"Social misfit", "oddball", "misogynist" - this is how University of Canterbury criminologist Greg Newbold describes the typical characteristics of a person who assaults another.

A number of indecent assaults have been committed this month, each by a lone male who fled on foot. Police are investigating if there is a connection between the incidents, which have occurred around Napier Hill, Taradale and Havelock North.

Mr Newbold said typically a person who committed these acts would have a "disturbed personality", were not intelligent, and didn't have a lot going for them.

"They're people without much to lose."

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Such individuals could appear normal, but those close to them would notice they expressed strange behaviours as a manifestation of personality problems.

"They would be people who behave oddly in other aspects of their lives. They'd generally be the kinds of people who don't get on that well with other people, and who are considered a bit weird. They're normally someone who's a bit odd, and often a misfit."

However, a person who attacked women had a "specific misogynistic element to their psyche".

"Where the attacking of women is concerned it also indicates, I think, a sort of frustration and dislike for women as well.

"They're not going to get a lot of sexual gratification out of it. It seems more to be a way of degrading women, or violating their personal space and personal areas."

If one person had committed serial assaults, this reflected a "deep seated grudge that he's got against women in general and also will manifest in other weird behaviour".

Another telling detail about the assaults was where, and when they occurred. All bar one have happened during daylight hours in public, or residential areas.

Mr Newbold said this suggested two likely scenarios - either the perpetrator did not care too much about getting caught, or thought they could continue to get away with it.

"If you do it where there's other people around you're sort of sticking your neck out. As long as you keep doing these things you're going to get caught at some stage."

He suggested the acts could also be an "expression", perhaps of frustration, which the perpetrator might want to make public, rather than keep hidden.

Mr Newbold is a professor at the University of Canterbury's School of Language, Social and Political Sciences - Sociology and Anthropology.