The Birth of Modern Day Criminal Profiling

In the mid-1970s, two supervisory agents with the FBI, John Douglas and the late Robert Ressler, set out to create a centralized computer database where the motives of serial offenders were matched with crime scene information. Their efforts led to modern day criminal profiling.

Is Criminal Profiling a Science, Art or Magic?

Practitioners of profiling share a common goal of analyzing evidence gathered at a crime scene and statements provided by victims and witnesses in order to develop a description of an unknown offender. As conducted by the FBI, criminal profiling is involved in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution phases of the criminal justice process.

Some Serial Killers Commit Murder For Profit

The motivations of serial killers are very diverse. Unlike hedonist lust killers who are motivated by sex or visionary killers who hear voices, comfort/gain killers primarily seek financial gain and an improved quality of life through the act of murder. H.H. Holmes was the early American prototype.

The Suicide-Mass Murder Connection: A Growing Epidemic

Negative and alienating social forces have made suicide the new murder as frustrated and fearful Americans turn their anger onto themselves and take their own lives in unprecedented numbers. These same social forces also explain the sharp rise in mass public shootings as fatalistic individuals increasingly kill themselves and others in catastrophic acts of violent rage.

Who is the Real Jodi Arias?

Despite all the hype, Jodi Arias is neither a monster nor is she a fallen angel. She is a convicted felon who has taken on criminal celebrity status and cultivated a massive public following due to her appearance, demeanor, and the severity of her crime, which all have been spun and stylized into a caricature by the news media.

The History and Rise of Mass Public Shootings

The U.S. had 26 mass public shootings in 2010, which is the highest number since 1999. There are powerful social forces today that promote mass murder, including financial fears, distrust of government, global terrorism and constant war. These factors have led to alienation, rage and a feeling of powerlessness for many people.

How Mass Murder and Serial Murder Differ

A mass murder often occurs when the perpetrator, who may be deeply troubled, strikes out in a blitz-like attack. Unlike serial killers, mass murderers are often killed at the scene of the crime. They do not plan to escape and kill another day like their serial killer counterparts who are addicted to murder.

Suicide is the New Murder in America

Alienating social forces over the past decade have made suicide the new murder as frustrated and fearful Americans turn their anger onto themselves in unprecedented numbers. Suicide is a tragic and growing epidemic. However, the reality of suicide is invisible to the general public because of the all-American ideology of individualism and Protestant ethic.

Visionary Serial Killers Are Driven By Inner Demons

While most serial killers have an ideal victim they seek out, e.g., white, female prostitutes, visionary killers select their victims seemingly at random based on logic that is indiscernible to either investigators or forensic psychologists. Their murderous agenda is entirely synchronized to their internal madness.

What Motivates Female Serial Killers?

Sex is much farther down on the list of motivations for female serial killers. Sexual or sadistic motives are extremely rare among females. Instead, female serial murderers tend to take a much more pragmatic approach to their killings, and do so for financial profit or revenge.

Serial Killer Myth #6: They Are All White.

Not all serial killers are white. In fact, serial killers span all racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. The racial diversity of serial killers generally mirrors that of the overall U.S. population. A myth that all serial killers are white is routinely fueled and reinforced by the entertainment news media that focus on white offenders who target white, female victims.

Hedonist Lust Killers Must Feed Their Insatiable Hunger

For hedonist lust serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer the act of murder is not an end in itself. They are motivated by the ritual and process of killing. Sex is the primary motivation for hedonist lust killers regardless of whether the victims are alive or dead. Sexual gratification often requires mutilation of their victims, drinking their blood and cannibalism.

Is Criminal Profiling a Science, Art or Magic?

Criminal profiling is a cross between law enforcement and psychology. It is still a relatively new field with few set boundaries or definitions. Professionals who engage in criminal profiling do not always agree on methodology or even terminology. In practice, criminal profiling is involved in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of unknown offenders.

Serial Killer Myth No. 5: All Victims Are Female

Just as not all serial killers are male, not all serial killer victims are female, although females do represent the majority of victims. According to FBI data, women accounted for 70 percent of known victims of serial killers between 1985 and 2010. There are important reasons why serial killers frequently, but not exclusively, target women.

Serial Killers and the Essential Role of Fantasy

In many ways, the key to unlocking the pathological mind of a serial killer lies in the nature or content of his fantasy and how he actualizes it. Driven by obsessive fantasy, serial killers are compelled to murder again and again in order to satisfy their desires. However, the reality of killing never lives up to the perfect excitement of their fantasies.

The Jeffrey Dahmer-Hannibal Lecter Connection

The news media seized upon the cannibalism theme of the Jeffrey Dahmer case in 1991 and created a connection with the fictional Hannibal Lecter from the highly popular film The Silence of the Lambs released earlier that same year. By linking him to Hannibal Lecter, the news media turned Dahmer into a super villain with enduring consumer appeal.

Here’s Why We Love Serial Killers

Why are so many people, including myself, fascinated by serial killers? Highly stylized and pervasive news media coverage of real-life serial killers and their horrible deeds transforms them into what I refer to as celebrity monsters. Serial killers have become the ultimate boogey men in the popular culture.

Serial Killer Myth #4: They Want To Get Caught.

Many people believe that serial killers want to get caught. For the vast majority of serial killers, however, this is simply not true. They love the act of killing far too much. Serial killers gain valuable experience and confidence with each new, successful murder.

The Sociopath-Serial Killer Connection

Any crimes committed by a sociopath will tend to be haphazard or spontaneous. A sociopath who becomes a serial killer will most likely conform to the FBI’s disorganized category of serial predator. Jack the Ripper offers a classic example of the volatile, spontaneous, and disorganized serial killer.

Serial Killer Myth #3: They Are All Men

The news and entertainment media sensationalize the violence perpetrated by male serial killers. Gory tales of atrocity committed by men provide enticing entertainment. However, such depictions do a disservice. Although the graphic images of male serial killers sell countless books and movie tickets, they also perpetuate the myth that all serial killers are demented men.

Psychopathic Criminals Cannot Be Cured

Because they do not respond in a normal fashion to punishment, reward-based treatment seems to work best with psychopathic prisoners. Such management strategies have been used effectively with psychopathic criminals, including serial predators in maximum security prisons.

Serial Killer Myth #2: They’re Dysfunctional Loners

Serial killers are rarely reclusive, social misfits who live alone, despite pervasive depictions of them as such in the news and entertainment media. Disturbingly, serial killers are often married, gainfully employed and live normal looking lives in our very midst.

Why Spree Killers Are Not Serial Killers.

An emotional cooling off period in between murders distinguishes serial killing from spree killing. Otherwise, the two are very similar. However, the emotional cooling off period in serial killing is all-important because it is linked to very different motivations to kill than those found in spree killing.

Self-Defense Training Helps Stop Rape.

Every woman should know how to defend herself. While it is true that men should be taught not to rape, at the same time, women simply cannot count on such training to replace that. It is every woman’s right to protect herself.

When Will We Learn That War is Not The Answer?

President Obama promised a more inclusive U.S. foreign policy—one freed from President Bush’s dangerous us-versus-them ideology. By recognizing the International Criminal Court, President Obama could send a powerful signal to the world that the U.S. is not above international law. For political reasons, however, he will not.  

Serial Killer Myth #1: They're Mentally Ill or Evil Geniuses

The image of the evil genius serial killer is mostly a Hollywood invention. Contrary to mass media stereotypes, real serial killers generally do not possess unique or exceptional intellectual skills. The reality is that most serial killers are between borderline and above average intelligence. Moreover, they are rarely insane in a legal sense.

Origin of the Term “Serial Killer”

The conclusion of every murder increases the tension and desire of a serial killer to commit a more perfect murder in the future—one closer to his/her ideal fantasy. Rather than being satisfied when they murder, serial killers are instead agitated toward repeating their killings in an unending “serial” cycle.

Beware: Evil Exists Everywhere

Once a disvalued individual or group is socially defined as evil, those in power have the moral authority and even obligation to eliminate the evildoer(s) regardless of whether or not there is an objective threat to society. The Holocaust and the more contemporary global Jihad and war on terror provide powerful evidence of the tragic results of labeling the “other” as evil

John Wayne Gacy: The Diabolical “Killer Clown”

The reality of a mild-mannered and stone-cold psychopath such as John Wayne Gacy is nothing like the serial killer stereotype generally presented in the news and entertainment media. In person, killers like Gacy come across as average guys, even charming, not like predatory monsters. Nevertheless, the unassuming man in friendly clown makeup was a brutal rapist and murderer

I Sometimes Feel Guilty About My White Male Privilege

White men in the U.S. are born with certain advantages over people of color and women simply by virtue of their race and gender. Given that white men generally dominate the halls of power and influence in the U.S., their unearned privileges are generally taken for granted and, thus, are invisible to them.

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