When used properly, profiles are legitimate and effective law-enforcement tools. Most list various personality traits and behaviors associated with a group of persons who have committed crimes in the past. However, as human conduct is affected by many complex and ever-changing variables, these traits and behaviors cannot consistently predict the future behavior of specific individuals. Criminal conduct is more dependent on at-risk individuals possessing the means, motive and ability to commit the offenses.
| Attempts to single out potentially violent individuals can stigmatize, traumatize and encourage already-troubled persons to act out … |
Profiles used to identify future criminal behaviors can cause great harm. Attempts to single out potentially violent individuals can stigmatize, traumatize and encourage already-troubled persons to act out, making profiling a self-fulfilling prophecy. And, profiling individuals is not very accurate at predicting extreme violence. At-risk individuals are unlikely to commit violence without various environmental, social and interpersonal factors interacting with each other and becoming more serious over time.
Despite the limitations of profiles, their use can alert authorities that an individual may need help and monitoring. The frequency, intensity and immediacy of the at-risk behaviors should dictate the type of intervention. In the less serious cases, the subject should not be viewed as potentially violent, but rather as an individual in need of assistance. At-risk individuals that are identified and helped promptly are unlikely to resort to violence.