Criminal Profiling – An Important Investigative Tool

In my first crime fiction novel Compulsion, Emily Stone’s love interest Detective Rick Lopez uses a form of profiling called a “Threshold Assessment”.  He carefully weighs the evidence from the serial homicide crime scenes, criminal behavior patterns, and victimology to begin to put together a preliminary profile of the serial killer.

I’m an associate member in the Criminology Section of the Academy of Behavioral Profiling.  I’m intrigued by behavioral evidence analysis and it was the driving force behind completing my criminology degree in 2008. 

People frequently ask me, “What’s profiling and how does it work?” 

Some people think of profiling as some type of psychic or other intuitive paranormal ability and not something that should be used as a practical resource in all types of criminal investigations.  There are two types of effective profiles that can be used in an investigation: threshold assessment and criminal profile. 

Every investigator or detective should know how to incorporate profiling into his or her investigations as an investigative tool.  It should never be done in place of solid investigative work; however, it should be one of the pieces available in the criminal investigation arsenal.  No two crime scenes occur in the same way or are ever exactly alike.  This is where it’s important for the investigator to use his or her analytical and deductive reasoning skills in an objective manner.   

According to criminal profiler and forensic scientist, Brent Turvey, a “Threshold Assessment” refers to a document that reviews the initial evidence of crime behavior, victimology, and crime scene characteristics of a particular case or a series of cases.  This procedure is the evaluation of what is understood to be fact about a particular case or cases and does not render the conclusions or opinions of a full criminal profile report. 

A “Threshold Assessment” should include the following:

1.                  Overview of established facts of the case.

2.                  Overview of established facts relevant to the victimology (thorough study of the victim).

3.                  Overview of established facts relevant to the crime scene.

4.                  Initial hypothesis of motivational behaviors.

5.                  Initial hypothesis of offender characteristics.

6.                  Suggestions of further facts needed to be determined or analyzed.

7.                  Suggestions of further facts needed through victimology.

8.                  Suggestions and potential strategies for suspect development.

All of this information is helpful in creating a complete criminal profile.  A criminal profile refers to a “court-worthy” document that incorporates all of the physical and behavioral evidence relating to the known victimology and crime scene characteristics of the offender responsible for the crime or series of crimes.  This document concludes with the opinions and conclusion of the profiler of the most logical suspect for the case or series of cases.  Criminal profiling shouldn’t be limited to just homicide investigations; it can used for burglary, rape, and arson investigations as well.


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Comment by J. F. Juzwik on May 14, 2011 at 3:07am
Thanks for the recommendation.  I'm going to have to locate that book.
Comment by Jennifer Chase on May 10, 2011 at 4:56am
You're absolutely correct JF.  Many times when people hear victimology, they assume that the victim is being scrutinized for either a particular lifestyle, etc., but it's so important in the preliminary profile.  It helps to shed light on when, where, and why a victim met up with a particular offender.  A great book that I can recommend is Criminal Profiling by Brent Turvey.
Comment by J. F. Juzwik on May 10, 2011 at 2:28am
Profiling has always fascinated me and I've read a great deal about it.  What I find interesting, and that is consistently brought up in the early stages of preparing a profile is victimology.  It seems that long before a profile of the possible offender can be drawn, the victim, or victims as the case may be, must be studied.  Not only for what they may have in common, as in the case of a serial, but what were they like, where did they go, what were their relationships like, and so on.  It isn't that anyone is saying the victim set themselves up for anything or asked to be victimized, but it's interesting that getting to really know the victim and their habits and lifestyle helps to determine what kind of person targeted them.

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