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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


MORALES, Luz Anyela et al. Perfiles criminológicos: el arte de Sherlock Holmes en el siglo XXI. Salud Ment [online]. 2007, vol.30, n.3, pp.68-75. ISSN 0185-3325.

Within the frame of an international interest to explain and reduce violent behavior, criminological profiles provide relevant knowledge on the characteristics and circumstances concerning violent events, their authors and victims. In this review the main lines of investigation on this subject are addressed, as well as some of the most important findings and inquiries yet to be solved. Finally, some challenges and perspectives of this type of research and the application of criminological profiles are discussed. Our conclusions include the necessity of developing a line of research to generate an insight into this subject in general, as well as to assess its applicability in specific contexts in Spanish speaking countries.

Even though criminological profiles have been simultaneously supported and criticized, the findings in this research area evince the possibility of creating useful criminological profiles with accuracies above the random level. However, the outcomes of studies related to this subject suggest a precautionary approach with respect to its achievements.

This manuscript reviews the research on criminological profiles from five study areas: a) crime and delinquent typologies; b) behavioral patterns and the theory of facets; c) spatial patterns and geographical profiles; d) temporal patterns and chrono-ecological rhythms, and e) reliability and validity.

Studies in crime and delinquent typologies are marked within a clinical focus, in which deductive logic, experience of the profiler and analysis of previous cases are the keys to tackle cases of unknown aggressors. One of the representative models in this line is that of the FBI, which proposes a classification of murder scenes that are related with two different types of delinquents: unorganized (probably with mental disorder) and organized (probably psychopaths). This model also propounds the existence of a third type called "mixed" category, which includes characteristics from both previously mentioned types.

The main contribution of clinical methodology has been the identification of socio-demographic characteristics common in persons committing crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery, pyromania and even terrorist acts; the selection of a victim type; characteristics of their modus operandi, and motivations referred to by perpetrators for justifying the deed.

Recent research goes beyond mere descriptive studies by means of co-occurrence analysis of variables. From this viewpoint, hypotheses are posed and demonstrated based upon the study of large samples, this resulting knowledge is then applied to the analysis of new cases, casuistics (statistical methodology). This perspective originates the identification of behavioral patterns that initially give no support to previous classifications but propound more specific categories. Results from different type of offenses consistently indicate the existence of some useful behavioral patterns for the identification of the various ways of perpetrating a crime and its relation to distinct types of criminals. Among the main identified patterns are: violence used, level of planning and aggressor-victim relationship. Besides, the evidence supports the idea of a relation between the characteristics in the commission of a crime (information from the crime scene and the victims) and the characteristics of those persons responsible of the crime (in terms of the useful information leading to their identification and capture).

The results of an investigation from a statistical viewpoint suggest that typologies can not be seen as static or rigid and that it is necessary to review the evidence backing up those typologies before using it in crimes committed by unknown aggressors and in contexts differents from the ones initially proposed. The theory of facets is the most representative model along this line.

One of the most crucial findings so far is the existence of spatial patterns and their applicability in the elaboration of geographical profiles. In this sense, the relations between the zones in which crimes occur and the possible characteristics of the criminals have been studied. Results indicate that offenders tend to perpetrate their offenses in familiar places and near the areas in which their everyday life takes place. This knowledge has been useful for the development of computer programs that can predict the area where a criminal may live in or in which he may remain most of the time, based on the information available from the case investigation (for example, the place where the victims disappeared or where the bodies were found). Studies in this area indicate that the choice of places and victims is not at random, even in crimes that may be classified as impulsive.

With respect to chrono-ecological patterns, there is evidence pointing to a relation between the commission of a crime and certain biological rhythms associated with annual, seasonal and lunar rhythms; though the information relating the lunar cycle and homicides is still controversial.

In relation to the validity and reliability of profiles, research indicates that profiles depend on the type of offense, quality and quantity of available information, as well as the abilities of the persons performing the profile. Valid and reliable profiles are associated with both a large amount of available information and with the fact that persons trained in doing profiles are endowed with abilities of logical thinking and insight into human behavior. However, it is not quite clear if the main ability for producing accurate profiles is that of analysis and level of general intelligence on the part of the profile designer or a specific type of knowledge or training.

In spite of the achievements in the study of profiles at international level, Latin America has experienced a slow development in this area. Mexico in particular, is not an exception. Publications on this subject in Spanish are really scarce.

The development in the research on profiles and the questions pending an answer lead us to propose, as well as to discuss, the necessity for the development of a research line in criminological profiles in countries like Mexico with the aim of making a contribution at international level to the identification of behavioral, cognitive, criminological, spatial and chrono-ecological patterns. Besides, there is a need to corroborate whether if the international findings are valid in our contexts, and to what extent they can be introduced into our practice. Finally, we propound that this research line be permanent and independent of immediate reactions in the face of crimes creating great impact.

This line must be constituted upon the basis of theoretical models empirically demonstrated, the search of relations between available information in crime cases of unknown aggressors and data that may be useful for the identification and capture of offenders.

Among the challenges and perspectives of criminological profiles we must go beyond deductive tools to approach a science based on scientific evidence.

Palabras llave : Criminal profile; human violence; homicide; forensic psychology; violent offenders; chronoecology.

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