What is Criminal Profiling?


The police and other law enforcement agencies have a variety of ways of solving crimes. One way that is highly publicized in the media is criminal profiling. Criminal profiling is a method that is employed particularly for violent crimes, such as murder, abductions, and sexual assaults. This method is also sometimes called offender profiling, and involves studying the tendencies, characteristics and mindset of a criminal in order to ascertain their identity. Criminal investigators will also analyze the crime scene to figure out the nature of the crime. This information can be used to supplement a criminal profiling.

What is Used in Creating a Criminal Profile?

Almost any element, or piece of evidence, associated with a crime is used in some way during a criminal profiling. Even minute details can often factor into the process. Important components for building a criminal profile include:

  • Forensic evidence
  • Crime scene evidence
  • Victim profile and characteristics

What are the Advantages of Criminal Profiling?

Criminal profiling is an effective tool in helping law enforcement investigators narrow down the list of suspects for a crime, or create an outline of their possible characteristics. This compiled information can be used to determine patterns in behavior, to guess where the criminal resides or where a future crime might be committed.

What is the Process for a Criminal Profiling?

Criminal profiling involves a number of steps. First, all relevant information is gathered about the crime, including all evidence collected by the police. The next step is to apply this information to try to answer some important questions such as:

  • Where did the crime occur?
  • What was the primary motive?
  • Was the crime violent? And if so, how violent?
  • What risks did the criminal take by committing the crime?

As patterns start to emerge from the evidence, these questions can be more easily answered. The personality or character of the criminal can be supposed by breaking down the behavior into four phases:

  • Antecedent: The suspect’s thoughts and plans before the crime occurred
  • Method and manner: How the crime was committed, any unique elements are identified
  • Disposal of the victim’s body
  • Post-crime actions

With all this information and some questions possibly answered, the profile can be compiled to include features such as sex, age, ethnicity, psychological state, religious affiliation and intelligence.

What are the Disadvantages of Criminal Profiling?

Criminal profiling is far from a perfect science and relies heavily on stereotyping, i.e. assuming something based on a small amount of information. Incorrect criminal profiles can be created by faulty logic or broad stereotyping. For this reason, criminal profiling remains controversial, and professionals continue to look for ways to more accurately categorize criminal suspects.

For more information about the criminal profiling process, talk to an attorney at Madrid Law today.

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