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Profiling A Perpetrator & Distinguishing an M.O. From Signature

profile

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BEACON BULLETIN

Based on crime scene evidence, one basic method of characterizing  offenders divides them into three categories:

  • Organized offenders: These criminals are more sophisticated in their approach, and their crimes show evidence of planning. These types tend to be of average or better intelligence, employed, and in active social relationships such as with spouses and families. Even though they’re driven by their fantasies, they maintain enough control to avoid being impulsive. They prepare and even rehearse. They tend to target specific victims or types of victims and use control measures such as restraints to maintain victim compliance. They bring the tools they need to gain access to and control of the victim and avoid leaving behind evidence. As killers, they generally hide or dispose of the body and are likely to have a dumpsite already selected.
  • Disorganized offenders: These criminals usually live alone or with a relative, possess lower-than-average intelligence, are unemployed or work at menial jobs, and often have mental illnesses. They act impulsively, or as if they have little control over their fantasy-driven needs. They rarely use ruses to gain the victim’s confidence, but rather attack with sudden violence, overwhelming the victim. The crime scene often is messy and chaotic. This type of offender doesn’t plan ahead or bring tools along, but rather uses whatever is handy. As killers, they typically leave the body at the scene and exert little effort to avoid leaving behind evidence. Some have sexual contact with the victim after killing him or her.
  • Mixed offenders: Some offenders leave behind mixed messages at crime scenes. They show evidence of planning and a sophisticated MO, but the assault itself may be frenzied or messy, which may indicate some control over deep-seated and violent fantasies.

Profilers have developed categories of descriptors, describe the types of individuals who commit the crimes. Some of the descriptors used in serial killer profiling are as follows:

  • Age: Most serial killers are in their 20s or 30s.
  • Sex: Almost all are male.
  • Race: Most don’t cross racial lines. That means, in general, White offenders kill Whites, while Black offenders kill Blacks.
  • Residency: Organized offenders may be married, have a family, and be well liked by their friends. Disorganized offenders, because of their mental instability and immaturity, tend to live alone or with a family member.
  • Proximity: The location of the perpetrator’s home in relationship to the crime scene is important. Most kill close to home, a factor that is particularly true with the first few victims. The area close to home is a comfort zone. With experience, however, the killer may move his predatory boundaries farther and farther from home.
  • Social skills: Killers who use a ruse to ensnare their victims, like Ted Bundy did, typically possess good social skills, whereas those who use a blitz-style attack are less comfortable with conversation.
  • Work and military histories: Organized offenders more often have a stable work history and are more likely to have left any military service with an honorable discharge. Disorganized offenders often are quite simply too unstable to hold a job in the long term or to complete military service.
  • Educational level: Organized offenders tend to have more schooling than their disorganized counterparts.

Using these descriptors, profilers can create a pretty good picture, or profile, of the type of person who likely committed the crime.

  • Method of entry
  • Tools that were used during the crime
  • Types of objects taken from the crime scene
  • Time of day the crime was committed
  • The perpetrator’s alibi
  • The perpetrator’s accomplices
  • Method of transportation to and from the scene
  • Unusual features of the crime, such as killing the family dog or leaving behind a note or object to taunt the police

In contrast to an MO, a signature is an act that has nothing to do with completing the crime or getting away with it. Signatures are important to the offender in some personal way. Torturing the victim, overkill, postmortem mutilation or posing, and the taking of souvenirs or trophies are signatures. These actions are driven by the killer’s psychological needs and fantasies.

Unlike an MO, a signature never changes. It may be refined over time, but the basic signature remains the same. For example, if a serial killer poses victims in a religious manner, praying or as a crucifix, details such as candles, crucifixes, or other ceremonial objects may be added later. The signature has changed, but its basic form and theme remain the same.

Obviously, a professional profiler should be contacted if you believe there is a need for such; the above is simply a broad explanation of criminal profiling.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

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