Serial killers attract a lot of attention because of their motives and brutal methods of committing heinous crimes. At the heart of studies of serial killers is the nature versus nurture argument. This argument can be expanded by asking whether serial killers commit crimes because of genetic dispositions or whether a person can be taught to be a serial killer. A lot can be learned from the in depth study and profiling of serial killers. As a victimologist, it is important that you understand that the serial killers don’t necessarily fit nicely into a little box with a theory label attached. Therefore, you know how and why a particular theory is used in these cases. This will help you predict and possibly prevent future victimization.
Victimology is important in the overall investigative process because it not only provides information about the victims (their health, personal history, social habits, and personalities) but also explains why they became victims.
To understand victimology, it is important to understand the method of approach, the method of attack, and the risk assessment by the offender. If we know the victim’s personality, then we may be able to determine, in conjunction with an analysis of the crime scene, how the offender initially approached the victim. The same will apply to the way the victim was attacked and overpowered.
If this information cannot be obtained by studying the crime scene, then an analysis of the victim’s overall risk, that is, the chances of his or her becoming a victim, may help. If we examine this along with the risks the offender was willing to take to acquire a certain victim, then we will get an overall picture of who the victim was and what drove the offender to choose a particular person as a victim.
Learning about the victims of serial killers is not less important than learning about carjacking, robbery, or theft victims. Learning about serial killers’ victims is as important as studying the victims of carjacking, robberies, or thefts. In the criminal justice system, the community and the government place a higher priority on homicides—including serial killings—than on other crimes. Police officers, detectives, and victim services workers are expected to prioritize cases involving homicides and serial killings even if they happen rarely.
Select a serial killer you find interesting. Write a report that includes the following:
• Any relevant information that was used or that you feel could have been used in profiling the serial killer.
• Theories of criminology you feel might help explain the serial killer’s criminal behavior.
• The theory of victimization you think best explains the selection of the victim.
• For each theory selected:
o Discuss the key points.
o Apply the key points to explain the serial killer’s specific criminal behavior (method of operation).
Identify the characteristics (for example: ethnicity, gender, age, profession, and socioeconomic status) of his or her victims and discuss how the characteristics seem to be associated with the type of serial killer you chose.
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