Offender profiling, which is also sometimes called criminal profiling, is the practice of trying to determine the likely mentality and demographic information of the offender in an unsolved crime. Police want to have some idea of what sort of person they are looking for. Profilers examine the exact details of a crime in order to make their determinations. A keen understanding of statistics about different kinds of crimes, and the sorts of people who commit them, is combined with crime details to help make a final guess about the mindset and lifestyle of the potential suspect. Sometimes profilers also help police officers in catching and extracting information from suspects by advising them on likely behavior patterns.
When crimes are committed, police departments often store all the data about suspects. Over time, certain demographics patterns sometimes develop. People who commit certain kinds of crimes may tend towards particular age groups or job types. There are usually many exceptions to these tendencies, but people who work in offender profiling will often use them as starting points.
Some people think of offender profiling as primarily something that is used for murder cases, but in reality, profiling is often helpful in many different kinds of crimes. For example, profilers are often used in crimes like bank robberies and burglaries. Nearly any kind of crime can sometimes have patterns that profilers could use to make guesses about likely offenders.
One of the first things that offender profiling experts often look at is the crime scene. This can usually tell them a lot about the criminal. For example, they are often able to determine what kind of person might target a particular location, and they might learn a lot about the offender by studying the way he navigated around the crime scene or committed the criminal act.
In order to get their information about the minds of different kinds of offenders, some offender profiling experts study interviews with convicted criminals. Law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have done numerous studies of criminal behavior to help in their offender profiler training programs. For example, experts interviewed numerous incarcerated serial killers to try and understand the motives behind their crimes so that they could make better judgments about the motives of murderers in future cases.
Another aspect of profiling is advising police. For example, the profiler may give the police interrogators tips on how to get a confession out of a suspect. They will do this based on their understanding of the criminal, both from the profile they created and from any subsequent information they learn about the person prior to the interview. Profilers also use their expertise to help police create traps to lure suspects in and help arrange other kinds of proactive measures.