This act of “profiling” has as many misrepresentations as profilers themselves. Main objectives of offender profiles tend to be one or more of the following:
1) The development of a description of an unknown offender, based on an interpretation of crime scene elements of the unsolved offence. This is perhaps the most common purpose of profiling.
2) Establishing the probability of a future offence from the same offender based on the crime scene analysis.
3) The linking of a series of unsolved crimes that appears to share distinct features, often through linking ‘signature aspects.’ These are essentially personalized offender-specific behaviors that reflect individual interpersonal behaviors and/or fantasies.
4) The development of an interrogation strategy to assist police in “asking the right questions”. Again, this is based on a psychological portrait inferred from an analysis of the crime scene and/or statistical data from offenders thought similar to the unknown subject (Horgan 4). Profilers are usually brought onto a case after all other leads are exhausted by local police. Profiles themselves rarely lead the police to immediate identification of an offender although this remains one of the core myths of profiling (Horgan 13). The very nature of a profile is not to find an offender but rather narrow the pool of suspects, allowing police officers to focus their efforts on individuals most likely to have committed the crime.
Even so, criminal profiling is a polarizing concept. While some people argue the concept’s validity, others are quick to point out its failings. One thing to keep in mind is the immense task faced by the very prospect of profiling. The profiler is essentially “constructing a set of subjective judgments and offering hypotheses about a person whom the profiler has never met” (Horgan 11). This leads to some profiles being so vague as to be practically useless to the police, and seem even to suffer the P.T. Barnum effect. The P.T. Barnum effect is when personality descriptions are vague and universal enough that nearly everyone