Crime Scene Investigation
Using Crime Scene to Develop Criminal Profiling and its Forensic Significance

Using Crime Scene to Develop Criminal Profiling and its Forensic Significance

Criminal profiling refers to the process in which the nature of a crime is used to make speculation about the personality and other characteristics of the expected offender. Criminal profiling is not extensively accepted in the psychological and legal community, and some courts have even ruled out profiling testimony inadmissible.

There are two main reasons for this (Gudjonsson and Haward 1998):

  • First, a criminal profile only gives a broad indication of the type of person who may have committed the crime. It does not point towards a specific individual who comes off to fit into the profile. It is therefore inappropriate for the profiler to declare whether it is more feasible than not that a specific offender did, in fact, commit the crime.
  • Second, there is no scientific evidence to support the solidity and validity of criminal profiling in solving crimes. Indeed, it seems that when profiling does assist the police in solving a case or in opening up new lines of inquiry, it is the exception rather than the rule.

The fact cannot contradict that the criminal profiling process has proven helpful in some cases with some exceptions.

Criminal profiling


How Does Criminal Profiling Work?

Criminal profiling was used as early in the 1880s, when two physicians, George Phillips, and Thomas Bond, used crime scene clues to make predictions about British serial murderer Jack the Ripper’s personality.

In 1974, the FBI formed its Behavioural Science Unit to investigate serial rape and homicide cases. From 1976 to 1979, several FBI agents formed theories and categories of different types of offenders.

The profiler’s insight into personality through questions about the offender’s behavior at four crime phases:

  • Antecedent: What fantasy or plan, or both, did the offender have a place before the act? What triggers the offender to act such?
  • Method and Manner: What category of victim or victims did the offender select? What would have been the method- shooting, stabbing, hitting strangulation, or something else?
  • Body Disposal: Do the murder disposes of the body at the same scene or have multiple scenes to commit the crime?
  • Post Offense Behaviour: Is the offender trying to bring himself into the search by reacting to media reports or contacting investigators?

Violent crime cases are scrutinized in more the same way, but with the additional information that all comes from a living victim.

Criminal profiling basis

Types of Crimes Suitable for Criminal Profiling

It has been acknowledged that all types of crime are not suitable for profiling. In fact, there is general agreement that some crimes most suitable for profiling are:

  1. Crimes where the perpetrator showed rudiments of psychopathology
  2. Crimes held to be part of a series
  3. Violent crimes
  4. Attacks on strangers
  5. Contact crimes the crimes where the lawbreaker is engaged in long conversations and communications with the victim.
  • Serial murders, serial rapes, sexual homicides, ritual crimes, arson, and hostage-taking have been seen to be those crimes that are very suitable for profiling; also include sadistic torture in sexual assaults, evisceration, postmortem slashing, and cutting, motiveless fire setting, lust and mutilation murder, rape, satanic and ritualistic crime, and pedophilia.
  • It has also been observed that cases involving mere destruction of property, assault, or murder during the commission of a robbery are generally unsuitable for profiling because the personality of the criminal is not generally exposed in such crime scenes.
  • Likewise, drug-induced crimes are also inadequate for profiling.
  • Contact crimes are suitable for profiling. In fact, these contact crimes are presumed to be the odd ones in which characteristics of an offender’s elemental personality and motivations are most likely to be vouchsafed by the way in which a transgression(offense) or series of transgressions has been carried out.
  • Serial killers are the most profitable perpetrators because of their frustrating and disturbing nature of all violent predators; when they kill, they satisfy intricate psychological needs also they leave a lot of clues for the profilers.
  • The perpetrator’s behavioral characteristics as evidenced in the crime scenes establish the degree of appropriateness of the case for profiling.

Inductive v/s Deductive Profiling

Prime goals in the investigative phase

  • Evaluate the nature and value of forensic and behavioral evidence to a particular crime or series of related crimes.
  • Reduce the viable suspect group in a criminal investigation.
  • Prioritize the investigation into the remaining suspects.
  • Identifying crime scene indicators and behavior patterns (i.e., modus operandi).
  • Assess the potential for an increase of nuisance criminal behavior to more serious or more violent crimes.
  • Provide investigators with investigative relevant leads and strategies.

Current Situational Points

  • However, much more research needs to be done before criminal profiling will earn its place as a valuable forensic tool.
  • A distinction of the profiling that has given rise to some interest in the news media is a psychological autopsy, which comprises the collectanea of a psychological profile of especially well-known deceased individuals.
  • It is also used in suicide cases, for example, to resolve whether the deceased could undeniably have committed suicide. However, as in the case of criminal profiling, its dependability and validity are also questioned.
  • This uses the statistical techniques of psychology to group together types of offender behaviors is the only way to develop scientifically defensible descriptions and classifications of offenders.
  • It is important to consider all the information that may be apparent at the crime scene and to bring out theory-based studies to determine the fundamental structures of that material.
  • The tension between law enforcement and psychology still exists among those scientists in the profiling field to some degree.
  • There would be an incredible value-added when applications of professional psychology enter into the muddle up of what psychologists do.

Offender characteristics

Some Recent Advances in Criminal Profiling

Method of criminal profiling and person identification using cognitive or behavioral biometric fingerprint analysis

This contrivance relates to the online distinctiveness software that is part of a computer system’s identity management process, which in the lead execution creates serviceable electronic evidence and a method of criminal profiling and identifying a person who is attempting to attain or has attained access to a computer system or portions of a system, who may not be designated as an authorized user, and who may be posturing as an authorized user of that system through the utilization of cognitive/behavioral biometric fingerprint analysis.

Signature Behaviours

Signature behaviors are those acts committed by an offender that is not obligatory to conclude the offense. Their confluence can be used to advocate an offender’s psychological or emotional needs (signature aspect). They are best understood as a mirroring of the cardinal persona, lifestyle, and enlightening experiences of a lawbreaker.

Computer Crime Profiling

Turvey (2003, p. 547) puts down that criminal profiling has a great extent to propound when a network such as the Internet is involved. The process of developing a profile using the classical criminalistic methods is infeasible for cybercrime, and it has to be used in a different way. To this end, the inductive and the deductive reasoning methods can be re-considered in the context of cybercrime:

  • Deductive reasoning. For deductive profiling or behavioral evidence analysis, the equivocal forensic analysis has to be performed, and the victim has to be profiled (Victimology). At least the crime scene characteristics have to be worked out. The use of the Internet generates footprints of the offender (Casey, Larson & Morrow Lang, 2003 p. 201). These can help to establish the behavioral aspects of the victim and the offender. This procedure is very similar to the equivocal forensic analysis for non-cyber crime cases, but the analysis has to be performed in a different way (for some aspects). The primary investigation activity has to be reviewing audit trails, instead of interviewing potential witnesses, neighbors.
  • Inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning could also be used for cybercrime profiling. The problems will be the same as for the common psychological profile, in terms of the necessity to gain a large amount of data, describing the offender’s demographic characteristics as well as the behavioral aspects. As mentioned above, inductive reasoning can reveal clues to an investigator that provides input for the process of deductive reasoning.


‘By Anisha Jayakrishnan’ Contributor (Forensic Yard)

She is pursuing MSc Forensic science from the college of Traffic management- Institute of Road Traffic Education and has worked as an intern at Kerala Police Academy

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