Criminal profiling, sometimes referred to as “offender profiling,” is an investigative tool that is used by law enforcement specialists. This tool will provide an analysis of the offender’s potential behavioral or psychological characteristics, making it possible to identify potential victims, predict future decisions, and eventual apprehension.
Like any tool, it is not perfect. It is designed to help law enforcement specialists guide agencies toward offenders so they can be taken off the street. If the information is inaccurate, then the offender can get away or law enforcement may identify an innocent individual as the offender. When it works, it does what it is intended to do: keep societies safe.
Here are additional lists of the pros and cons of criminal profile to think about.
List of the Pros of Criminal Profiling
1. It provides information.
Modern offenders do an excellent job of covering their tracks. Investigators may have very little information to go on when attempting to track down the perpetrator of a crime. Criminal profiling can be used as an additional information resource so that new leads can be identified from collected evidence.
2. It is based on consistency.
Humans can be unpredictable, but offenders tend to act in similar patterns. Because of this consistency, profiles are based on expectations that are drawn from personal experiences. Although it would be impossible for this tool to predict every single decision an offender might make, profiles can help investigators find insights when none may be present otherwise.
3. It is often used for serious offenses only.
Because profiles are created for offenders who are deemed to be a great danger to society, the accuracy of the observations can be maintained. Profile characteristics amongst the most violent and disruptive are more common than comparisons within the general population. Implementing a profile approach can be disruptive, especially when innocent parties are contacted, but the benefit of maintaining societal safety is often seen as a greater benefit.
4. It only requires crime scene information to be created.
Profilers do not need any information about an offender to begin the work of creating a criminal profile. All they need is access to crime scene information to understand the emotions or decisions that were implemented. These insights can help investigators begin to find people of interest because they share the same traits as the profile that is created.
5. Profiles improve as information improves.
Early offender profiles were limited in scope because society had limited information about certain criminal demographics. As professionals and profilers have learned more about the reasons why certain people behave in certain ways, it has led to a greater accuracy in the profiles being developed.
List of the Cons of Criminal Profiling
1. It is based on assumption.
Although it is true that many groups of people tend to act in similar ways, individual choices can be unpredictable. Criminal profiling is based on group averages from demographic observation, which offers a “likelihood” of success, but not a guarantee.
2. Incorrect information can be used.
Because profiling is based on assumptions, an offender that is misidentified with a specific demographic will have an incorrect profile built on them. This inaccuracy could lead investigators away from the offender instead of bringing them closer to the truth.
3. It does not eliminate a personal bias.
Investigations are built around facts. Profiles are built around the experiences and education of the person behind the profile. Their personal bias influences the information release, even if it is an unconscious bias. That can make it difficult for the profile to be accurate, especially if the personal bias involves race, religion, or politics.
4. It is a limited approach.
Individual profiles are created by fewer than 10 profiling methods or scientific approaches. Because of the unique nature of humanity, there will be offenders who fall outside of the approaches that are used for profile building. When that happens, it is not possible to create a helpful profile for investigators.
5. Smart offenders can manipulate their profiles.
Some offenders understand that profilers will be brought into an investigation to help identify them one day. To throw a profiler off, an offender can falsify components of a crime scene to make circumstances appear one way so that investigators are led in the wrong direction.
Criminal profiling can be used in a way that positively benefits society. The process of profile creation can also be abused and create negative impacts within a society. It is an imperfect process, but one that can also be helpful. Individuals always offer a risk of being unpredictable, which means there will always be a risk that a criminal profile effort will be unsuccessful.