DECODING THE CRIMINAL MIND

“Genetics loads the gun, personality and psychology aim it, and your experiences pull the trigger.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) profiler Jim Clemente said the above to throw light upon the interrelatedness of genetics, environment and behaviour in a criminal. Criminal tendencies arise due to the nature and nurture surrounding an individual. While social settings play a great role, the role of biology must also be taken into consideration. The amygdala, which is a part of the brain associated with fear, aggression and social interactions is often linked to crime. While offenders belong to different nationalities and races, there exist certain commonalities that bind them and differentiate them from the others.


The Onset




George Metesky, better known as the “mad bomber”, eluded the NYPD for sixteen long years with an unbroken record of having orchestrated 30 bomb blasts around the city between 1940 and 1956, all targeting public areas. The investigators were at their wits end. They couldn't fathom how one individual was almost invisible but yet always heard. Out of desperation, they approached psychiatrist James Brussel to capture “the greatest individual menace New York City ever faced.”

Russel used psychology and worked backward- he used Metesky’s conduct to define his identity—his sexuality, race, appearance, work history, inner conflicts and personality. He deduced that the mad bomber was a paranoid schizophrenic. Russel successfully brought the biggest manhunt of the city to an end with the capture of Metesky. A single man could do what an entire police department couldn’t. And he did that simply by using Criminal Profiling. Thus, the realization arised that psychology was an effective tool in law enforcement and so arised the popularity of criminal profiling in criminal justice.


Criminal Profiling


Criminal Profiling, also known as Criminal Investigative Analysis is an intersection between psychology and law enforcement. A recently evolved concept, criminal profiling is defined by the FBI as “a technique used to identify the perpetrator of a violent crime by identifying the personality and behavioral characteristics of the offender based upon an analysis of the crime committed.”



Criminal profiling is basically reverse engineering a crime. A subject with focus on minute detail, which looks into victimology, the crime scene and the organisation level along with pre and post offence behaviour. While there is tons of information available about the crime, every detail counts. The smallest of things leak information about the offender and bring the proflings one step closer to finding the culprit. Profilers, better known as criminal behaviour analysts, analyse criminal behaviour at various levels to create a profile which aids the authorities to find the culprit.


Criminal Sophistication


An important aspect of crimes is criminal sophistication displayed by the criminal. A famous American criminal, DC Sniper, had a high level of criminal sophistication. The man committed 6 murders in 27 hours and was a ghost, no one could find him. The level of criminal sophistication was said to be high because the crimes committed by him were not in the heat of the moment but were pre planned. This pattern suggested that the criminal had experience of being in high stress level situations. The behaviour analysts knew on the basis of previous cases that snipers were usually middle aged. These statistics helped build his profile further. The analysts found out that the DC Sniper had a god complex and immediately knew that such individuals must be appeased and not challenged. Unfortunately, the law enforcement hadn’t been doing that. The authorities had called him out as a coward and proclaimed that the streets and schools were safe, the very next day he shot a kid on his way to school. His dual nature was deduced by the analysts who then concluded on the basis of physical evidence that there were not one but two people involved. Profiling along with the investigation led to the capture of Muhammed and Malvo on 24th October, 2002 within 24 hours.


A Double-Edged Sword

An intensive method, profiling generates leads and helps identify, arrest and convict murderers. A modern yet effective tool, profiling is the future of crime-solving and law enforcement. But unfortunately, criminal profiling has now become racial profiling. It is used by law enforcement agents more frequently in cases involving racial and ethnic minorities which contribute to psychological implications. It is imperative that necessary changes be made to re-evaluate the current system so that the original intent of criminal profiling is restored. The accuracy and fairness of the analyst is of extreme importance. While profiling is a constructive tool used to implement criminal justice, the bias of an analyst can have potentially harmful impacts on the investigation. Profilers are accurate about 66% of the time which goes to prove how beneficial their contribution to law can be. On the flip side, gross miscalculations on the part of profilers have led to wrongful convictions. Mark Safarik, an FBI profiler, put a guard behind bars for 11 years because he deduced that the guard killed Michelle O’Keefe. Investigations revealed that there was no truth in this conclusion and that the murder was committed by a gang. An innocent man was put through 11 years of imprisonment solely due to the results of a Profiler. Cases such as these bring the accuracy of this method to question, implying once again that regulation is of utmost importance.


Criminal Profiling in India

The Indian Judicial System does not give Criminal Profiling enough credit. Although there is a significant success rate when profiling is used, the field is terribly underdeveloped in the country. The long-standing stigma surrounding mental health and seeking help from psychologists contributes to its underdevelopment. India also lacks diversity and well-defined roles for behaviour analysts. Further, the lack of training in this field retards its growth and limits its usage in criminal justice. Countries such as Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, U.K. and most recently Switzerland have realised the potential of this technique and successfully adopted it in their judicial process.


Steward Stafford said “Criminal profiling is the writing process in reverse. Writers create characters and project their actions forwards into a timeline. Profilers are left with the aftermath of an offender’s behaviour and must extrapolate backwards to establish their characteristics.” An intricate process which yields startling results, criminal profiling is an effective instrument in the judicial system. An emerging field worldwide, criminal profiling is a perfect amalgamation of art and science. With the crimes becoming more psychological and sophisticated, criminal profiling is the only way forward.


33 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All