Linking Serial Sexual Offenses: The Latest Science

Linking Serial Sexual Offenses: The Latest Science
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-02-17
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Linking Serial Sexual Offenses
Unit 2Transcript: Linking Serial Sexual Offenses
Unit 3Workbook: Linking Serial Sexual Offenses
Unit 4Recording: Linking Serial Sexual Offenses

Police work is more than just patrolling the streets and catching people committing offenses. They are more complex crimes that require lots of groundwork, investigation, forensic analysis, and pattern recognition to truly make sense of the incidents within cases, especially in serial crimes. This webinar unpacks questions and challenges surrounding linking serial sexual offenses, and research conducted thus far that aims to address these.

This session’s instructor is Gabrielle Salfati, a Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Investigative Psychology Research Unit at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is a trailblazer in the new field of Investigative Psychology that relates psychological concepts on police investigations.

Points covered in this webinar include:

  • The questions surrounding criminal investigations particularly the concept of linking and series, elements to focus on in a crime scene, consistency in offenders’ behaviors, and the factors that influence consistency.
  • The current common approach in crime scene analysis focusing on the action of the offender and the challenges that come with this due to its lack of empirical basis and inadmissibility as expert evidence.
  • The 2005 FBI Serial Murder Symposium held to make sense of how serial murder investigations are being conducted despite the lack of scientific backing.
  • The founding of the investigative psychology field that aims to create an empirical approach to behavioral crime scene analysis, offender profiling, and linkages to support the practice.
  • The areas of behavioral crime scene analysis where there are practical challenges that make linking serial sexual offenses more difficult.
    • The application of linkage, the two linkage approaches being used by practitioners, and research that look into each approach’s ability to identify consistencies in offender behavior.
    • Crime scene analysis where practitioners commonly have to compare hundreds of crime scene variables to establish a link without ascertaining which ones are the most important indicators.
    • Salience: Identifying recurring themes that must be the focus of crime scene analysis through a literature review and the study conducted that debunked the findings of the literature review.
    • Unit of analysis which discerned whether serial crimes must be analyzed based on the offender’s individual behavior or the psychological theme underlying the behavior.
    • The lack of guidelines for practitioners in terms of classifying different crimes subtypes and how this likewise did not establish anything to prove consistencies in offender behavior or psychological themes.
  • Findings from research performed over the last 15 years surrounding behavioral crime scene analysis.
    • The psychological subtypes which looked into the focus of the offender in the perpetration of the crime and the ways that the offender interpersonally acts upon the victim which can then be used as means of linking crimes.
    • Examining behavioral subgroups based on the cognitive aspect of the crime, the level of violence, the presence of sexual activity, and victimology as a way to identify similarities and differences.
  • Shifting the focus of analysis from consistencies to finding consistency in the inconsistency and recognizing patterns of behavioral change.
    • Placing less emphasis on legal definitions of crimes and instead identifying consistency, development, change, and escalation to create links from a psychological angle.
    • Studying trajectories by looking at the series as a whole to understand patterns of consistencies.
  • Understanding victimology to better link crime scenes into a series by looking at the kinds of victims being targeted.
  • Statistics that demonstrate how serial crimes tend to be targeted.
  • The phenomenon of linkage blindness where there is a lack of knowledge, resources, or capacity to identify whether a case is part of a series.
    • How many unsolved crimes that go on for years may be attributed to this.
    • How linkage blindness is more likely in series where there are mixed types of victims.
  • The two types of serial crimes based on the types of people victimized.
  • How the factors of victim type, victim outcome, and presence of sexual assault create an intricate interplay in mixed victim series and the two general types of trajectories in these.

Questions raised by the webinar attendees are about:

  • Available investigative psychology resources.
  • Differentiating copycats from actual serial killers through behavioral analysis.
  • Practices and solutions to implement for better chances of finding offenders of serial crimes.


Webinars with this Speaker


Or click here to view and register for other upcoming ASEBP webinars on the JCH Platform.


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Great topic and the linking of the series is extraordinary! Well done.” — Brice
  • “I will attend anything by Dr. Salfatti, She’s the best. Similar topics would be great.” — Joni
  • “The presenter proved to be very well versed on her subject matter. Well done!” — KIM
  • “WOW! Great webinar and truly relevant. Thank you, Gabrielle, for providing very useful information.” — Barbara
  • “The importance of understanding the psychological factors in the context of the behavioral factors so that the linkage is not missed.” — Fernanda
  • “I like the examples she gave on how to break things down in different subgroups in order to find linkage.” — Edgartown
  • “I learned that sometimes it takes several tries to find the results you’re looking for, and it may take out-of-the-box thinking to achieve the desired results.” — Katelyn
  • “How knowledgeable the speaker was on the subject. Her voice was easy to listen to and she stayed on topic. I liked Victim Targeting, this subject is valuable to my daily work.” — Dawn
  • “Most valuable thing learned – that the crimes go undetected due to linkage blindness and may not appear consistent. This was a really interesting topic. I think because of how much material there is, it felt like we only scratched the surface.” — Laura




The American Society of EvidenceBased Policing is a non-profit organization started by working police officers designed to drive the national conversation towards ensuring that the least harmful, most effective, fairest, and safest strategies are employed to prevent crime, reduce harm, and improve community wellness.





Additional Resources
1 year ago
Online Course: Introduction to the Inductive Interview System
Built on the foundation of time-tested interviewing principles, the Inductive Interview System bring […]
2 years ago
After the Webinar: Linking Serial Sexual Offenses – The Latest Science. Q&A with Dr. C. Gabrielle Salfati
Webinar presenter Dr. Gabrielle Salfati answered a number of your questions after her presentation, […]
2 years ago
Thoughts about Humanness from Dr. Gabrielle Salfati
We, the country and our profession has been through SO much these last few years. That's why we just […]
2 years ago
Investigative Psychology: The Latest Science on Offender Profiling & Linking Serial Crimes
Apart from the forensic science, another aspect of investigation that people find fascinating is the […]
5 years ago
Using Murder Data to Help Justice Professionals Work Cases & Solve Crimes
The Murder Accountability Project (MAP) is a non-profit initiative from experts in the field of inve […]
5 years ago
Thoughts on Crime Scene Investigation from Adam Ricci
Adam Ricci provided a wealth of information during his webinar, Advanced Components of Animal Cruelt […]
6 years ago
Serial Murder – Separating Fact from Fiction: An Interview with Dr. Michael Aamodt
John Wayne Gacy. Jeffrey Dahmer. Ted Bundy. Gary Ridgway. Infamous names. Notorious names. Names tha […]