Michael Tabman

The Criminal Profile vs. The Criminal ~ Can A Criminal Profile Really Identify a Murderer?

In Crime and Security, Uncategorized on October 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

Ten-year-old Jessica Ridgeway was abducted and killed in Westminster, Colorado.  Her dismembered body was found and a 17-year-old has been arrested, reportedly having confessed to the murder.  Body parts were found in the suspect’s house.  Who would commit such a horrifying and brutal crime?  What is the criminal profile of this kind of pedophile murderer?

The FBI released a profile of the suspect of the Jessica Ridgeway homicide.  I recently discussed criminal profiling with a local news station.   The question asked was whether we can truly profile a criminal; how accurate are these profiles?

The FBI profile stated that the individual may suddenly change his appearance or leave town.  Though I am not a profiler, in my 27 years of law enforcement, I do not recall that as the profile of a child murderer.

In New Jersey, only days earlier, 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale was murdered by two brothers from the neighborhood, aged 15 and 17.  Last year, in Brooklyn, NY an 8-year-old boy was kidnapped and murdered by a member of a close knit and trusting religious community.  His body was also found dismembered in the perpetrator’s house.  Children are most often victimized by people who are known to the family or are neighbors.  Law enforcement always considers that the perpetrator may participate in the search for the child.

The FBI Behavioral Science Unit is the leading criminal profiling entity.  They are highly trained and well respected in the criminal justice community.  Criminal profiling is a valuable law enforcement resource.  But, criminal profiling must be viewed from the proper perspective – it is not an exact science; it is not as accurate, specific or detailed as television would lead you to believe.

As a rookie FBI Agent, my first exposure to criminal profiling was after we experienced the stabbing murders of female bank employees.  The profile concluded that the perpetrators were clearly heterosexual, drawing an analogy between the stabbings and sexual penetration.  The perpetrators were found to be two homosexual partners who killed the women after they made fun of the killers, who were bank customers.  In 1993, in Long Island, NY, 12-year-old Katie Beers disappeared.  When the police first searched the home of her kidnapper, they did not find her; she was hidden in a specially constructed “dungeon” beneath the house.  She was eventually rescued by police who would not be deterred.  Explaining the failure of the first search to find Katie, the police stated that they had been distracted by an FBI profile which stated that pedophiles usually did not hide children in their homes. 

In 2005, as the Special Agent in Charge of the Red Lake High School Mass Shooting, I requested the assistance of a profiler.  We did not need a profile of the shooter; he was dead.  We needed a strategy to get teenagers to cooperate with us.  The profiler designed a very creative strategy, which worked.

Everyone knows about the “CSI effect;” how television has affected judges and juries who expect law enforcement to solve crimes within minutes, based on technology that does not exist.  Profiling has experienced the same misperception.  Criminal profiling is a valuable law enforcement resource, performed by trained personnel, but it has its limitations and is not fool-proof.  Solving crime still needs the basics – beating the bushes, interviewing people and employing old fashioned police-smarts.

Please visit michaeltabman.com for more information.

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