How the Psychology of Place Informs a Profiler—Or a Killer – Psychology Today

Photo by author

Source: Photo by author

Whether crime writing involves fiction or true events, writers might be tempted to treat the location as just a way to orient readers and ground the narrative: It took place here. But the manner in which different people experience a place – especially the same place – can enhance character development, tension and pace. Authors who aspire to use location for greater dimension can benefit from concepts in geographic profiling (GP), which gathers data from an offender’s point of view.

For example, the man who murdered Libby German and Abby Williams near the deteriorating Monon High Bridge at Indiana’s Delphi Historic Trails in 2017 had likely been familiar with this area. He’d noticed that kids hike there and he’d calculated the best place to molest and kill them undetected. For the girls, the bridge was a fun photo-op; for their killer, the best spot to corner prey. Once he approached them, he controlled where they’d go next – “down the hill.” This killer remains unidentified.

Where offenders choose routes, select victims, and commit crimes reveals a lot about their personality, habits and methods. The Monan High Bridge killer seemed comfortable with heights and with a bridge that had uncertain footing. Given the rural milieu, he’s most likely a local. He arrived to the location at least partially on foot, prepared