The Effectiveness of Criminal Profiling

The effectiveness of offender profiling.

Offender profiling is the concept of creating a profile of a criminal based on an analysis of a crime scene. This gives the Authorities a good idea of important facts of a criminal’s personality; facts such as: Profession, environment in which they live and whether it is possible for them to strike again or not. Offender profiling is commonly used in crimes such as paedophilia, rape, satanic and ritualistic crime, lust and mutilation murder and as well as many other crimes. The goals of profiling are: to make assessments from the crime scene that will give the authorities an idea of how to catch the criminal. There are two types of offender profiling: the Top-down’ approach which the American profilers use and the Bottom-up’ approach which we use over here in the UK. The Top-down’ approach looks at the evidence and data in light of previous crimes and how they’ve been solved, psychological theories of criminals and other general theories that have been found to link evidence to an offender’s personality. The Bottom-up’ theory seems to profile a criminal in the opposite way. It takes the evidence and data and builds it up piece by piece until a feasible conclusion is reached.

Britton (1992) sent out questionnaires to the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) to see how effective offender profiling had been. He wanted to see that of the cases where a criminal had been profiled how many had led to arrest. He found that the results were mostly negative in the fact that most cases that were profiled did not lead to arrest. Nevertheless, when the respondents commented the majority expressed the view that in their experience of offender profiling they knew it could have a lot of potential.

Offender profiling is not and exact science and there is a lot of debate over which method is most effective and even whether it is effective at all. Some criminal psychologists have questioned the scientific validity of offender profiling because it is more or less guess work. There is no hard evidence to work from, in true science you can take one thing and get a definite result from it. Whereas with offender profiling you cannot always take one piece of evidence and get it to lead you to the same place every time. For example when looking at a murder case the way a body is left can mean many things but it’s never the same because of all the other factors that come into the equation.

There are also other factors that may cloud judgment of a criminal based on the crime committed. For example, stereotyping could affect the way a criminal is profiled. It maybe that most rapists are single men that live with their parents but this may not always be the case and could lead to a false profile being created when the criminal is a married man who lives with his family.

There are many arguments discussing the effectiveness of offender profiling some good and some bad. As it is a very hit and miss method one person cannot say whether it is effective or not because cases are being solved with the methods, which is much better than no cases being solved at all.