6,531 total views, 1 views today
Profiling, or criminal investigative analysis, as it is called by the FBI, involves the investigation of a crime with the hope of identifying the responsible party, based on crime scene analysis, investigative psychology and behavioral science.
Due in large part to Jody Foster’s portrayal of FBI trainee and aspiring profiler Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, the profiling of serial killers has become a frequent and reoccurring theme on the popular culture landscape over the last twenty-five years. However, the depictions of criminal profiling and the profilers themselves are so stylized, exaggerated and unrealistic that it is difficult, if not impossible, for the average person to tell fact from fiction in the media depictions of them.
Criminal profiling is a cross between law enforcement and psychology. It is still a relatively new field with few set boundaries or definitions. Practitioners of criminal profiling do not always agree on methodology or even terminology. Despite their disagreements, however, practitioners of profiling all share a common goal of analyzing evidence gathered at a crime scene and statements provided by victims and witnesses in order to develop a description of an unknown offender.
The offender description can include psychological factors such as antisocial personality traits, psychopathologies (mental illnesses), behavioral patterns, as well as demographic variables including, age, race and geographic location.
In practice, particularly as conducted by the FBI, criminal profiling is involved in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution phases of the criminal justice process. In the investigation phase, profiling is used to determine whether or not crimes are linked and to predict the personality and lifestyle characteristics of an unknown perpetrator. In the investigation phase, profiling is used to develop strategies to apprehend the unknown criminal and to assess the likelihood of escalation in the perpetrator’s crimes.
In the apprehension phase, profiling is used to predict where to look for an unknown serial criminal, to determine what information should be included in a search warrant, and how he/she may react upon apprehension. In the prosecution phase, criminal profilers act as experts in court to link crimes based on forensic evidence and to connect an alleged perpetrator to a series of crimes.
Author: Scott Bonn, Ph.D., professor of criminology at Drew University, expert on criminal behavior and motivations