Modus operandi is a Latin term used in English to describe an individual or group’s habitual way of operating, which forms a discernible pattern. The term comes into play when discussing criminal behavior, but it does not exclusively refer to criminal behavior. Modus operandi is often shortened to “M.O.” in both writing and speaking. Modus operandi can also be defined as a specific method of operation, a term also abbreviated M.O. Security firms and military strategists use a threat’s M.O. to predict the next move in an armed conflict. This extension of examining an M.O. is called predictive profiling.
In a criminal investigation, this term describes a defender’s way of committing a crime. It typically defines a pattern of activities driven by offenders, processes of thinking and behavior, before, during and after the crime. It is also used in criminal profiling, where it can help to obtain information about the psychology of an offender. It consists in examining the offender’s actions to execute the crime, prevent its detection and/or facilitate its escape.