Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling

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  • Topic: Offender profiling, Crime, Police
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  • Published : March 19, 2013
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DANGEROUS MINDS: CRIMINAL PROFILING

Author’s Note
This paper was prepared for Into to Forensic Psychology
PSY-501 taught by Professor Anna Moriarty

Abstract
Profiling is premised on the belief that behavior can be predicted based on knowledge of an individual's personality and personal characteristics. Criminal profiling limits this behavior analysis to suspects in the hopes that law enforcement will be able to narrow the pool of potential criminals and find the person or persons that committed the crime. Most law enforcement activity occurs after a crime has been committed and they usually have a very short time period in which to catch the criminal. If the police are lucky enough to get a case in the very early stages, time is even more crucial. This paper discusses how the use of criminal psychological profiling to identify perpetrators of specific crimes has become more commonplace in modern police work.

Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling
Criminal or offender profiling as it is sometimes referred to, is a law enforcement investigation technique that attempts to determine the type of person who may have committed the crime based upon an individual’s behavior at the crime scene or at multiple crime scenes (Devery, 2010). It is based on the premise that humans are creatures of habit and will follow a pattern of behavior. Profilers rely on the fact that normal human behavior; characteristics and patterns remain consistent, regardless of the action (Davis, 1999). A profile is a list of likely traits that the individual who committed the crime possesses. The purpose of the profile, like all other investigative tools, is to narrow the search parameters for police to a defined set of suspects that they can match to forensic or physical evidence if it has been recovered and is available (Davis, 1999).

Criminal profiling is not a new concept. Early use of behavior analysis in criminal cases dates back to the 1800s. It was developed in response to violent crimes that often receive the most publicity and generate the most fear among members of the public (Davis, 1999). These are the cases that police are under the most pressure to solve quickly. Public perception of crime and criminal profiling is shaped by popular media, which gives an unrealistic view of what profiling adds to an investigation. Just like the “CSI effect” the public believes that a profiler can determine who did it, find that person and prevent further harm all in a half hour. Detectives who work these cases understand that criminal profiling is an important technique that is not worth much alone but when added to forensic evidence it eliminates suspects and builds a strong case against actual perpetrators. There are several types of violent crimes such as: murderer, rapes, molestation, abduction, armed robberies and so on. Some of these crimes are committed by people with a criminal past and some are at the hands of a person without any criminal history. The sheer number of potential suspects can be staggering. The reverse may also be true, where no suspect emerges the magnitude of the investigation increases substantially. Most police departments especially those in less populated areas do not have sufficient resources or expertise to handle such wide reaching investigations (Davis, 1999). Types of Criminal Profiling

There are two major types of criminal profiling, crime scene analysis and investigative psychology (Devery, 2010). Both techniques were created independently of each other but use many of the same procedures. John Douglas, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent for 25 years in the Investigative Support Unit (ISU) is credited with the development of the profiling techniques that are currently taught and used in the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (Devery, 2010). His techniques were born out of the ISU’s determination to work unsolved violent crimes in the 1970s (Devery, 2010).

The second major type of...
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