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The Main Concepts to Know About Criminal Profiling

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In the academic journal “Behavioral Sciences and the Law,” John Douglas, Robert Ressler, Ann Burgess, and Carol Hartman collectively wrote an article about criminal profiling and how the process is generated. The FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit has been working with different agencies with different jurisdictions since the 1970s. There are six different stages to catching a murderer: profiling inputs, decision-process models, crime assessment, criminal profile, investigation, apprehension.

There are two additional steps to make sure that you have the right offender. These steps are making sure your evidence lines up with your profile and making sure that if there is new evidence, it lines up with your suspect and profile.

Although criminal profiling can be used in rape cases and arsonist cases, it is most useful in sexual homicides. These homicides are the hardest to solve because of their randomness and apparent lack of motive. Most of the time, the perpetrator doesn’t know their victims personally but rather knows of them. They don’t have any quarrels with that particular person; they are a symbol of the killer’s rage. For example, if a killer’s rage is actually directed at his wife, his victims will look similar to his wife and he will take out his rage on them. When profiling murderers, there are two distinctively different forms of profiling; mental health clinicians who want to explain the personality traits of the criminal and law enforcement whose goal is to find the patterns of the perpetrator. The Mad Bomber case that lasted 16 years is a perfect example of a mix of both of these different approaches. George Metesky was an arsonist who planted bombs around Ney York City and was caught because of the profile a psychiatrist-criminologist, James Brussel, created. When he worked as a psychiatrist, he would predict how his patients might react in certain situations so he could be able to help them prepare for those situations. He took his past experience and figured that the arsonist would be middle-aged, heavyset, single, foreign, living with a sister or brother, and wearing a double-breasted buttoned suit. The profile was correct and led the police straight to Metesky.

Criminal profilers are taught to notice the unnoticed. At a crime scene, they need to be able to evaluate what is there and what is not. Most murderers take something with them as a trophy or collection item to remind them of their act.

The first thing a profiler needs to do is look into the victim’s life and see who they associated with regularly if they had a schedule they followed regularly, their relationships, physical condition, personality, and hobbies. The profiler will also need to obtain an autopsy report, toxicology report, crime scene photos, and sketches showing the distances and scales, as well as a map of the area if possible. The next step is the decision process where, the profiler needs to determine the homicide type and style, primary intent, victim risk, offender risk, escalation, time for the crime, and location factors.

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The third stage is the crime assessment stage where ,the profiler needs to create a reconstruction of the sequence of events. Meaning, how the crime happened, how the killer encountered the victim, how much time the killer had, and who found the victim.

The fourth stage is creating the criminal profile of the offender. In this stage, the profile is created based on the behavioral organization of the offender and the crime scene. The profiler should also take into account the background information like physical characteristics, habits, beliefs, and values.

The fifth state is the investigative portion where the profiler will work with local law enforcement to use the profile to find suspects fitting the description of the profile.

The sixth and final stage is the apprehension of the suspect. After the suspect is apprehended, it is very important that your profile and evidence match up with your suspect to ensure that you have the right offender. The profiler will then need to conduct an interview to do so. There was a case example that showed all of these steps in the article, but it was far too graphic to include.

Profiling is a very important asset when trying to investigate a crime that seems completely random with no motive. When a profiler analyzes the crime scene photos and notes as well as toxicology reports and the medical examiner’s cause of death, the profiler can determine if it was premeditated or random which will then tell them if the killer is organized or disorganized. The behavior of the murderer reflects their personality traits and if they have trouble with women or confident with them, they are nervous or confident in their own skin, as well as what type of job or experience they’ve had in the past.

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The Main Concepts to Know About Criminal Profiling. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2023, from
“The Main Concepts to Know About Criminal Profiling.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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The Main Concepts to Know About Criminal Profiling [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2023 Oct 3]. Available from:
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