Category: Law Essay

Criminal profiling stands on the brink of a practical application in the law-enforcement authorities’ service and a theoretical work in the field of psychology. It is a relatively new field of activity, which still does not have a unified system of concepts and its methodological base. The term ‘profiling’ has become widely known among the general public mainly because of such movies as Silence of the Lambs and several television shows. The FBI uses this term as a form of crime actions profiling. Sometimes, criminal profiling is replaced by investigative psychology or crime scene reconstruction. Various names of the discussed tactic that is used in a criminal investigation do not change its essence. It focuses on the study of material evidence from the crime scene, communication with victims and potential witnesses, and comparison of events and facts. Profiling development takes into account such variables as psychological and psychiatric indicators, demographic and geographic data, as well as national and religious information. For this reason, criminal profiling is a controversial, but useful tool for studying an unidentified person and is designed to assist investigators by constructing a psychological image of a criminal.

History of Criminal Profiling

Initially, profiling as a method was created to compose a psychological representation of a criminal on the basis of crime circumstances. It is believed that the first psychological profile of a perpetrator was created by an English surgeon Thomas Bond and a physician George Phillips in 1888. Based on available evidence and known consequences of the circumstances, they described the elusive identity of Jack the Ripper.

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In the twentieth century, criminal profiling was widely applied by officers of different security services. Members of the Israeli secret service developed a technique that allows to assess the emotional state of plane passengers and to identify possible potentially dangerous intentions. Such kind of system can be efficient in reducing a terrorist threat. For the most part, it is a system of questions that are aimed at identifying non-standard reactions of passengers on seemingly simple questions. This technique combines a small set of basic psychological behaviors and is more like a procedure for psychological testing. However, the use of profiling techniques has helped Israeli airline, El Al, to achieve a status of one of the safest in the world.

In the US, criminal profiling has been used since the last century and has justified and proved its existence and usefulness. One of the most striking examples is the story of George Meteski’s detention. He was known as the mad bomber. Since 1940, he was persecuted by the police of New York for 16 years. The criminal detonated 30 bombs in such public places as cinemas and others. In 1956, psychiatrist James Brussels, who assisted the New York state commissioner in mental health issues, was invited to support the investigation. His task was to study a manner of an unknown perpetrator and to examine crime scene photos and other documents. Brussels presented a detailed profile. According to the offender’s description, he was a married foreigner and an autodidact with paranoid tendencies. The psychiatrist also determined his hatred for Con Edison given the fact that the first bomb targeted the main building of the company. Brussels used a mixed method, which was based on empirical knowledge and guesswork. He suggested that the peak of paranoia was at 35 years and at that time the offender was about 50 years old. The profile was really effective because it helped the police to arrest Metesky in 1957 who immediately confessed.

In 1974, the FBI established a department for serial murders’ behavior study and the psychological analysis of rape cases. From 1976 to 1979, the FBI agents, including John Douglas and Robert Ressler, developed theoretical models and different categories of criminals based on the experience of 36 interviewed serial killers. At the modern stage, in the broadest sense, profiling is a complex socio-psychological technique for the diagnosis of personality characteristics, revelation of hidden motives, and evaluation of reported information based on the assessment of the non-verbal behavior of an object.