Criminal Investigative analysis, investigative psychology or crime action profiling are all terms used to describe ‘Criminal Profiling’. A concept that wiggles between law enforcement, psychology and common sense deductions.
Pioneered by psychiatrist James Brussel when he was brought in to help investigators establish a profile on the ‘mad bomber’ in 1956. With a mixture of
common sense predictions and analysis of crime scene photos and notes from the bomber, Brussel established a profile that would eventually help investigators capture the bomber.
Psychologists and psychiatrists use psychology methods to build a profile to narrow down a list of suspects based on careful analysis of witness reports, victim traits, physical and psychological traits, and method of killing.
“A criminal leaves evidence of his personality through his actions in relation to a crime. Any person’s behavior exhibits characteristics unique to that person, as well as patterns and consistencies which are typical of the sub-group.” (The Encyclopedia of Forensic Science by Brian Lane)
Criminal profiling is not only useful for catching criminals, it is useful to understand the basics in this area for writers as well. Having a firm grasp on criminal profiling allows you to write a realistic and fully fleshed out villain, whom you can portray their motives and background in such a way that the reader really believes it is possible what you are saying.
Whether you are a skeptic or firm believer in this method, it cannot be dismissed that criminal psychology and understanding the ‘why’ can help bring you closer to the ‘who’.