Catching a Predator
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly embracing proactive approaches to identify potential criminals before a crime is actually committed. The officers achieve this by either disguising as potential victims or through criminal profiling, where they identify potential criminals based on preconceived information, such as racial affiliation and behavioral traits. While disguise has been blamed for inducing people into committing criminal offenses, profiling is often perceived as advancing discrimination. Proactive law enforcement should be embraced to identify potential criminals before they commit an actual crime.
With increased internet penetration in the American households, law enforcement agencies should adopt proactive strategies to identify potential sexual predators, who are roaming in chat rooms and social media, with the aim of enticing and eventually victimizing children. Without taking proactive measures, the predators will continue taking advantage of these instant methods of communication to perpetuate crime against children, most of whom are unaware of the dangers of disclosing private identifiable information on the internet, especially to strangers (Roddel, 2008, p. 140). To catch a predator by positioning oneself as a vulnerable victim is a necessary operation because it exposes the potential criminal behavior of the identified suspect. However, the potential offender should not be exposed on television and arrested, unless he/she takes practical steps that demonstrate the motivation to commit the actual offense, if the disguised victim was actually present. The disguise efforts cannot be regarded as entrapment because people are aware that establishing sexual relationships with minors is a criminal offense that is punishable by law. Furthermore, the potential offender had the option of ending the online conversation at its initial stages because they were aware that the individual on the other side is a minor. The usefulness of this approach in stopping crimes before they actually occur was evident in the 2005 case of Mayor James West of Spokane, Washington, where his tendency to engage in sexual behavior with under age boys was revealed (Egan, 2005). The investigation further linked him to sexual molestation incidences of boy scouts in the late 1970s, when he was a sheriff and the scout troop leader. The exposure possibly prevented further sexual abuse of underage boys that he predated in chat rooms and social media.
The need for using profiling to apprehend criminals clearly outweighs the potential for discrimination. The reason for this is that profiling is supported by data from crime scenes, for instance, offender’s racial and behavioral description. Although racial profiling can be perceived as advancing discrimination, they can be inspired by statistics from criminal records, where specific crimes are being committed more frequently by persons belonging to a particular racial group. Therefore, profiling individuals from such racial groups can increase the possibility of apprehending potential criminals, especially the armed ones. Studies have revealed that most criminal organizations are comprised of individuals with similar ethnic and/or racial characteristics, thus supporting profiling of individuals belonging to particular racial or ethnic groups with rates of involvement in criminal activities (Muffler, 2006, p. 60). Profiling in crime hotspot area can be an effective means of apprehending criminals because victims, to match those possible offenders, often furnish officers with a lot of credible information. The potential for discrimination in criminal profiling can be reduced through the adoption of statistical techniques of psychology to describe and classify different types of offender behaviors, which enhances the possibility of apprehending criminals (Winerman, 2004, p. 66). Criminal profiling supported by statistical evidence will be perceived as a form of statistical discrimination, rather than negative discrimination that is motivated by biased stereotypes (Ashworth et al., 2013, p. 266).
Ashworth, A., Zedner, L., Tomlin, P., & All Souls College (University of Oxford). (2013).Prevention and the limits of the criminal law. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Egan, T. (2005, May 8). A mayor’s secret life jolts a northwest city. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/08/national/08spokane.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Muffler, S. J. (2006). Racial profiling: Issues, data, and analyses. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
Roddel, V. (2008). The ultimate guide to internet safety. Morrisville, NC: Lulu Press.
Winerman, L. (2004). Criminal profiling: the reality behind the myth. American Psychological Association, 35(7), 66. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/criminal.aspx