On Criminal Profiling

The excerpt below is from an interesting article on the deployment of the FBI’s Child Abduction Response Deployment (CARD) Team in Indiana on an unsolved child abduction, rape, and murder case.

In 1988, April Tinsley was kidnapped near her home in Fort Wayne, IN and her body was later found in a ditch 20 miles away.

The killer left several clues behind including a hand-written note. Sixteen years later, similar notes were found on children’s bicycles in the same area (no more abductions)—with enough in common that police believe they may be connected to the old case.

…Federal investigators were deployed to Fort Wayne to work the Tinsley (the murdered little girl) case earlier this month. After the "America's Most Wanted" profile and the renewed push, authorities received between 400 and 500 tips, Shrawder said. Some could be ruled out right away -- someone who had died between the murder and the 2004 notes, for instance, he said.

DNA samples were taken on about 150 people.

Police are still trying to run down about 50 or 75 tips, he said. "That was the purpose, was to go out and run down every single one of these, no matter how vague it was."

Some of the authorities' leads, according to the FBI, include identifying Fort Wayne residents who used Polaroids as late as 2004; tracking down a green paisley bedspread similar to that seen in one Polaroid; and looking at misdemeanor offenses in the area near the time of April's death and the 2004 note spree, as offenses like indecent exposure could indicate more serious sex crimes.

In addition, the FBI has released a behavioral profile of Tinsley's killer. Police believe he is a white male currently in his 40s or 50s who prefers and desires sexual contact with children, particularly little girls.

"This offender has demonstrated that he has strong ties to northeast Fort Wayne and Allen County," the profile said. "This is where he likely lives, works and/or shops. You may be standing next to him in line at the grocery store, sitting beside him in the pew at church, or working beside him on the production line."

Such profiles can be helpful in that they might spur local residents to tell police, "You know, I always wondered about this one guy," Shrawder said.
The article insinuates that CARD Teams are used primarily for profiling. In reality, these folks provide on the ground assistance in a variety of ways—-including the ability to quickly produce correlated reports of known sex offenders near a crime scene (a scenario that authorities are certainly exploring in the Tinsley case with all of the DNA collection).

On profiling, it is important to remember that this technique is still nothing more than educated guesswork. Despite the impressions provided by television programs, these experts do their fair share of swinging and missing as well.

The folks that do this work are highly skilled and intelligent, and I think that profiling should be viewed as an important investigative resource, but not be considered the only tool in the toolbox.

I actually like to see profiles used in cold cases such as this one—-as opposed to potentially jading the focus of an investigation in its early stages with an inaccurate profile.


J. J. in Phila said...

"I actually like to see profiles used in cold cases such as this one—-as opposed to potentially jading the focus of an investigation in its early stages with an inaccurate profile."

I think this comment is quite telling.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

JJ, why is that a telling comment?