To truly understand profiling you must first look at the basic definition of it. With that in mind, then take and break it down into the different areas of profiling. The basic definition of profiling, according to the World English Dictionary, is as follows: The use of personal characteristics or behavior patterns to make generalizations about a person, such as gender, unique characteristics (such as scars), hair color, color of eyes or skin, nationality. The use of these characteristics is to determine whether or not a person may be engaged in illegal activity.
Racial profiling is considered to be used by law enforcement in deciding whether to engage in enforcement of the law, such as making an arrest or a traffic stop. It uses an individual’s race or ethnicity to make these decisions. It is controversial and in some jurisdictions illegal.
Criminal profiling (or offender profiling) is described as using numerous factors such as race, dress, and interactions to determine whether or not a person is involved in criminal activity. Various aspects of the criminal’s personality makeup are determined from his/her choices before, during, and after the crime.
Predictive profiling attempts to guess who is likely to commit a crime that has not happened yet. This type of profiling occurs when a police officer, while patrolling, observes and tries to spot suspicious behavior that could mean a crime is going to take place.
Psychological profiling is a method of suspect identification which seeks to identify a person’s mental, emotional, and personality characteristics, which are manifested in things done or left at the crime scene.
There are four phases of profiling that profilers attempt to collect to determine the personality of the offender:
1. Antecedent: What fantasy, plan, or both did the murderer have in place
before committing the crime? What triggered the murderer to act some
days and not others?
2. Method and manner: What type of victim/s did the murderer select, and
what method and manner of murder did he/she use? Shooting, stabbing,
strangulation, or something else?
3. Body disposal: Did the murder and body disposal take place at one
location or multiple locations?
4. Post-offence behavior: Is the perpetrator trying to inject himself into the
investigation by reacting to media reports or contacting investigators?
In the case of serial killers a phase of criminal profiling is case linkage, which is the process of determining if there are connections between two or more unrelated cases. Involved is the establishment and comparison of physical evidence, victimology, crime scene characteristics, modus operandi, and signature behaviors between each of the cases.
As you can see there are numerous categories of profiling. As a writer, knowledge is imperative to making our story sound convincing. Do not just write, but know what you are writing.
Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
Member of: Sisters in Crime
Writers on the Move