Webinar presenter Dr. Gabrielle Salfati answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Linking Serial Sexual Offenses: The Latest Science. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: So, Gabrielle, if we wanted to learn more about this field, I know you’ve got a whole bunch of academic journal articles there, but are there any books that we can easily read? Or is this a case where the best thinking and the latest thinking are still in the academic journal articles?
Dr. Gabrielle Salfati: Well, I would say it depends on what you’re trying to get from the information. If you are the academic type and you like the journals, then, yes, then, go to my research page. And you can get access to all of it. There actually has a link on there, even if you’re not in academia, you can access the journals because I will send them to you. There’s a link on there on how to do that. If you simply want to get the digest version, or some of the things that we have found, then things like this. So, you know, I’ve been very fortunate you invited me back to speak so many times at the Justice Clearing House. This is one of the ways that I try to take all of this very intricate research and put it into a format that is more applied, and where people can start looking at how this links back into practice. But also, a really good way of doing this is, I also have webinars on my website. So, if you, again, if you go to the website. On the front page, there is a webinar link. Everything that I normally do, I link it on there and I make it available so that people can listen to it. And we talk about the latest and newest in research. If you’re interested in actually applying all of this into your practice and starting to explore how it may be relevant to you, then I would recommend a Certificate in Investigative Psychology. Because the idea here is, I used to have so many inquiries from investigators all over the world and analysts saying, How can we find out about this? But more than that, how can we learn how to maybe use it? And so, I created an online six-week course that essentially provides all the information that we have done in the whole field in six weeks. And I always update it and every single cohort of people have the latest and the newest and very often, the yet unpublished. So that is another great way if you wanted to. So, there are many different ways of accessing this. And if you wanted a good book, If you want to learn more about linking, there are several books out there. There’s one Crime Linkage by Woodhams and Bennell, which is on Linking Serial Crime, it is sort of is an edited book of the key people who are doing work in linkage analysis. That’s a great book to start off with. I would definitely recommend that. And, yeah, I think that gives you a good place to start.
Audience Question: Do random copycat killers pose problems with muddying the typology efforts? Are you able to differentiate copycats from actual serial killers?
Dr. Gabrielle Salfati: You know, that’s such an interesting question because people often ask me that, what about the copycats? Should we release any information to the media because copycats might copy? We don’t actually know a lot about that. But here’s what I can tell you, there are so many intricate levels of things that we look at when we do behavioral analysis that is very difficult to copy. Because you can copy certain behaviors, but he comes back to what is salient at the crime scene? And one of the things that we have looked at is how can we focus on behaviors that really tell us something about the person who has acted them out? They’re always going to leave additional things. One of the things that we look at is, what is it that they actually leave the crime scene? And what are those other indicators that suggest that it may not be a person who’s actually part of that typology because they’re doing these extra things that we know are indicators that it’s either copycat and this is more common than a copycat, which are not that common, but that you have multiple offenders at the crime scene. In fact, you’re analyzing inconsistency because you have two different people operating at the same time.
Audience Question: In times of inconsistency, what are some solutions that you say we should be incorporating to help us head in the right direction to finding these offenders?
Dr. Gabrielle Salfati: Right. I would say knowing what the most salient behaviors are to focus on, knowing the classification models that work the best, knowing how to classify a crime, using the most up to date techniques in terms of classification, and then understanding how all of this fits into this whole idea that people are not actually that consistent so, we need to understand it in the context of these trajectories. So, one of the latest studies that we had that actually looked at trajectories is very promising. Now, it is the first study that has been published on this. And we have done others that have backed it up that have not been published yet. I always say this to people. It is so important not to use something in practice until we have shown that it works. And in science, we always take a little bit longer of course. The indicator is that it is going to be helpful. The certificate or other webinars, and in some of the papers, we’re exploring how to do that. But those are some of the elements that, when I work with crime analysts or investigators, I train them on, in terms of, how do you actually apply that into your practice in a practical way, because that’s always the key thing, isn’t it? Between science and practice. In science, it’s all a very convoluted set of numbers. How do you go about using it? And that translation into practice is absolutely essential.