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Criminal Profiling is not just done on TV
Posted by: Thomas Grajek  | On 05th February, 2015

The law enforcement tactic of criminal profiling, pioneered by FBI Agent John Douglas, is not just a tool injected into TV shows for extra entertainment, but is a reality in law enforcement, even used to try and hunt down Jack the Ripper in London.

Profiling does not take place in a vacuum and investigators rely on any evidence found at a crime scene to draw conclusions. Other important aspects police consider are the crime location, the circumstances of the crime, whether it is similar in nature to another crime (using the same modus operandi), if there is any physical evidence left behind, or weapons used that may have been used in other crimes. Police use blood spatter analysis, fingerprinting and casting on scene as well to get a picture of the individual who may have committed the crime.

Criminal profiling also goes by another name, offender profiling. It is defined as the method or process used to attempt to get a handle on the characteristics and mindset of an unknown offender or unsub (unknown subject/suspect).

Solving crimes takes more than 40 minutes with commercials thrown in and major luck getting big breaks. It is a long process involving a number of tools, and one of them happens to be criminal profiling. Police use it most often to assist in solving particularly egregious crimes, such as murder, kidnapping and sexual assault. When it comes to attempting to put together a profile, all aspects of the crime come into play, from the smallest, seemingly inconsequential detail, to the possible discovery of a weapon with fingerprints.

Part of the benefit of criminal profiling is that the results may indicate a pattern that helps narrow down many facets of the case. Profiling can elucidate details about the unsub, such as whom the individual might be and what risks he or she took to commit the crime, the latter indicating intelligence and planning versus a crime of passion.

In addition, elements of setting can come to light, like where the suspect usually carries out the crimes, and what the motive for the crime appears to be. The preliminary answers to these, and other questions, usually provide investigators with a good sense of whom they may be hunting.

Forensic evidence is not the only element that makes up a criminal profile. It involves, but is not limited to, victim characteristics, crime scene evidence and even detective/profiler intuition. Information gleaned from a criminal profile can include intelligence, sex, approximate age, race, religious beliefs and psychological traits. Though this methodology is useful, it has its flaws, because it produces educated guesses rather than exact answers. It also opens the door to stereotyping, which could lead to false profiles. Some view criminal profiling as a pseudoscientific technique.

This tool has many advantages, including the ability to detect criminal behavior patterns, which saves time hunting for the perpetrator, and predicts where the criminal could be active in the future. Profiling cannot take place without a very detailed analysis of the crime scene done by forensic investigators.

Tags: Agent John Douglas Criminal Profiling evidence FBI sexual assault TV

05

Feb 2015

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