Geographic Profiling

Caitlin Dempsey


Imagine being able to use geographic logic to ferret out a serial criminal’s home. One person, a former police detective from Vancouver, Canada did exactly that. Geoprofiling (or geographic profiling) is a concept first proposed by Kim Rossmo in his doctoral thesis while at British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University. The crux of Rossmo’s mathematics equation is a psychological theory called the least-effort principle. This concept proposes that criminals tend to commit acts of crimes within a comfort zone located near but not too close to their residence. With at least five or six incidents traceable back to the perpetrator, Rossmo’s algorithm reduces the search area for the criminal’s residence by more than 90 percent.

Key locations are weighted and then geocoded onto a map. The end process is known as a “jeopardy surface”, a map that resembles a topographical map showing peaks and valleys color ramped to highlight the most likely area where that criminal resides.

Rossmo’s analytical tool has been packaged into a commercial program called Rigel sold by Environmental Criminology Research, Inc (ECRI). Geoprofiling is gain popularity among police agencies as a crime-fighting tool, having been put into practice within the FBI, ATF, Scotland Yard and other agencies.

For more resources on geoprofiling visit:

What is Geographic Profiling?
Primer produced by Environmental Criminology Research, Inc on geoprofiling. Find further articles,books and learn where to find training in geoprofiling.


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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