"Offender profiling, also known as criminal profiling, is a behavioral and investigative tool that is intended to help investigators to accurately predict and profile the characteristics of unknown criminal subjects or offenders.
Holmes and Holmes (2008) outline the three main goals of criminal profiling:
- The first is to provide law enforcement with a social and psychological assessment of the offender;
- The second goal is to provide law enforcement with a "psychological evaluation of belongings found in the possession of the offender" (p. 10);
- The third goal is to give suggestions and strategies for the interviewing process."
Most of the crimes committed and investigated by law enforcement officers are based on a known motive: money, revenge, jealousy, accident, self defense... In violent serial crimes, the motive is usually unknown to the investigator, and the methods commonly used to predict the offender behavior are useless. Profiling provides a solution by approaching the problem from a different point of view.
Criminal profiling is the identification of specific characteristics of an individual committing a particular crime by a thorough systematic observational process and an analysis of the crime scene, the victim, the forensic evidence, and the known facts of the crime.
It is neither a widely accepted law enforcement practice nor a widespread investigative process, but there is evidence to support its usage in the investigation of certain types of crime.
By its core definition, offender profiling is considered more like an art than a science. There is no perfect formula linking the elements of a crime scene to a precise personality trait. But profiling is based on the study on previous known offenders and patterns between their crimes and their personality traits.