In the recent past, various television shows have portrayed criminal profiling as one of the most interesting areas of criminal investigations. Nevertheless, the method raises controversy from different people. Some are of the view that it is a reliable way of catching criminals, while others do not believe in its validity. This essay purposes to analyze the criminal profiling technique as used by different criminal investigators. The paper, with the help of evidence from various researchers, highlights the significance of the process in solving complicated criminal cases. In addition, the benefits as well as the disadvantages of the technique are analyzed to understand the method well.
Introduction to Criminal Profiling
Criminal profiling is one of the procedures used in the contemporary world to determine the identity of people who have committed certain crimes. The criminal investigation process started around the 1950s to try to solve mysterious crimes at that time. Most of the crimes that are likely to be solved using criminal profiling information are sexual and ritualistic crimes, bank robberies, murders, or even fire cases (Jackson, 2011). While criminal profiling aims at finding out the real offender of a certain offense, it only identifies the possible traits and behaviors of the suspect. These characteristics are derived from the crimes committed and their relation to other similar offenses. Therefore, the information gathered and presented by the FBI profilers is then used to investigate and, hopefully, catch the actual perpetrator. One of the major pieces of information the profilers use is the thinking trends of the criminal that are likely to motivate him or she to carry out the offense. In addition, the type and the site of the crime under investigation are vital in criminal profiling. The process follows six steps that include the profiling inputs, decision process models, crime assessment, criminal profile, investigation, and apprehension stage. To identify a criminal successfully, it is necessary for the profiler to be well educated, have enough experience, and possess vast psychology knowledge (White, Lester, Gentile, & Rosenbleeth, 2011). The evaluation of the subject matter shows that criminal profiling is important in solving cases and the law enforcement agencies must keep on utilizing it. This essay purposes to analyze the criminal profiling technique as used by different criminal investigators.
The Significance of Criminal Profiling
Since its establishment, criminal profiling has proved to be a fundamental tool when conducting criminal investigations of major and mysterious crimes. The reason behind this is the benefits that are gained from criminal profiling.
Most crimes are hard to solve since there is a lack of witnesses and CCTV technology in the area where the offense has been committed. As a result, any information that would give investigators some clue about the suspects is significant in solving the case. Criminal profiling is such a method that is capable of offering useful details on the potential offenders depending on the type of the crime and other evidence from the site. Studies have shown that criminal profiling has assisted the police force in changing their views about offenders (Turvey, 2011). Thus, they are able to focus their efforts on the crimes as well as the potential suspects. Additionally, the profilers can provide more information that the law enforcement officers can use to predict the next crimes (Jackson, 2011).
As Shone and Spender (2008) point out, criminals such as serial killers may target certain areas or population with unique characteristics. For that reason, the police officers can use this information from criminal profiling agents to secure that place. Either the targets can be transferred to another area or the officers can offer full-time protection to them. As such, it will be possible to prevent more crimes from the same criminal by protecting his or her possible victims.
Criminal Profiling Saves Time
Time is of the essence when it comes to finding a solution to mysterious and violent crimes such as those involving serial killers and rapists. Criminal profiling plays a significant part in saving the time required to capture an offender and finally solve such a case. Through the creation of profiles of unknown criminals, the offender profiling method assists in narrowing down the number of suspects. For offender profiling to be declared successful, not only will it directly lead to the capture of the criminal but it can also assist indirectly. In most cases, the police force is able to gather further details about a crime from the profile. Furthermore, the characteristics identified by the FBI profilers are important in apprehending the criminals faster (Shone & Spender, 2008).
Involving the Public
Another benefit of offender profiling is that it is possible to enlist the public in the apprehension of the culprit. Sometimes, it is not possible for the law enforcement agencies to catch a criminal even after seeking the services of a profiler. In such cases, the police department can resort to involving the public in stopping the offender from executing further crimes by arresting him or her. The public is enlisted by releasing the profile of the suspect created through offender profiling. Nevertheless, the profilers should be certain that the profile fits the suspect accurately. By doing so, the public can provide the police with leads to put the suspect in custody. An example is the capture of the American serial killer named Richard Chase who was identified by a member of the public (White, Lester, Gentile, & Rosenbleeth, 2011).
Effectiveness of Criminal Profiling
Although the method of criminal profiling is controversial, it has been effective in solving some cases in the past. Kocsis (2007) claims that the law enforcement agents cannot arrest a suspect by relying on profilers only. However, a combination of various techniques such as forensic science, criminal profiling, and the normal police work promotes faster apprehension of criminals. One of the successful arrests through the help of offender profiling is that of John Duffy in 1986. He had almost all the qualities that were included in a profile prepared by Dr. David Canter. The criminal was known as the Railway Rapist after a number of rapes across England. Other successful captures of dangerous criminals after profiling are those of Arthur Shawcross and Wayne Williams in the United States (White et al., 2011). Moreover, the fact that the FBI center in Virginia has Special Agents dedicating themselves to criminal profiling shows that it is a valuable procedure. The FBI also has a department specializing in offender profiling- Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU).There are four BAUs in FBI that are part of NCVAC (National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime) (The Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2014). Consequently, it is clear that even if it has some drawbacks, offender profiling is useful when combined with other criminal investigation techniques.
A look at Kocsis’ study (2007) suggests that the criminal law field can enhance the effectiveness of the method by studying new areas ignored in the past during investigations. An example of such area is gathering information from people who have fallen victims to serial criminals. The victims may have some similar characteristics that may have made them targets of the offenders. Furthermore, the cases that were never solved should also be studied to determine their differences with the solved ones. By doing so, the validity of utilizing offender-profiling means would increase.
Dilemma on the Continued Use of Criminal Profiling
Despite its various advantages and use in cases that were declared successful over the past, criminal profiling like any other procedure has some setbacks. The drawbacks are one of the reasons some people do not support its use by the police force. However, for one to support or disregard its continued use by the law enforcement agencies, it is vital to analyze its disadvantages.
The first negative aspect associated with the offender profiling method is the inclusion of certain information that is not facts. The profile of the criminal is not created from real pieces of information about the suspect but on certain assumptions. For instance, most profilers will believe that a bank robber is a poor person or that a person who rapes a big number of women must be unmarried (Turvey, 2011). Basing the profile on a few traits only may hinder catching of the real suspect. In addition, other profiles may have a stereotype about some areas, cultures, or races, thus hindering them from apprehending the guilty persons. Therefore, the stereotypes of the profiler are a major factor that can influence the investigation outcome.
Basing the Profile on Consistency
When profilers develop a profile for a certain offender such as a serial killer, they use the assumption that the person will behave in a consistent manner. They believe the future activities of criminal are predictable over a span of time. On the contrary, people do not always behave in a certain manner; their behavior can change depending on the mood or the circumstances. For this reason, it would be difficult and almost impossible to put into custody a criminal who is not consistent in his or her activities. A study that took place in Italy to investigate a serial arsonist found out that it took longer to catch him since his actions matched those of a commuter and a marauder at the same time (Kocsis, 2007). As such, basing a criminal profile on some behavior trends will not work.
Reliance on the Expertise of the Profiler
Criminal profiling is not a scientific method so the law enforcement can only depend on what a profiler tells them. Therefore, the method is criticized for its lack of empirical evidence and use of guesswork. Since criminals are also aware of this fact, behaving in an unpredictable manner significantly reduces their chances of being apprehended by the police. The law enforcement will only be looking for the suspect according to the available profile, which will make them miss the offender. In addition, the personal judgment of the profiler plays a significant role in the characteristics of the criminal included in the profile. Hence, certain issues such as stereotyping and the mental state of the profiler will influence the creation of the profile. That is why sometimes, if two different profilers create profiles for the same criminal, the profiles will differ (Turvey, 2011).
Continued Use of Criminal Profiling
The police force should continue using the services of profilers to investigate criminal activities all over the world. From the advantages and drawbacks of the criminal profiling method, it is evident that the benefits outweigh the setbacks. Furthermore, there are prominent cases that have been solved with criminal profiling method. Moreover, for the FBI to establish a whole unit and train agents to concentrate on criminal profiling of suspects, it means that this method has been known to bring results. On the other hand, it is imperative to eliminate the setbacks of the technique to make it even more effective in criminal investigations. While criminal profiling is helpful, combining it with other investigative techniques will surely make its effectiveness notable even among the critics.
In brief, criminal investigators including the FBI have used criminal profiling to solve difficult and lengthy criminal cases since the 1950s.The technique is reliable in providing more information on the suspect that would otherwise be nonexistent. Apart from saving the time required to apprehend a criminal, the police force can use the method to protect victims and engage the public in the criminal investigation. Equally, the process can hinder successful investigation due to stereotyping, dependence on the judgment of the profiler and reliance on the consistency of the criminal’s conduct. Overall, offender profiling remains a superior way of investigating crimes.