Research into the Mind of Serial Killers

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The criminal homicide rate for the United States is currently at its lowest rate during the last forty years (6.3 per 100,000 people in 1998: Bureau of Justice Statistics); yet according to the media and entertainment fields, homicide is reaching epidemic proportions. Unfortunately these fields tend to exploit the concept of homicide in American society, rather than attempting to understand and control it. No where is this more prevalent than in the study of a small subset of criminal homicide referred to as serial murder. This area of serial homicide specifically refers to the murder of several victims by a single person, generally unknown to the victim, over a designated period of time. Serial murder and those who commit it have always been around but have only really come to national attention in the last thirty years. Since the 1970’s people have been fascinated with and horrified by serial murderers. Despite the enormous amount of coverage of serial killers by video and print media, television, and movies, relatively few sources of information about them exist and even less is known. The details of ones crimes tend to be sensationalized, making rationalization very difficult, but what is lost among the horror and gore are the motives and reasons that lead a person to do this. What causes a person to kill again and again?

An attempt to explain, rationalize and predict has plagued law enforcement and medical personnel for a considerable amount of time. If law enforcement is to create proactive, rather than reactive, strategies to this type of criminal behavior then they must be able to understand why it happens. Unfortunately we still do not have a clear understanding for the motives of murder, thus making understanding serial murder that much more difficult. Coming to any definite conclusions or making any definitive statements is not currently possible, the best that experts can do is make broad generalizations and educated guesses. Current literature on the subject comes to a number of fairly educated (and a few non-educated) conclusions that help to explain serial murder. Only a relatively few studies have been done that include in-depth first hand interviews with the perpetrators of the crimes themselves. This analysis of past offenders has elicited several key behavioral and childhood similarities among this sub-group of homicide perpetrators i...

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...cholars are simply posing the same questions that have always been asked and are not necessarily answering any of them. The reason for this, as is the belief of this author, is that questions are all we will ever have. Answers are not available regarding why, how and when in serial murder. As upsetting as it is to this researcher, actually admitting, especially to ourselves, that not being able to find an answer has to be the first step. Possibly moving the focus of a proactive strategy to the identification of victims and perpetrators, from troubled children, is our best bet for success. Focusing on identification rather than prediction should be looked at as the nest possible step. Being able to stop these killers very early instead of wasting money researching childhood behavior, which is obviously not currently working, needs to occur. The ultimate conclusion of this author is that we will never be able to fight this problem to extinction. As sad and unfortunate as it is, as long as there are people who desire to ultimately control others, this problem will persist. The more we understand about this, the more it becomes a reflection of society and the direction it is taking.
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