ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Politics and Social Issues»
  • Crime & Law Enforcement

Criminal Profiling - Criminology Diploma 12.

Updated on November 1, 2011

Assignment 12 Criminal Profiling.


***Before you continue to read this Hub may I mention that this is my work, written in my words for my Criminology Diploma. By all means read the Hub and absorb it's content but please don't plagiarize my work and present it as your own work towards your own diploma. This has been added as a request from a tutor/examiner of the Criminology Diploma program.***

Thank you!

12.1 Describe what is meant by Criminal Profiling.

Following the analysing of a crime scene, the use any discovered information to identify the perpetrator is called criminal profiling. The origins of which date back to the Federal Bureau of Investigations creation of its Behavioural Science Unit during the early 1970’s. Behavioural Science is the study of criminals and terrorist to gain a better understanding of “who they are”, “how they think” and “why they do what they do” as a means to prevent or solve crimes.

This profiling doesn’t directly lead to the actual criminal but it does help in narrowing down the suspects. For example, a trained forensic psychologist could sift through all the aspects of a crime scene and create a profile to determine the perpetrators personality, sex, age group, occupation or ethnic background. It could also provide information relating to the perpetrators physical features such as height, weight, feet size, hair colour and even any disfigurements or disabilities. This information could then be used to identify possible suspects who fit the profile. Personality is one of the most important aspects of a criminal profile. Hence the term, “behaviour reflects personality, and that is what profiling is all about”.

12.2 Analyse how the use of scientific methods, logic reasoning, sources of information on people, criminology, victimology, and experience or skill is employed to interpret the events that surround the commission of a crime.

To fully understand the concepts of crime reconstruction, certain terms need to be defined: -

Induction. The process of reasoning where experience, skill and observation are applied to the particulars of a case and a conclusion or generalisation is drawn.

Deduction. The process of reasoning that starts with a generalisation or premise and then considers the logical consequences of any particulars that follow.

Abduction. The process of cycling through both inductive and deductive reasoning by adding known facts until one is able to reject or retain a hypothesis.

Typology (aka classification or taxonomy). Is the process of arranging known facts into mutually exclusive categories.

Synthesis. Is the process of combining separate parts or elements.

Analysis. Is the process of starting with the whole and breaking it down into its separate parts.

Hypothesis. Is a tentative assertion subject to verification of falsification.

Theory. Is a somewhat verified hypothesis.

Serendipity. Is the factor of chance or luck.

Patterns. A series of similarities that usually indicate the same person or same modus operandi is involved in different crimes.

Modus Operandi. The behaviours taken by the offender that were necessary to commit the crime. A Latin phrase approximately translated as “method of operating”.

Leads. Clues or breaks in the case that help move an investigation forward, possibly something in a witness statement that was overlooked, or maybe something that comes to light after a record search or laboratory report.

Tips. Leads provided by citizens or informants. Tips by definition involve specifics like names, dates, places, addresses, phone numbers etc.

Theories. These are beliefs about the case that take in a particular direction at the exclusion of other possible directions.

Dependent on the crime committed, an experienced investigator will focus on certain steps methodically to try to interpret the events that occurred during that crime.

In the case of: -


1. Focus on deceased.

2. Crime scene.

3. Crime laboratory.


1. Focus on the victim.

2. Medical reports.

3. Crime scene.

4. Usual suspects.


1. Modus operandi.

2. Crime scene.

3. Police records.


4. Focus on scene.

5. Records check

6. Property check.

Investigating a Death.

As no crimes are standard, the investigation and reconstruction of any crime scene is not a textbook operation and instructors do hesitate to expose any students to a specific checklist. Though there are some basic protocols that may be followed during the process. These consist of the following: -

· Wound Pattern Analysis.

· Victim State of Mind.

· Victim Mental Health.

This is victimology, the study of the victim.

Wound patterns should be examined both at the crime scene and at the autopsy, questioning whether or not the deceased could have caused the injuries or was familiar with methods of death. The investigation should then move on to studying the victim’s police, school, hospital and employment records, along with conducting interviews with any one who knew the victim regarding his/her background. Classic warnings of a suicide are the giving away of personal possessions and sudden cheerfulness after a bout of depression. Ruling out suicide, any information gathered will assist with the rest of the investigation.

A psychological autopsy of any victim could involve: -

· Alcohol and drug history, medical history of the victim and the victim’s family, stress factors in the victim’s life, educational, employment military, sexual and dietary history.

· Interpersonal relationships, writings of the deceased, books and music owned, websites visited, phone calls made, recent conversations with friends, relatives and colleagues, interests and hobbies, old and current enemies.

· Reactions of any of the above parties towards the victim’s death, especially to the degree of lethality, as well as the usual questions about early warning signs and who might of intended harming the victim.

· Assessment of intention about the role of the deceased in their own demise, including any sub-intentional, covert or unconscious role, this done by analysing their thoughts, premonitions, fears or phobias of the victim, their mood swings, mental status, concentration and judgement abilities, and IQ.

· Timeline of events leading up to the deceased’s death.

Moving back towards the FBI, their method of a crime scene analysis consists of six steps that are summarised below: -

1. Profiling Inputs. This is basically a collection of all evidence, including anything found at the crime scene (i.e. fibres, paint chips, hairs etc) and anything derived from the crime scene (i.e. photographs, measurements, investigators notes etc).

2. Decision Process Models. In this step, evidence is arranged to determine any types of patterns, such as whether the crime is part of a series of crimes and if so what do the victims and circumstances have in common.

3. Crime Assessment. Once the evidence has been organised, the crime scene can be reconstructed. Investigators use their skills to determine what happened in what order, and what role each victim, weapon etc had in the crime.

4. Criminal Profile. The combined first three steps can be used to create a criminal profile incorporating the motives, physical qualities and personality of the perpetrator. This information is helpful in determining the best methods to interview possible suspects based on their personality.

5. The Investigation. The profile is passed on to investigators on the case and to any other organisations that could assist in the identification of a suspect.

6. The Apprehension. Unfortunately, this stage is only reached in around 50% of cases. When a suspect is identified, they are interviewed, investigated, compared to the profile etc. Then, if the investigators have good reason to believe that their suspect is the perpetrator, a warrant will be obtained and the suspect arrested. Usually followed by a trial with expert witnesses including the forensic pathologist and any other forensic experts like those involved in the crime scene analyses.

The Scientific Method of Crime Reconstruction is very similar to the FBI’s steps. It begins with inductive reasoning and proceeds to deductive reasoning, it then involves a breaking down and analysis of facts, and finally involves building-up of facts for synthesis. The number and type of facts, together with any ambiguity or doubt associated with them, determine the level of evidential value.

1. State the problem by looking at what type of crime has been committed, the legal elements of the crime, and the characteristics of the jurisdiction where the crime was committed.

2. Form a hypothesis by examining the physical evidence and interviewing the victim (if alive) or witnesses to determine motive and possible suspects.

3. Collect data by conducting record and police checks, re-interviewing the victim, witnesses and suspects while trying to obtain additional witnesses and exemplar (copied or imitated actions or items) or comparison samples from suspects.

4. Test hypothesis by evaluating how truthful and reliable the stories are of each party to the crime, and weigh their stories against the physical evidence and any known physical laws that could possibly reinterpret the physical evidence.

5. Follow up on the most promising hypothesis (theories) with any and all procedures (e.g. surveillance, undercover operations) that might prove or disprove that a particular suspect is the offender.

6. Draw conclusions that are supported by court admissible evidence leading to arrest, prosecution, and conviction of the offender.

Any conclusions of a crime reconstruction should take one of four forms about the sequence of events: -

1. It can be shown to have occurred in a given manner.

2. It can be shown to have likely occurred in a given manner.

3. It can be shown to have unlikely occurred in a given manner.

4. It cannot be shown to have occurred in a given manner.

Logical Reasoning. Inductive logic is frequently used by seasoned investigators, especially in situations where there are only very small pieces of information to work with. It is sometimes known as “analogical reasoning” or “argument from analogy”.

Analogies, synonyms, antonyms, metaphor, simile, rhyme, parable, fable, myth and poetry form the basis for inductive reasoning, it is a skill that can be sharpened.

Linguistically it is based on meanings of words such as: normally, likely, often, many, rarely, most, some, probably, usually and so on. The best that can be said is that an inductive argument is sound or cogent, meaning that it has a strong possibility or probability of leading to likely conclusions, or to what a reasonable person ought to accept.

The most frequently cited example of inductive logic is what theologians call the argument from design: -

A . “The universe exhibits a structural design” (premise)

B . “A machine exhibits a structural design” (premise).

C . “A machine is made by an intelligent being” (premise)

D . “The universe was made by an intelligent being” (conclusion).

The argument from design draws an analogy between the universe and a machine, seeking to persuade us that they are similar in structure, and since a machine is made by an intelligent being, it is likely that the universe was also made by an intelligent being. This is one of many arguments for the existence of God, it is not positive proof, it is more of a likelihood or probability.

The form of the argument is as follows: -

A has the property of C

B has the property of C

B has the property of D

Therefore A has the property of D

To put this form of logical argument into a crime scene investigation we can use the following example: -

A murder was committed on Tuesday at midnight on Sunset Avenue. The murder weapon was a .45 calibre gun, and the victim was a destitute alcoholic. Dozens of witnesses saw Jack do it.

Jack is sought but isn’t apprehended.

Another murder was committed on Wednesday, again at midnight on Sunset Avenue. Again, the victim was a destitute alcoholic and again the murder weapon was a .45 calibre gun. Unfortunately, there were no witnesses to Wednesday’s murder.

Drawing an analogy between these two crimes, we could easily reason that Jack also committed the murder on Wednesday. There is no positive proof of this but suspicion is high that Jack is the likely suspect.

Analysing the form logically: -

1. Tuesday’s murder was committed at Midnight (T has the property of M)

Wednesday’s murder was committed at Midnight (W has the property of M)

2. Tuesday’s murder took place on Sunset Avenue (T has the property of S)

Wednesday’s murder took place on Sunset Avenue (W has the property of S)

3. Tuesday’s murder involved a .45 gun (T has the property of 4)

Wednesday’s murder involved a .45 gun (W has the property of 4)

4. Tuesday’s murder victim was a Destitute alcoholic (T has the property of D)

Wednesday’s murder victim was a Destitute alcoholic (W has the property of D)

  1. Tuesday’s murder was committed by Jack (T has the property of J)

Therefore: Wednesday’s murder was committed by Jack (W has the property of J)

In this example, there are four properties in which two things compared have similarities, so it is very likely that the fifth property is warranted. The more similarities, the more likely an inductive argument is cogent. This rule is called the rule of “inductive generalisation”.

There are several common fallacies of inductive reasoning like hasty generalisation , emotional reasoning, the fallacy of composition and false dilemma. All of which can upset the sequence of an already non-positive form of reasoning.

Returning to our example and treating the conclusion that Wednesdays murder was committed by Jack, as a hypothesis and seeking dissimilarities, flaws or differences, one could disconfirm the original conclusion. The obvious flaw is that Wednesdays murder had no witnesses, so continuing as follows one could affirm the consequent: -

Tuesday’s murder was committed in front of witnesses

Wednesday’s murder was not committed in front of witnesses

Nevertheless, Tuesday’s murder and Wednesdays murder are similar.

Therefore: -

Tuesday’s murder was Witnessed as Jack (if Wi then J)

Wednesday’s murder was not Witnessed as Jack (if not Wi then not J)

Therefore, Wednesday’s murder may not have been committed by Jack?

This topic could continue deeper and deeper using many examples. As previously mentioned, words used in this type of reasoning include likely, often and probably, making it not a positive science. Though, applied by a seasoned investigator could lead to the apprehension of the perpetrator.

Any comments greatly appreciated!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 6 years ago from California

      The politically correct use of profiling seem to have no association with reality. Thank you, this very informative hub has clarified that profiling is not the enemy.

    • wilbury4 profile image

      wilbury4 7 years ago from England I think?

      Apologies for my ignorance, I know nothing of Dashiell Hammett other than that I have just read on one of your posts and one by Mortain. Quoting, "He said a witness gave him a very detailed description of the suspect but failed to mention that the suspect had only one arm" is quite an amusing notebook entry.

      I am aware of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, back in the 60's, we had a pop group over here in the UK called Pinkerton's Assorted Colours?


    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Good summary of logic as well as the art of profiling.I was always amused by the entry in the notebook of Dashiell Hammett the mystery writer when he worked for the Pinkerton Agency. He said a witness gave him a very detailed description of the suspect but failed to mention that the suspect had only one arm.