What have we learned from offender profiling? A systematic review and meta-analysis of 40 years of research.

In the 4 decades since offender profiling (OP) was established, hundreds of journal articles, books, book chapters, reports, and magazine articles have been published on the topic, and the technique has been used by countless law enforcement agencies around the globe. However, despite the popularity and extensive literature published on OP, very little is known about its evolution, current state, or findings of the field to date. Therefore, this study presents a systematic review and meta-analysis of 426 publications on OP from 1976 through 2016. Results of this systematic review suggest that there have been considerable improvements in the scientific rigor and self-assessment being conducted in the discipline, although in total, few studies have used a strong empirical approach to develop new profiles. Even fewer evaluations of the effectiveness of OP have been conducted. The first summary of offender profiles proposed for major crimes in OP literature is also presented, with results indicating some recurrent themes in profiles, but wide variations in the number, name, and description of the profiles often found. A meta-analysis of case linkage analysis research indicates that this area is statistically sophisticated, and has yielded moderate to strong accuracy rates for linking crimes to a single offender. Finally, the first analysis of the most prolific authors, researchers, departments, and outlets for OP research, and the methods, approach, and most cited publications in OP are identified. Suggestions for future research on OP and the potential impact that this may have on policy and practice are also discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)