Serial killers have been around since the dawn of history, their numbers multiplying exponentially within the past five decades. In recent years, words such as "baffling" and "mysterious" have become routine to describe the growing phenomenon. It is imperative to develop a workable solution and general understanding of these predators in human form as a new wave of serial murders reach crisis rates in this millennium. More than fifteen-hundred serial killers are on record at this time. Though serial murder is not "new", the numbers have gone up in recent years. From 1900 to 1959 the U.S. reported about two serial murder cases a year. By 1969, six cases per year were logged. During the 1970s that number tripled. "An average of three per month have been reported since 1985."(Newton 120). It is still not determined why serial killers kill, however, understanding the causes and recognizing the traits of a serial murderer will help the public better prevent and protect themselves from falling victim to a serial killer.
North America has produced eighty percent of serial killers. Europe runs a distant second with a mere sixteen percent, and Third World nations spawn four percent of the world's known serial killers, but recent numbers from South Africa and Latin America are beginning to alter those statistics. "Though the U.S. has only about 5 percent of the world population, it has produced 76 percent of known serial killers since 1900" (Apsche 76).
Serial murder is a national problem in America and authorities are beginning to develop techniques to track, identify, and capture these predators. Psychological profiling, DNA testing and violent criminal data bases are all tools used to identify serial killers. Psychological profiling is a young, investigative tool. It was developed in the 1950's and has been improved upon ever since. In 1956, forensic psychiatrist, James Brussels, prepared an amazing profile of the "Mad Bomber". While no single case has ever been broken with a psychological profile, the FBI still utilizes it as an investigational tool. The recent developments in DNA testing have made it easier for investigators to track and catch killers. DNA helps to connect cases sooner and can conclusively rule out "copy cat" killers or innocent victims. Data bases that are capable of recognizing patterns in criminal behavior are currently being developed. One such data base is the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. "Violent Criminal Apprehension Program or the VICAP is the brain child of ex-policeman Pierce Brooks" (VICAP). He wanted to be able to track killers on the move and developed the nation wide network to collect and compare details of unsolved crimes. While DNA and VICAP are important tools, psychological profiling has missed too many targets to be relied on. America should consider spending its limited resources on more effective apprehension techniques, such as larger national data bases of violent crimes and better communication between law enforcement departments.
Serial killers, whose multiple murders frequently incorporate brutal torture and sexual assault, are often described as "poster children" for capital punishment. "Texas was the first state to specifically list serial murder as a capital offense" (Fox and Levin 63).
"People fight against capital punishment for reasons ranging from moral ("all killing is wrong") to economic ("life imprisonment is cheaper than lengthy death-sentence appeals"), but results of every published poll to date suggest that a majority of those surveyed support execution in cases of first-degree murder" (Newton 29). Between 1977 and 2000, fifty-one serial killers have been executed. One hundred and twenty-five are currently on death-row. Serial killers are not salvageable as productive humans. They prey on our most vulnerable people and feel little or no regret or empathy for their actions. The death penalty is fair; an eye...