Criminal profiling, also sometimes called offender profiling, is not a new practice but remains controversial. There have been high profile instances where criminal profiling helped investigators catch the guilty party and other high profile cases where the criminal profilers were wrong on very basic details. But there are a few definite advantages that a criminal profiler brings to an investigation.
Provide a Lead
The most basic advantage that a criminal profiler brings to an investigation is the ability to give investigators a lead where there otherwise isn't one. Some criminals are good enough that they leave very little actionable evidence of their crimes, and the insights that a criminal profiler gives are the only real leads to pursue. Of course, it is not ideal to have just a criminal profile to go on, but it is better than nothing.
Generate Profiles for Interviews
Another advantage of criminal profiling that is much less reported in popular culture is the help provided during the interview process. Interviewing a suspect is in many ways a psychological game between police and the suspect. By profiling a potential suspect, criminal profilers can give investigators a personalised way to approach the suspect that will be likely to yield results. Without the insights of a criminal profiler, investigators might have a lot more difficulty extracting the truth from a reticent suspect.
The Psychological Significance of Clues
Another advantage that criminal profilers bring to an investigation is the ability to see the psychological significance of a piece of evidence. For instance, some serial offenders will have a signature or a certain idiosyncratic way of committing their crime of choice, and criminal profilers may pick up on subtleties like this that lead the investigation in a different and more fruitful direction.
Enlisting the Public
The ability to enlist the help of the public in an investigation is another definite advantage that criminal profiling provides. If the criminal profilers have developed a detailed profile, but investigators are not able to advance the investigation any further, then the profile can be released to the public. Investigators can then follow up on leads brought to them by the public. Of course, for this to work, the criminal profilers must be sure of their work, which isn't always the case.