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Criminal Profiling: Understanding The Criminal Minds

A crime must be abolished not the criminal. This is a basic concept of the Reformative theory of punishment but whether this particular thing is happening in the society? NO. Why? Because it is very common to understand HOW a crime is committed, but the technical problem is to understand is WHY a crime is committed?

There are many ways to understand why a crime is committed because from time to time many Criminologists have given many theories related to causation of crime. There is Economic theory, social theory, psychological theory, Psychodynamic approach, Anthropological theory, Geographical theory, biological theory and many more. And many a times, they are really helpful to understand the causation of crime. But still there is a problem to understand why a particular crime is been committed?

Especially in cases of a heinous crime or serial killing or of serial sexual predator, the psyche of the offender has to be understood and it is very difficult to understand the psyche of the offender in such cases. Therefore, Criminal Profiling is something that is to understand the psyche of a criminal and also to understand what is his behaviour, his pattern of crime, and with the help of that particular technique it is also possible to understand what was going to be future crime of that particular criminal.

Therefore, the technique of criminal profiling come up to be very effective. The technique of criminal profiling was first ever used in the case of Jack the reaper. Basically, this was happened in UK where there was a serial killing of prostitutes and the killer was killing those prostitutes in a particular pattern.

By using this pattern, he was not only killing the prostitutes but he also does a sexual assault on them and used to cut a private part of those prostitutes. Although this particular case is still unsolved, but the pattern to know the psyche of the criminal was first ever used in the case of Jack the reaper. So, this is the history, but later on not only UK but US also adopted this technique. And this is really helpful in the case of a heinous crime. No matter it is a crime of a sexual predator, serial killer or even terrorism.

Criminal Profiling is the identification and evaluation of specific characteristics of an offender who commit a specific crime through systematic observational process. Also, it is an analysis of the victims, crime scene, the forensic evidence and the facts of the crime. It is used to understand the basic psyche of the criminal with the help of behaviour scientists and criminologists.

They go to the crime scene and try to understand not only about the criminal but also the history of a victim because the history of a victim is something that is really important to understand the basic concept or idea behind any crime. On the basis of the history of the victim or the crime scene and the pattern of the crime, it is helpful for the criminal profiler to understand not only the behaviour of the criminal but also, he can draw a picture of any suspect. But one must remember one thing very clearly that it is only a 'prediction' of the suspect.

Criminal profiling does not mean that it will identify who is a suspect, rather it only says that they may be a suspect because they are just suspect and not the actual offender.

So, Criminal Profilers can identify which type of personality that particular offender is having and what is a pattern of that particular crime. Not only this, but they are also helpful in making us understand what would be a future incidence or a future crime of that particular criminal. So, this technique is really very helpful to identify not only the crime and criminals too. It also helps for the prevention of a future crime.

Popularly, there are four approaches to criminal profiling:
  • The geographical approach:
    To deduce links between crimes and about the place where offenders stay and work.
  • The clinical approach:
    Here the offenders thought to be suffering from dementia or other psychological aberrations. By taking help of insights from psychiatry and clinical psychology, they conduct the investigation.
  • Investigative psychology:
    It is used to establish psychological theories and techniques to predict an offender's behavioral characteristics.
  • The typological approach:
    It is to analyze the characteristic of crime scenes in order to categorize the offenders into groups of typical characteristics.

Also, there are two popular techniques which is used in UK and US:
  1. Top-Down technique

    This technique is commonly used in the US. It is basically used by the FBI in the US. This has been started after a series of in-depth interviews with 36 offenders who were sexually oriented murderers. So, after the interview of these particular murderers, this technique has been started. There are four steps of the top-down technique:
    • STEP 1 - Data assimilation: This involves gathering information from multiple sources such as interviews, crime scene photographs, police/pathology reports, etc.
    • STEP 2 - Crime scene classification: In this step, profilers determine if the suspect has characteristic traits of an organised or disorganized offender.
    • STEP 3 - Crime reconstruction: This step is based on the analysis done in the previous steps; here the crime scene is reconstructed. This involves determining victim behavior, the sequence of crimes, etc.
    • STEP 4 - Profile generation: In the final step, profilers deduce a sketch of the offender including behavioral, demographic, and physical characteristics.
    They advanced a theory that lust murderers are mainly categorized by two types: � Organized and disorganized.

    Organized Offenders

    An organized offender leads an ordered life and kills after some sort of critical life event. Their actions are premeditated and planned, they are likely to bring weapons and restraints to the scene. They are likely to be of average to high intelligence and employed.
    • Organized offenders: They show signs of having planned their crime in advance.
    • Personal characteristics: socially adequate, sexually competent, charming, geographically/occupationally mobile, high IQ, lives with a partner.
    • Post-offense behavior: returns to the crime scene, volunteers information.
    • Interview techniques: use direct strategies.

    Disorganized Offenders

    A disorganized offender is more likely to have committed the crime in a moment of passion. There will be no evidence of premeditation, and they are more likely to leave evidence such as blood, semen, murder weapon, etc. behind. This type of offender is thought to be less socially competent and more likely to be unemployed.
    • Disorganized offenders: They show little sign of planning.
    • Personal characteristics: socially inadequate, sexually incompetent, lives and works near the crime scene, low IQ, lives alone.
    • Post-offense behavior: returns to the crime scene to relive the event, keeps diary/news cuttings of events.
    • Interview techniques: empathize with the offender, introduce evidence indirectly.
  2. Bottom-Up technique 

    This technique is considered as a more scientific and rational approach because it is not based on previous assumptions. Alternatively, profilers put together all the information and then build up a logical description based on that. It helps to identify the offender's routine behaviour which may reflect the crime.

    Basically, this technique has also two aspects:
    • Interpersonal consistency:
      It is basically the relation between victim and the offender. Criminal profilers try to find out relationship between both of them and on the basis of that particular relation, they identify what would be the reason behind any crime.
    • Special consistency:
      It is used to identify the geographical area of the crime scene i.e., where the crime is committed. This basically is used to identify what could be a crime mapping i.e., whether or in which area/location, at what time, the another or a future crime can be committed. On the basis of this particular technique, they used to find out how and why the crime is committed on that particular location only because that can play a very important role to identify offender.
    Criminal profiling is a perfect combination of the rational and psychological instincts with the detail and fine points of the crime scene.

The process of criminal profiling is divided into 5 stages:

  1. Profiling Inputs:
    Profiling inputs are basically to understand how a crime is committed and on the top of it, why the crime is committed? How it can be helpful? How to use this particular process? It is necessary to gather all the possible data or information related to that particular crime. It may be by taking or gathering all the information by the crime scene, by the forensic report, by other report that is helpful to assess that particular crime by the information or interviews of the society, friends, family, peer group, place of work, crime incidence, etc. all the possible information must be gathered to make a profile input.
  2. Decision processing:
    It is basically to understand why that particular crime has been committed that means to understand the motive of that criminal. Why he has selected that particular victim. Where he might be residing. Where the victim is residing. Where that offender is professional or amateur? What would be the idea of committing that particular crim. These are the things which can be identified in this particular process.
  3. Crime assessment:
    It is basically to draw or reconstruct the whole of the event or whole of the crime scene or an action or incident of that particular crime. No matter it is pre-crime, during-crime or post-crime, what would have happened before or what was the psyche of that criminal or what was the incident which triggered that offender to commit a crime or what would be happening at that particular incident at the place or during the time. What happened after the commission of the crime? All the picture was reconstructed and that is also helpful to understand the behaviour of not only offender but also a victim.
  4. Offender profile:

    In this stage, it is easy for any criminal profiler who make a hypothetical picture of an offender that means which type of behaviour that offender is having and why he has committed crime. Now the information or profile of that particular offender include about the age, sex, criminal behaviour, place of residence, whether working or not, whether organised or disorganized, whether normal or having any mental illness, which type of behaviour or pattern of crime he/she is using, etc. thus in this stage a profile of the offender is made.
  5. Investigative us:
    It is last step of criminal profiling process because at this stage any criminal profiling is having an idea of a crime scene. Also, the idea of type of a suspect offender, behaviour of offender, pattern of the offender. So, this could be useful in investigation process for any of the law enforcement agency to narrow down the suspect.

    A crucial concept of this approach is interpersonal coherence, the way an offender behaves while committing a crime, e.g. the way they interact with the victim, reflects the way they behave and interact in their everyday life.

    A second key concept of Canter's theory is spatial consistency. He assumes that offenders operate in areas that they know well. Canter and Larkin (1993) proposed two categories of offenders:

    Marauders: they commit their crimes close to where they live and feel secure.

    Commuters: they commit their crimes away from where they usually live and over large areas.

    This has been the base of geographical profiling. Geographical Profiling is used to make inferences about where an offender is likely to live. This is also known as crime mapping.
Criminal profiling is an in-depth analysis of the crime scene and finding common patterns with previous incidents. It helps to identify the choice of victims, manner, time and location, types of the crime, communication from the suspect and the condition of the crime scene. Multiple other factors are taken into consideration in order to determine the age, race, mental state and other characteristics of a suspect.

Ultimately, criminal profilers are able to draw a picture of the possible and reliable motives of the crime. However, criminal profilers should not be confused as a tool that helps to identify the specific offender linked to a crime. Rather, it helps to deduce conclusions on the most 'likely' offender who has committed that crime.


  1. Cooley (2012). Criminal Profiling. Criminal Profiling on Trial
  2. Dean (2007). Criminal Profiling. Criminal Profiling in a Terrorism Context
  3. Bumgarner (2008). Criminal Profiling. Criminal Profiling and Public Policy
  4. Turvey (2012). Criminal Profiling. A History of Criminal Profiling
  5. Petherick & Turvey (2012). Criminal Profiling. Criminal Profiling
  6. Kocsis (2008). Criminal Profiling. Schools of Thought Related to Criminal Profiling
  7. Kocsis & Palermo (2008). Criminal Profiling. Contemporary Problems in Criminal Profiling
  8. Paclebar et al. (2008). Criminal Profiling. Criminal Profiling
  • MacKay (2009). Lucent Books. Criminal profiling
  • Anniss (2014). Gareth Stevens Publishing. Criminal profiling
  • Stefoff (2011). Marshall Cavendish Benchmark. Criminal profiling
  • Davis (2007). Gareth Stevens Pub. Criminal profiling
  • Aydina & Dirilen-Gumus (2015). Koros Press Limited. Criminal profiling

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