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There is a great deal of mystery surrounding criminal profilers. Until relatively recently, the potential investigative usefulness of criminal profilers, such as their ability to crack cases and help apprehend serial and mass murderers, was not commonly known. In addition, much of what was widely known was garnered from fictional television shows and movies. During the past decade, however, literature has been devoted to examining the role of criminal profilers and how they aid law enforcement in certain cases. Of all the different types of violent and predatory crimes criminal profilers can help with, serial and mass murderer profiling is perhaps the most fascinating. For serial and mass murder cases, criminal profilers use information from crime scenes and empirical research to construct a profile of the murderers. However, criminal profiling has undergone a number of changes in its evolution as a professional field, many of which you consider this week. These changes have had a significant influence on current criminal profiling techniques.

This week, you also become acquainted with the roles and responsibilities of criminal profilers. The most obvious responsibility of a criminal profiler is to develop a profile of a criminal so that law enforcement has a general idea of whom to search for. There are a number of other responsibilities, too, such as providing interviewing strategies during the interrogation of suspects. After reading about the roles and responsibilities of criminal profilers, you might assume that they always create accurate profiles that quickly crack cases. This is not necessarily true. Criminal profiling is part art and part science. Although more and more attempts are being made to steer criminal profiling into a science, there will always be an element of art in criminal profiling. Even the most highly touted criminal profilers are sometimes incorrect in their depictions of perpetrators. Keep in mind that while criminal profilers can be helpful to law enforcement, they are just one resource among many that ultimately lead to the detection and apprehension of serial and mass murderers.

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To prepare for this assignment:

  • Review Chapter 1 of your course text, Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool. Pay attention to how criminal profilers use deductive and inductive logic to construct profiles of serial and mass murderers. Also reflect on the goals of criminal profilers and how they aid enforcement in apprehending serial and mass murderers. In addition, consider whether criminal profiling is more of an art or a science.
  • Review Chapter 2 of your course text, Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool. Pay special attention to the section entitled “Profiling in Fact.” Consider how criminal profiling was used in each of these cases.
  • Read Winerman, L. (2004). “Does profiling really work?” Think about how profiling may help a hinder a criminal investigation.
  • Think about how the criminal profiles of serial and mass murderers have changed throughout recent history. In doing so, consider how historical profiling practices have influenced current practices.
  • Think about the roles, goals, and responsibilities of contemporary criminal profilers in criminal investigations.
  • Consider how profilers, through their roles, goals, and responsibilities, might aid in and impede the detection and apprehension of serial and mass murderers.

The assignment (1–2 pages):

  • Explain how historical profiling practices have influenced current profiling practices. Be specific.
  • Briefly describe the roles and responsibilities of profilers in criminal investigations.
  • Explain how profilers, through their roles, goals, and responsibilities, might aid in and impede the detection and apprehension of serial and mass murderers. Be specific and use examples to illustrate your explanation.

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