n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Profiling as a significant outcome of assessment - the criminologist's point of view

Volume 16, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Profiling methods and techniques differ, and the backgrounds of those who practice these methods are equally dissimilar. It is therefore of vital importance to acknowledge that there are different types of profiling, such as criminological/offender profiling (the causes of, motives for and scientific explanation of criminal behaviour), victim profiling (the characteristics of victims), DNA profiling, crime-scene profiling (criminal investigation analysis), profiling for the purposes of rehabilitation / intervention (offender needs and risks, treatment targets), prediction of criminal behaviour and dangerousness (the risk of reoffending), prognosis of the effective treatment and development of offenders (rehabilitation), psychological profiling (personality assessment, behavioural disorders), and geographical profiling (spatial mapping, hunting and offence "grounds") (Godwin 2001:275-279; Hickey 2002:311-316).

There are various misconceptions as far as profiling and the role of profilers are concerned. Turvey (1999:235) comes to the conclusion that profilers do not solve crimes - detectives do. According to him, profilers should only act in an advisory capacity, and it is how profiling is used in any given case that is important to police investigations.
This article covers some of the above-mentioned differences in profiling, focusing on the assessment of criminal behaviour as a core function. The confusion about the concept of profiling in a South African context, the types of profilers and the different scientific backgrounds and professional boundaries make it necessary to distinguish between "hard-evidence" (DNA samples, blood, bullets, clothes) and "soft-evidence" (analysis of criminal behaviour, motives for crime, crime patterns) profiling techniques. The role of the criminologist and a need for a cross-disciplinary approach in profiling are also examined.

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