n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Offender profiling in South Africa : its definition and context

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The popular media has created a misconception as to what a "profiler" is and what role an offender profile plays in an investigation. This misconception is also often carried through to academia. This article attempts to shed light on the activity of offender profiling in South Africa. It puts forward a proposed definition for offender profiling as used by the Investigative Psychology Unit (IPU) of the SAPS, the unit with the mandate to provide such a service. In doing so it also explains the rationale for the proposed definition. The article also looks at other uses of the word "profiling", both in South Africa and overseas. The other uses for the word profiling which are discussed are SAPS profiling, intelligence profiling, geographical profiling, DNA profiling, victim profiling, and psychological profiling. The article defines the concept of crime-scene assessment, something often confused with offender profiling. The role of computer databases as aids to offender profiling is also briefly mentioned. Finally, since the popular media has created the image of a "profiler" who has no other function in an investigation, the article concludes by looking at offender profiling within a context of other services that can be provided by professionals. This context is created by discussing the role and function of the Investigative Psychology Unit of the SAPS. The IPU's mandate is to assist in the investigation of "Psychologically Motivated Crimes". Within this mandate it has three roles, namely investigative support, training and research. Investigative support includes offender profiling, crime-scene analyses, interviewing of witnesses and suspects, assisting with investigative decisionmaking, managing information in serial cases, and courtroom testimony. Training is provided to detectives from various general and specialised detective units. Research conducted by the unit is aimed at providing a scientific basis to the investigative support and training roles of the unit. These three interacting roles form the basis of support provided by the unit to detectives.


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