social Constructions of Sexually Violent Male Perpetrators, Female Victims-Survivors and the Rough Sex Defense on Twitter”, by Sowersby, C. J.; Erskine-Shaw, M. and Willmott, D. (2022), in which authors carry out an analysis of Twitter publications in which people talk about sexuality, violence, victims and gender, bearing in mind that, nowadays, social networks help to shape social collective thinking. 

We have already mentioned on several occasions that sexual violence is one of the major problems facing modern society. Crime statistics show the increasing prevalence of this type of violence around the world. Since 2014, countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Ireland have experienced increases in sex crimes recorded by police, while statistics in the United States reveal the same trend since 2013. 

These data are disconcerting, although one of the explanations proposed for them is that rates have increased due to a greater awareness of abuse cases, among other reasons, due to the emergence of awareness and sensitization campaigns, as well as support for victims gender and sexual violence, such as the #MeToo movement. 

It may also be due to an improvement in police training to deal with these types of cases, along with a greater willingness to investigate these allegations.

On the other hand, while it is recognized that both men and women experience sexual violence, the figures for reported crimes stand out for a gender gap, as, in general, men are the perpetrators of these crimes and women, the victims. 

In England and Wales, data reveal that 98% of those prosecuted for serious sexual offenses are men and women represent the 84% of the victims. 

Authors mention that there may be an unknown number of male victims who do not come to light because of the stigma that still surrounds male sexual victimization, and because of societal expectations around the male gender role. 

Interestingly, along with concerns about the prevalence of abuse against women, there is recent media coverage of numerous high-profile sexual crimes, which has brought the issue of women’s safety into the public consciousness. 

This has led to media coverage that reaches social networks, creating debates and generating opinions that are made public. 

And, despite the importance of the phenomenon surrounding sexual violence, there is very little research dedicated to exploring public attitudes toward it and relating them, in turn, to “rough sex”. 

And why rough sex? Research places particular emphasis on distinguishing between rough sex and sexual violence because the line between the two concepts is very thin. 

This type of sexuality, while involving a certain degree of force or aggression, has consent at its core. Violent fetishism, bodily harm, humiliation, domination or submission, are some of the experiences that can be lived by those who practice this type of sex safely, due to its dangerousness, which can be more or less extreme. 

To distinguish between sexual violence and violent sex, the important thing is, as we have said, consent. However, there are times when consent is precarious, especially in situations of trauma or with an abuse background. 

The research also mentions pornography, with an increasing success of the most violent categories, which contributes to blurring the differences between rough sex and actual rape or sexual assault. 

On the other hand, and returning to the media influence of social networks on collective thinking, authors mention the concept of “slut-shaming”, which is often used to blame the victims of sexual violence, especially if they are women. Slut-shaming, for example, uses the fact that a woman has been drinking alcohol or has a very active sex life as an “excuse” for the sexual assault experienced. This highlights the need for research on all of the above data, with special emphasis on gender roles and the influence of the hard sex on the perception of sexual violence. 

To do this, authors search inside of Twitter, which is one of the most popular social networks today. 

They found that the dichotomy “virgin-whore” often appears to talk about women, which categorizes them in an extreme way based on their sexual preferences and constructs negative and defamatory language. For example, those women who do not like rough sex, are often labeled as “saints” or “boring,” the opposite for those who do, who are insulted and humiliated. This is very interesting, above all, because it contributes to the blaming of the victims of sexual violence. 

On the other hand, rough sex is increasingly legitimized as a normative sexuality, downplaying its potential dangerousness. 

The conceptions associated with gender roles are also extreme, not only in the case of women, but also in the case of men, making it seem that it is in their biological nature to be aggressive and hypersexual beings. 

In short, efforts, resources and research are needed to better understand the phenomenon of social networks and how they shape public opinion. Moreover, given the magnitude of the problem of sexual violence, understanding it, preventing it and acting appropriately with the victims is an absolute priority.

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. Ask us about our grants!

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 “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 “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 “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.

Forensic Science Club