What Exactly is a Profile?
A profile is exactly what it sounds like, descriptive data. We all have one. It is a summary (or in writing terms, a synopsis) of our life. Criminal investigators use the crime scene, victims, statistics, and forensics to sketch out an outline of the who, what, when, where, and why of a crime.
Investigators actually have several different types of profiles to draw from in their tool belts.
Inductive Criminal Profiling- A set of offender characteristics that are reasoned, by correlation, experiential, and/or statistical inference, to be shared by offenders who commit the same type of crime. These characteristics are based on averages. Example: Men are more likely to be serial killers than women. Why? Because the percentages tell us they are.
Deductive Criminal Profiling- A set of offender characteristics that are reasoned from the union of forensic and behavioral evidence patterns within a crime(s). It is based on psychical evidence suggestive of behaviors, type of victims (Victimology), and crime scene characteristics/analysis.
Victimology Profile-The study of all available victim information including sex, age, height, weight, family, friends, acquaintances, education employment, residence, and neighborhood. Background information is a part of this profile and includes personal habits, hobbies, criminal and medical history. Why is this important? It helps determine victim risk and linkage to other crimes. Significant facts about the victim’s life, especially in the days and hours leading up to his or her death, are of the utmost importance. A timeline is drawn up to map their movements, and investigators study all of their personal communications for signals to where they may have crossed paths with a viable suspect. It’s important to know their state of mind and their mental health assessment and history as well as their risk level (for example, a prostitute’s risk would be much higher than a girl with a nine to five job, living in her own home).
Crime Scene Analysis Profile- A report that examines and interprets the behavioral evidence including location and scene types, point of contact, offender method of approach, attack and control, offender use of weapons, force and resistance, sexual acts, precautionary and contradictory acts, evidence of planning, offense skill level, items taken by or left behind by the offender, verbal behavior, and modus operandi/motivational behavior.
Offender Characteristics Profile. This is similar to Crime Scene Analysis but also includes familiarity with a victim or location, evidence of criminal history and state of mind, evidence of psychopathic characteristics such as superficiality, deceitfulness, impulsivity, lack of empathy or remorse, egocentricity, need for excitement, evidence of personal or sexual conflict, and evidence of sexual fantasy.
As writers, we profile our characters. We bring them to life by giving them emotions, goals, conflicts and motivations. We get into the heads of our characters. We give them an age, sex, height, weight, hair color, eye color, likes and dislikes, hobbies, friends, enemies, personality traits, and emotional baggage.
We can make our characters heroes or diabolical villains. Writers have the advantage of telling a story from any point of view (POV) we choose. It can be told from the victim’s POV, the villain’s POV or the hero/heroine’s POV. By doing so, each becomes a different story to tell.
In crime fiction I have the advantage of allowing my victims to have justice. In real life this isn’t always the case. This inspires me to write about the darkness in murders’ minds. I know in the end, I can create the justice they deserve.