The term “serial killer” was derived from a man named Robert K. Ressler, who, in the 1970’s deemed this term because of the term the English used; “crimes in a series” and because of the serial films he grew up watching. (Freeman, 2007) Prior to the term serial killer, people would use the terms, mass murders and stranger-on-stranger crime. The definition of a serial killer, according to dictionary.com is; “a person who attacks and kills victims one by one in a series of incidents.” Obviously, we understand that a serial killer commits murder more than once, and on different occasions, but what helps police and investigators differ between stand alone murders compared to a serial murder case? What techniques do police and investigators use when defining these differences? How do police and investigators track down serial killers? These questions, along with understanding how police, investigators and the FBI profile a serial killer, are the main topics I will be discussing. Robert Ressler served in the Army as a Criminal Investigator in Washington D.C. prior to working for the FBI in 1970. He began working in the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) that dealt with psychological profiles of violent offenders. After about ten years of being with the FBI, Ressler began interviewing thirty-six incarcerated serial killers. This is where he began to form different opinions and develop a more detailed profiling tool to help investigators. He always admitted that there is no sure way to catch a serial killer, and the system he had was not always accurate, but it helped narrow suspects down for the investigators. It allowed the criminology path to be much more smooth for the investigators involved in the case. A criminal always leaves a path of something behind when committing a crime; but it may not be in the form of physical evidence. A criminal profiler will inspect the scene of a crime and try to get try and see what is going on in the criminals head to see what the thought process was during the murder. What is the modus operandi (MO)? (Webb, n.d.) Or, what is the way of working for the criminal? The MO comes into play more when linking multiple cases together. A behavior that a criminal makes or does is what helps the investigators begin their profiling. The path that the criminal takes during their crimes is what sets each crime scene apart from others. No two are exactly the same but they may have similar traits. The things that criminals are “psychologically compelled to do,” (Webb, n.d.) are known as the signature behaviors. Signature Behaviors are the acts that are not necessarily the same ones used when committing an offense. They are the behaviors that help mold the emotional needs of the criminal. The signature aspects of the behaviors are the psychological or emotional themes that a criminal satisfies once a crime or murder is committed. Jack the Ripper was a case that displays the use of MO when the investigators were profiling. Jack the Ripper killed and attacked white prostitutes who were all in their 40’s, who all lived relatively close to each other. All victims except his last were found outdoors. Because he chose to murder indoors on his final murder, he “demonstrated that he was an experienced night time cat burglar and stalker, as he attacked all his victims in the early morning hours when dawn was approaching.” (Webb, n.d.) All the victims were found in sexually degrading positions with the intent to startle those who found them. Another signature behavior of Jack the Ripper was how all the victims’ throats were cut and the viscera was exposed or missing. The pleasure for Jack the Ripper was by showing each victim’s vulnerability. In the 1970’s the FBI began having classes called Applied Criminology, mostly referred to as psych-crim. This class was just the beginning in training individuals how to profile criminals, and it was the just...
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