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Copyright (c) 2003 Journal of Law & Social Challenges 
Journal of Law & Social Challenges

THE ROLE OF PROFILING IN AMERICAN SOCIETY: CRIMINAL PROFILING: What's in a Name? Comparing Applied Profiling Methodologies

Summer, 2003

5 J.L. & Soc. Challenges 173


by Wayne Petherick*


Criminal profiling is an investigative technique that has received a great deal of attention in recent decades, from both academic audiences and mainstream popular culture. It is lauded as an investigative tool 1 and criticized as being tedious and of little use in police investigations. 2 Criminal profiling in its most basic form is an attempt to discern offender characteristics from the crime scene and the behavior of the offender. It is an inferential process that involves an analysis of offender behavior including their interactions with the victim and crime scene, their choice of weapon and their use of language, among other things.

Profiling is of most use in crimes where the offender displays evidence of psychopathology, 3 such as rape, murder, torture and mutilation. However, "it is the behavioral characteristics of the perpetrator as evidenced in the crime scene and not the offense per se that determines the suitability of the case for profiling." 4 Homant and Kennedy 5 note that "profilers have also applied their efforts to distinguishing accidental, autoerotic asphyxiation from suicide or homicide to hostage negotiations to stalking, and even bank robbery - not all of which necessarily involve significant psychopathology." 6

In spite of its obvious applicability in these cases (profiling "works" best when there is a repetition of behaviors, and such repetition is typical in stalking), there is still a dearth of literature in many areas. For example, stalking is an interpersonal crime that by nature involves ...
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