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Criminal Profiling. © 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited. What is a Criminal Profile?.

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Criminal profiling l.jpg

Criminal Profiling

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


What is a criminal profile l.jpg
What is a Criminal Profile?

An educated attempt to provide specific information about a certain type of suspect (Beberth, 1981) and as a biographical sketch of behavioural patterns, trends and tendencies (Vorpagel, 1982)

(cited in Wrightsman & Porter, 2006, p. 75)


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The Criminal Profiler personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Criminal profiler: the individual who examines evidence from crime scene, victims, witnesses

    • Goal: attempt to construct an accurate description of the perpetrator

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Criminal Profiling: personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed” Observations of Skeptics

  • Training is controlled by law-enforcement

  • Number of criminal profiling jobs is small

  • Most profilers have not done graduate work in psychology but have advanced through the ranks of law-enforcement

  • Experienced profilers acknowledge that profiling is more of an art than a science

  • Expert testimony is not admissible attrial

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Why Develop a Criminal Profile? personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

1. Problems of Serial Criminal Behaviour

  • Serial crimes are a major concern to the Canadian public

    • e.g., Clifford Olsen and Paul Bernardo

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Why Develop a Criminal Profile? personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

2. False Stereotypes and Simplified Assumptions

e.g., bank robber

e.g., embezzler

e.g., murderer

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Why Develop a Criminal Profile? personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

3. Recurring Mysteries

Matching info from the crime scene with characteristics of a specific suspect

  • E.g., Jeffrey MacDonald

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Early Criminal Profiling personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Documented history can be traced to Malleus Malificarum

  • First modern example: “Jack the Ripper”

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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The “Mad Bomber” personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Over 16 years (starting in 1940), homemade bombs were being detonated in public places


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Dr. James A. Brussel’s Profile personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Bomber believed that some grave injustice had been done him by Consolidated Edison

  • He was “symmetrically built; perpendicular and girth development in good ration; neither fat nor skinny”

  • He distrusted police and despised male authority


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Criminal Profile Procedures personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Examine the crime scene, knowledge of victim, & all forensic evidence

  • Sequence of events & behaviour of both the perpetrator & victim are reconstructed

  • Classify the crime

  • WHAT + WHY = WHO


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Criminal Profile Procedures personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Deductive vs. Inductive


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Profiling: personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed” Crime Scene Characteristics

  • Is the pattern of behaviour similar to that seen in other cases?

  • Modus Operandi

  • Signature

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Homicide Classification personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Mass murder

  • Spree murder

  • Serial murder

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Homicide Classification personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Organized vs. Disorganized Homicides

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Can Criminal Profiling Help? personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Viewed as operationally useful by 82.6% of police officers

    • only 2.7% said this was because the profile led to identification of the offender

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Dangers of Profiling personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Investigator Myopia

  • False Confidence

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Effectiveness of Profiling? personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

  • Are Professional Profilers Better?

    • Pinzzotto and Finkel (1990)

      • Professionals were:

      • 2X as accurate in predictions as detectives

      • 3X more accurate than psychologists

      • Almost 5X more accurate than students

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Evaluating the personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed” Benefits of Profiling

  • can lead to more efficient use of the detective’s time

  • Not a panacea; a tool to facilitate the work of the investigators

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Profiling Advancements in Canada personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (VICLAS)

  • allows police in every province to record the information for all solved and unsolved homicides, sexual assaults, and unidentified bodies

  • potential linkages with other crimes in Canada

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Profiling Advancements in Canada (cont’d) personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

Geographic Profiling

  • A computer-based program developed by Kim Rossmo

  • Considers the pattern of documented crime scene locations to provide a statistical estimate of the probable residence or base of operations of a serial offender

© 2006 by Nelson, a Division of Thomson Canada Limited


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Racial Profiling personality and behavioural characteristics of an individual based upon an analysis of the crimes he or she committed”

-any police initiated action that relies on the race or ethnicity of an individual, rather than that individual’s criminal behaviour


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