Global Dynamics

Inteligence Profiling

The use of geographic profiling in the D.C. Sniper Case:

The most logical place to start this discussion is with an explanation of what exactly geographic profiling is:

  • According to the National Institute of Justice- “Geographic profiling is a technique that can help identify the likely area where a serial offender resides, or other place (e.g. work, girlfriend's place) that serves as an anchor point or base of operations” (Geographic Profiling | National Institute of Justice, 2009, December 15).

This method of profiling can be used in conjunction with crime mapping information:

  • “Crime Mapping is the process of using a geographic information system to conduct spatial analysis of crime problems and other police related issues” (Boba, 2009, p. 7).

Basically a crime map and geographic profile will track criminal activity and attempt to point when and where a crime will occur or in the case of the D.C Sniper case the most logical location for the offender(s) to live and/or work. The logic behind this type of profile is the idea that an offender(s) will function in an area in which they are comfortable (comfort zone) this will be an area where the offender lives or works or has some other reason to regularly frequent.

In a geographic profile:

  • “The program takes the locations of a series of crimes and creates a three-dimensional "jeopardy surface." The surface's peaks indicate a greater probability of a location being the suspect's home base. Superimposing the surface on a city street map gives investigators a good idea of where a suspect is working from” (Bowman, 2003, October 10).

In the case of the D.C snipers a geographic profile was ineffective due to the fact that the offender(s) had no home base. They were living and perpetrating the crimes from a vehicle. Their comfort zone was expended because they were not required to leave the vehicle. This meant that the police or profilers would have no logical “home base” or logical location from which a profile could be generated; also it was difficult for law enforcement and profilers to offer a next logical location because of the fact that the offender(s) were mobile. They had ease of movement from community to community.

The drawback to this sort of profile is the fact that it relies heavily on statistical information not taking into account offender behavior.


Boba, R. (2009). Crime analysis with crime mapping (2nd ed.). London: Sage.

Bowman, J. (2003, October 10). CBC News Indepth: Sniper Attacks. - Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. Retrieved October 8, 2011, from

Geographic Profiling | National Institute of Justice. (2009, December 15). National Institute of Justice: Criminal Justice Research, Development and Evaluation. Retrieved October 8, 2011, from