Research

Research

A map

The Investigative Psychology Research Unit (IPRU)

The main aim of behavioral crime scene analysis, otherwise known as offender profiling, is to analyze the way an offender commits their crime, to establish discernable patterns and behavioral sub-types, and then link sub-types of crime scene actions to the most likely offender background characteristics, and use this in criminal investigations as a primary tool for the police to narrow their suspect pool down to statistically the most likely type of offender, and/or identify and link series of crimes. Three general interlinked areas have been the focus of this behavioral crime scene analysis and offender profiling research, and have been the elements that provides the basis for Evidence Lef Practice, taught thorugh our training course to practitioners and researchers. 

Individual differentiation & Crime Scene Classification

Individual differentiation aims to establish differences between the behavioral actions of offenders and identify subgroups of crime scene types. Research in the IPRU has focussed on identifying the most salient (important) crime scene features to focus on as well as the most appropriate unit of analysis that can be used to reliably differentiate crime scenes by different offenders. Our studies focus on empirically testing various crime scene classification schemes and understanding the factors that may influence offender’s behaviors, such as the type of victim and the situational aspects of the crime.

Behavioral Consistency & Linking Serial Crimes

Consistency is a key issue in profiling, specifically for understanding both the development of an offender’s criminal career and an individual’s consistency across a series of crimes – that is, whether the same subsets of actions are displayed at each crime scene over a series of offences. Research in the IPRU has focussed on understanding how consistency of this unit of analysis is manifested across crimes. The key methodological issues that we focus on centre on 1) how to operationally define consistency to be able to fully capture the dynamic nature of behavioral patterns across crimes, and 2) how to operationally define consistency in order to fully capture the dynamic nature of  behavioral patterns across crimes.

Inferences about Offender Characteristics & Offender Profiling

Profiling research is aimed at understanding how  behaviors  exhibited during a crime can help infer characteristics of an offender. This is often expressed as the A->C equation, i.e. Actions-to-Characteristics. 

Training

The IPRU is focused on bridging the gap between research and practice, including the legal context,  police  decision-making, and risk-assessment in the criminal justice system. Much of our research is done in collaboration with law enforcement agencies and other practitioners internationally to aid in improving behavioral crime analysis, and provide training to support Evidence Lead Practice. By consulting with practitioners on key needs, we base our research on Practice Informed questions, and through research, we ultimately aim to provide empirically based and relevant research to support training and application of Evidence Led Practice. 
 

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CURRENT IPRU PROJECTS

The Homicide Profiling Index Revised to Include Rape & Sexual Offenses (HPI-R) 

The Homicide Profiling Index – Revised to include Rape and Sexual Offenses (HPI-R©) (Salfati, 2010) is a coding dictionary designed to be used as a tool for collecting data via police case files. It was first created in 1994 and has since then been refined, with several key changes made in order to stay up to date regarding the direction that homicide crime scene research has been heading in. The most notable change in the HPI-R is the addition of variables pertaining to live victims, including rape/sexual assault offenses. This is a direct response to the argument that an offender’s series often includes multiple types of crimes, and each crime is of importance when conducting research and analyzing influences on offender behavioral consistency over a series (Salfati, 2008). The HPI-R contains over 300 variables and involves the scoring of pre-crime, crime, post-crime, offender background and victimology behaviors and characteristics.  The overall reliability of the use of the HPI-R post-training is 89.5%. Training and Certification from the IPRU is available to students, researchers, analysts, investigators and other practitioners.

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Homicides Involving Prostitutes (HIP) Project

The HIP project focuses on homicides involving prostitutes and sex workers. This project aims to improve our understanding of the distinct behavioral patterns and types of offenders who exclusively target this high risk victim group, as well as our understanding of how victimization of prostitutes fits within a generalized pattern of non-target specific violence. Issues of solvability and behavioral linkage are also being examined. The dataset used in this study consist of a total of 83 series, with 519 victims from six different countries. Of these, 44 are Sex-Worker series where all victims are sex workers, and 39 are Mixed-Victim series which include both sex workers and  non  sex  workers. Information for cases was collected and coded using the Homicide Involving Prostitutes (HIP©, Salfati & Sorochinski, 2016) coding dictionary specifically developed for the purpose of this project. The dictionary contains 66 variables pertaining to victim and offender demographics, crime type and crime scene characteristics, as well as the outcome of the case. The HIP© Coding Dictionary as well as the HIP Dataset are available for research purposes, and can be requested by contacting the IPRU

Publications relating to the HIP Project:

  • Salfati, C. G. & Sorochinski, M. (2019) MATCH: A New Approach for Differentiating & Linking Series of Sex Worker Homicides and Sexual Assaults. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. Special Issue on Sexual Homicide. 63, 9, 1794-1824. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X19839279

  • Sorochinski, M. & Salfati, C. G. (2019) Sex Worker Homicide Series: Profiling The Crime Scene. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. Special Issue on Sexual Homicide. 63, 9, 1776-1793. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X19839274

  • Salfati, C. G. & Sorochinski, M. (2018) Sex worker victims: Consistency vs inconsistency in victimization patterns by serial sexual homicide offenders. In J. Proulx, A. Carter, É. Beauregard, A. Mokros, R. Darjee, J. James (Eds.) International Handbook of Sexual Homicide. Chapter 32. Routledge.

  • Salfati, C. G. (2013) Linkage Analysis of Serial Murder Cases Involving Prostitute Victims. In J. Helfgott (Ed.) Criminal Psychology reference set. Volume 3, chapter 9, p. 211-228. Praeger Publishers, ISBN: 0313396078. 

  • Salfati, C. G. (2009) Prostitute Homicide: An Overview of the Literature and Comparison to Sexual and Non-Sexual Female Victim Homicide. In D. Canter, M. Ioannou, & D. Youngs (Eds.) Safer Sex in the City: The Experience and Management of Street Prostitution. The Psychology, Crime and Law Series. Chapter 4, p. 51-68. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN: 978-0754626152


Homicides Involving Native American Women Project

This project is an extension of the HIP project and focuses on missing, trafficked, murdered and sexually assaulted Native American women.


Sex Offender Profiling (SOP) Project

The SOP project is an interdisciplinary project looking at the relationship between behavioral crime analysis (i.e. offender profiling) and risk assessment of sex offenders. This project aims to combine the knowledge base from both of these fields in order to refine their core principles and improve upon both processes. Issues of behavioral consistency, salience, and outcome prediction are also addressed.  

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Evidence Based Training (EBT) Project

In order to fully understand the issues practitioners face when applying what they have learnt into practice, a more practical understanding must be had of the exact issues practitioners face post-training when aiming to ‘translate’ what they have learnt to their day to day practice. Feedback from practitioners on the issues that occur when aiming to implement training is key as part of a full understanding of the process of evidence-led-practice, and its implementation. Related to this may be a number of influencing and contributing factors. Ultimately, all of these factors will inter-relate on the success of the outcome of the training, as evidenced by the ability of the practitioner to implement the training objectives into practice. Each one of these factors will be part of the study design, and are outlined in the figure above, and below. Work in the IPRU currently focuses on best practice in training and implementation of research into practice, as a basis for Evidence Based Practice. 

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Informed Decision Making (IDM) Project

The major task of a police investigation is typically to collect, asses and utilize a great variety of sources of information that provide accounts of crime. Closely related to the process of information retrieval is the decision making that follows. The main challenge to investigators is to make important decisions. A lot of information, much of which may be of unknown reliability, needs to be amassed and digested. The general literature in decision making psychology shows us that these are conditions that may lead to biases in thought processes, and consequently decision making. Recognition of the potential for these problems can lead to the development of procedures to reduce their likelihood. Current work focuses on investigators as decision makers, with the aim of highlighting how the perception of information can influence the decision making process. Work focuses on two key aspects as it links in with behavioral crime scene analysis: 1) the internal cognitive processes of the decision maker as the primary point of focus in any decision making context, and 2) the external situation i.e. crime scene analysis. Work in the IPRU on this topic currently focuses on achieving Evidence Based Practice through process and context informed decision making. 

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Positive Psychology & Resilience (PPR) Project

Professionals within the caring professions, particularly in the sub-field of Forensic Psychology often work with challenging and high risk populations and in situations such as mental health and crime, and are often entering jobs that require long or shift hours in high risk and high stress situations such as prisons, hospitals, law enforcement and the courts, and working with clients facing emotional, psychological and legal challenges. It is well documented that professionals within these fields often suffer high levels of stress, exhaustion and burnout due to the emotional nature of their jobs. Practitioners in these fields therefore need high levels of resilience skills and resources in order to withstand the demands of these types of careers, protect their own well-being. Healthy and flourishing people lead to professionals who lead with a disposition and energy that has a positive impact on their clients and organizations, and as such function at a higher level of effectiveness as professionals, and in addition possess the toolkits to advise their clients and organizations to flourish. Positive Psychology is the science of promoting well-being and optimized lives. It is a new branch of psychology that uses scientific understanding and interventions to aid in the achievement of a flourishing life. As such it provides an additional piece to psychology by focusing not on the treatment of dysfunction, but rather on the enhancement and strengthening of human functioning. Work in this area focuses on training of critical skills that allow first responders to become resilient and positive practitioners.

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