Serial Murder

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines serial murder as “three or more separate events in three or more separate locations with a cooling off between homicides” (Douglas, Burgess, Burgess & Ressler, 1992). The FBI definition however, makes no allowance for killers such as Jeffery Dahmer, who murdered all of his victims in the same place. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) published a broader definition in 1988, describing serial murder as “a series of two or more murders, committed as separate events, usually, but not always by one offender acting alone.The crimes may occur over a period of time ranging from hours to years” (Newton, 2006).

High profile investigations such as serial murder present multiple challenges for law enforcement. Identification of a homicide as a series presents the largest challenge. In the past, the first indication that a serial murder was at work was when more than one homicide could be linked through forensics or behavioral evidence. Due to extensive media coverage of high profile cases involving low risk victims, a homicide as a series has become easier to identify.In contrast, identifying a series involving high risk victims in multiple jurisdictions is much more difficult. This is primarily due to the victims high risk lifestyle and their transient nature. Lack of communication between the different law enforcement agencies and their different types of record management can also play a huge par in linking cases to a common offender.

UNIT 4 3 While offenders in the United States account for 85 percent of all serial killers who have been indentified, such crimes have never been restricted to the United States (Newton, 2006).Police in Rostov, Russia faced a serious problem in the 1980s. The city was home to a killer who kidnapped girls and boys alike from local railroad depots. Detectives had no clue as to his identity. He became known as “The Rostov Ripper”. Further hampering the detectives were the tenets of Soviet Communism with Russia’s conversion to a socialist state in 1917. This had created a “workers paradise,” in which no major crimes occurred.

Because of the existence of a “Western-type” killer embarrassed communist leaders, police had to search for him secretly, without alerting the public (Newton, 2006).The police could not even admit there was a serial killer. It took 10 years and 53 lives before they caught him. Arrested on November 20, 1990, Andrei Chikatilo confessed to 53 separate murders. Profiling is a matter of research and educated guesswork. In the beginning of the 1980s, the FBIs Behavior Science Unit – Now called Investigative Support Services – interviewed dozens of serial killers in prison. They collected background information, motives, their selection of victims and methods used to kill.

The end result was a classification of killers into two categories or groups, organized and disorganized. The FBI soon realized that their system of classification did not cover all serial murders so, they added a third category for mixed offenders. Ted Bundy is a prime example of a mixed offender. Former FBI agent, John Douglas is America’s best known profiler. Douglas profiled hundreds of unsubs during his 18 years at Quantico. In his various books, he presented profiling as a great success.However, in fact, when all the details of the case are analyzed, profiles are remarkably accurate but, they rarely, if UNIT 4 4 ever produce an arrest.

Unlike CSI, Criminal Minds and, all the hard work by Douglas and his successors, it remains up to the local police to collect evidence and link it to a suspect. In May 1985, the FBI introduced its computerized Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP). The system was designed to link unsolved crimes by collecting signature details from thousands of cases nationwide.To make the system work however, homicide detectives must fill out a questionnaire describing every detail of a crime and then submit it to the FBI for analysis. While VICAP has been useful in linking certain unsolved crimes, no killers have been caught by the system. Canada launched a new program in 1993, the Violent Crime Analysis Linkage System (ViCLAS). Since its inception, it has warned Canadian law enforcement to 20 active serial killers.

Homicide investigators in Australia, Austria, China, and Sweden, as well as several U. S. states use ViCLAS.Serial killings are rare, probably less than one percent of all murders (NCAVC, 2005). They do however receive a lot of attention. We see it in the news, read it in the papers and, pay to see it on the big screen. Unfortunately, a lot of the information we the public see is wrong.

Yet, the public, the media, and yes, even law enforcement who have limited experience with serial murder believe what they see and hear. This information can hinder an investigation. According to experts, there is no common thread tying several killers together. No single cause, no single motive, no single profile

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