Criminal profiling is often mistaken as racial profiling, but the two activities are very different. Racial profiling assumes that someone of a specific ethnic, racial, or other demographic has committed a crime or is about to do so because of who they are. Criminal profiling, on the other hand, comes from gathered information about a crime so that the profile of a criminal can be created. By looking at patterns of conduct, the type of individual who would perform a criminal act can be determined and then located.
Criminal profiling has helped to catch a number of criminals. It has also be used unsuccessfully on numerous occasions. Here is a look at the pros and cons of this practice.
What Are the Pros of Criminal Profiling?
1. It provides information that can help people become future victims.
Criminal profiling can help investigators determine if a criminal is targeted specific groups of people or types of businesses in a community. This information can then be made public so that anyone in these identified groups can take appropriate safety measures to protect themselves from harm.
2. It gives investigators some information to work on when little may exist.
Even with the modern technology we have today, from facial recognition to internet tracking, there are criminals who can escape the network. By examining the conduct of the criminal at the scene, it becomes possible to get an idea of the type of person who would commit such a crime. This allows for leads to be pursued, even if an actual identity of the criminal is lacking.
3. It is a resource for serious crime.
Criminal profiling typically occurs when a criminal commits a homicide. Other serious crimes, such as robbery or rape, are sometimes included as well. The characteristics of the potential offender are then evaluated to develop a profile of a person who may be the culprit. This resource helps to catch violent offenders and the knowledge of the existence of profiles may even help to proactively prevent crime from happening.
4. No physical description is necessary for investigators to begin working.
Many crimes are committed by someone who is local. By establishing a profile of characteristics, it becomes possible to investigate individuals within the community who may have been likely to commit the crime. Although this practice often involves contacting innocent people under the assumption of possible guilt, this allows investigators to potentially contact the guilty party as well.
What Are the Cons of Criminal Profiling?
1. The information in a criminal profile is an assumption instead of fact.
People may act certain ways for any type of reason. No two individuals are exactly alike. There may be information at a crime scene that gets developed into an inaccurate criminal profile because assumptions have to be made about an unknown person’s conduct. If the wrong profile is developed, then the wrong suspects will be considered, and eventually this could mean the guilty party is never located.
2. Criminals must be consistent for profiling to work.
The instant a criminal decides to take a different action while committing a crime, the criminal profile becomes inaccurate. This makes it easier for criminals to get away with certain actions because investigators don’t believe that someone would change tactics. Profiling can work, but only if the criminal is consistent with their behavior.
3. The facts about a crime scene may not actually be facts.
There are some easy assumptions to be made about certain crimes that are committed, right? People steal food because they are hungry. People steal money because they are broke. Except this isn’t always the case. Sometimes people steal things for fun. Others do it for a thrill. Information added to a profile can’t be based on facts 100% of the time.
4. The methods of profiling are limited.
There are just 6 scientific approaches and 7 profiling methods that are used in criminal profiling. From these base units, the individual profiles are created. If someone fits outside of these methods, then it is impossible for an accurate profile to be developed.
The pros and cons of criminal profiling show that this practice may be helpful, but it is also imperfect. There really is no foolproof way to predict human behavior. We can examine patterns and decisions made in the past to come up with a likely solution that does work to catch criminals, but it may also snag the innocent as well. Compared to racial profiling and other methods, however, the criminal profile may be the least intrusive and presumptive tool used when a specific identity has not been established.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.