Thursday, January 06, 2011

The decline of the serial killer

From Slate:
Statistics on serial murder are hard to come by—the FBI doesn't keep numbers, according to a spokeswoman—but the data we do have suggests serial murders peaked in the 1980s and have been declining ever since. James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University and co-author of Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder, keeps a database of confirmed serial murderers starting in 1900. According to his count, based on newspaper clippings, books, and Web sources, there were only a dozen or so serial killers before 1960 in the United States. Then serial killings took off: There were 19 in the 1960s, 119 in the '70s, and 200 in the '80s. In the '90s, the number of cases dropped to 141. And the 2000s saw only 61 serial murderers. (Definitions of serial murder" vary, but Fox defines it as "a string of four or more homicides committed by one or a few perpetrators that spans a period of days, weeks, months, or even years." To avoid double-counting, he assigns killers to the decade in which they reached the midpoint of their careers.)



Blogger jay c said...

My gut (not actual evidence) tells me that crime statistics over the last 30 years are largely political tools that don't reflect reality. My reason tells me that crime statistics from more than 30 years ago are almost certainly inaccurate due to poor reporting methods and insufficient data.

1:42 PM, January 06, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

The media especially downplays certain types of crime.

two of my step-daughter`s friends were stabbed on newyears and one subsequently died while the other is still in an induced coma.

not a word in the media, other to comment that it was the cities first homicide in a small article off the front page.

i think if the true stats on serial murder were to be known it would be a substantial hot potato for our handlers.

1:48 PM, January 06, 2011  
Blogger Robert said...

This shocked me.

Rap star Kanye West makes video where he kills white women.
Two of the biggest black celebrities in the world got together to make a video glorifying violence towards women (in which most of the women are white). The images are shocking, especially considering the close connections between one of the rappers and Barack Obama.

The song will appear on Kanye West’s new album titled “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Based on the video, his fantasy appears to be to kidnap, rape, and murder white women. The initial cover art, which has already been rejected by Walmart, features a black man holding a beer bottle in a sexually explicit pose with a naked white woman.

In 2005 the NAACP presented him with an award for “most outstanding black male artist.” It remains to be seen if groups like the NOI and NAACP will denounce the video, which seems to re-enforce the most negative stereotypes about black men.

Kanye Westis depicted holding the severed head of a white woman in his new video. The video also features Jay-Z, another big name, who campaigned with Barack Obama.

West’s CD’s are released by Rick Rubin’s Def Jam, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. MTV recently named Kanye West its 2010 Man of the Year.

The video shows dead women hanging from the ceiling and several images of women being held captive. In one scene Kayne West is in bed with two dead white women positioning their bodies in a sexually provocative way. In another scene West holds the bloody severed head of a white woman.

Sample of the Lyrics…

Conquer, stomp ya, stop your silly nonsense
None of you n*****s know where the swamp is
None of you n*****s have seen the carnage that I’ve seen
I still hear fiends scream in my dream
Murder murder in black convertibles
I kill a block I murder avenues
Rape and pillage a village, women and children
Everybody wanna know what my Achilles heel is
LOVE I don’t get enough of it
All I get is these vampires and blood suckers
All I see is these n*****s, I’ve made millionaires

2:37 PM, January 06, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

Okay, what constitutes a serial killer? What do you call it when 17 black drug-addicted prostitutes all are brutally strangled while performing oral sex on a client, most are found naked from the waist up and all of them are found dead in a wooded area within a 4 mile radius? According to the Baltimore City Police Department in 1982: Nothing much.

When prostitutes start to mysteriously disappear for no good reason in one area many police departments don't even acknowledge it, but many times it is the work of just one person. There have been many more serial killers than the police-generated statistics will ever show. If serial killers learn to target a specific demographic, and appropriately hide bodies, they can go decades without being noticed.

4:06 PM, January 06, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

I think cham and jay are on to part of the issue. Politicians are very careful how they define crime. For instance, in Tennessee, if their is a car crash with fatalities and any person in either vehicle has any trace of drugs or alcohol in their system, then all the fatalities are the result of drunk driving. Lying, I mean defining it this way, the "problem" can be used to justify all kinds of things.

So I wonder if the statistics are trouble free too.


4:54 PM, January 06, 2011  
Blogger Art Deco said...

What Cham is not telling you is that Baltimore in 1982 has about 300 homicides per year. The police department had a lot on their plate.

6:45 PM, January 06, 2011  
Blogger Art Deco said...

TMink, this is a private researcher's statistics, not government statistics. And there is always going to be a problem with boundary conditions when you are tabulating.

6:46 PM, January 06, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

Art Deco: In 1982 Baltimore had 227 murders. The Police Department has an enormous number of officers, it currently stands at 3100 for 640,000 residents. The homicide unit is huge. The problem is that our police force couldn't investigate its way out of a paper bag. The closure rate has, and always will be, abysmal.

6:52 PM, January 06, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Baltimore, you guys should watch the HBO series The Wire if you want to see a brutal and depressing - but very well done - portrayal of inner city corruption and crime that goes up to the highest political offices. What a mess!

7:57 PM, January 06, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assuming the decline in serial murder--Ted Bundy comes to mind--do you have a theory of why, Dr. Helen? I think they have declined but what I observe about the culture would make me think they would have increased, despite the demographics (rising average age). (BTW, I'm the guy who invited Glenn and you out to shoot and eat chili. Fun shooting and perhaps you can stay and dine under the open sky some other time.)

10:07 PM, January 06, 2011  
Blogger Alex said...

Robert - Kanye West is a serial racist. He obviously pays ZERO price for his anti-white racism, so he keeps upping the ante to see far the music establishment will let him go. Apparently, they will let him get away with anything.

2:14 AM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi Mike,

The article says that serial killings have decreased. Like the commenters above, I am not so sure. The clearance rate for homicide is lower, not higher so I wonder if what looks like individual murder is really serial killing that has gone undetected as no one took the time or knew to connect the dots. For example, in a city like Pittsburgh

"The Pittsburgh police bureau's homicide "clearance rate" -- those where an arrest was made or a case was otherwise solved -- dropped from 72 percent in 2009 to about 50 percent in 2010, the second-lowest rate in a decade."

Read more:

BTW, had a great time shooting. Thanks.

6:58 AM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

Thag: That's a TV show and isn't real life.

7:37 AM, January 07, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No shit Cham. Duuuuuh. Oy vey. There is such a thing as realistic portrayals, and people more knowledgeable on the subject than I have said it's very realistic. Take it or leave it, but don't worry, I know the difference between TV and the "real world."

The producers also interviewed a lot of actual people and based characters on them, had real people (not trained actors) playing some roles, and pretty much it's as realistic as it gets. But I suppose you're going to say you're an expert on black ghettos in Baltimore too now. Ah, the Internet and its Cliff Clavens.

8:28 AM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger JParker said...

My first thought is that it will take the next generation of investigative technique or maybe some data analysis projects to find the majority of serial killers from the 00's. I suspect your average serial killer now changes jurisdiction more often. So records will be split. Spends more time in the system because of increased enforcement of minor offences. This will make it harder to id murders if the criminal keeps getting put away for years at a time. On the whole serial-minded killers have improved methods of body disposal and evidence obfuscation. Frankly, I suspect most will be discovered because as they start aging they may start bragging about the people they have killed and there will be enough evidence to close a forgotten missing persons case.
The system is designed to handle people who are still with the corpse and murder weapon when arrested by the police. Anything else gets complicated.

11:37 AM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger Kev said...

"The golden age of serial killing?"

There is so much wrong with that phrase.

12:47 PM, January 07, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remind me never to get murdered in Baltimore.


5:50 PM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger Crimso said...

My father was involved in a couple of interesting (for different reasons) cases back in the '80's involving serial killers. In one, the killer (Beoria Simmons) was caught through sheer luck. His next intended victim stabbed him in the thigh with a pocket knife, so they patiently waited for a local hospital to inform them when someone showed up with such a wound. That ended that. Another case involved a young lady whose body was found in a vacant lot next to a church. He noted that her body was laid out like a cross with her feet pointing toward the church. He also noticed the distinct smell of Prell on her, and the ME determined that the killer had thoroughly washed her body (hair included) post-mortem. That case was never solved (he was in homicide for about 5 yrs, and cleared almost every case he had), and he has always assumed it was a serial killer because he became aware of reports of several very similar crimes in neighboring states, though all were relatively far apart geographically. I don't know that those killings were ever officially designated as being the work of a single serial killer.

6:34 PM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger Michael K said...

In my rather small community we had contact with three well known serial killers. The Freeway Killer, William Bonin, was caught when stopped by a highway patrolman for erratic driving. In the car was a dead Marine with KY jelly all over his bottom. The victim came to our trauma center briefly although he had been dead for a while. Bonin was looking for a place to dump him when the CHP stopped him.

The Nightstalker was another serial killer who attacked a couple in Mission Viejo, shooting the man in the head. He also came to our trauma center and survived.

A third serial killer hasn't been caught but he killed a young couple in Laguna Niguel. The man was a medical student and his wife was a nurse, both found dead. Subsequently a pattern emerged in which the killer apparently watched young couples having sex then went in and killed the male or both of them. He usually raped the female.

All these were in our rather small community of south Orange County CA. The third, unknown killer also killed an orthopedic surgeon friend of my wife's. He had recently left his wife and she was a suspect for a while. It is now clear that they were one of the first victims.

8:22 PM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger Alex said...

Michael - that serial killer of young couples caught my attention. I can imagine there are 10s of 1000s of rage-filled psychopaths like him out there wishing to do the exact same thing. How can you protect against a totally random killer?

9:12 PM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger Der Hahn said...

Making the assumption that the stats are accurate, isn't a fairly obvious explaination the general aging of the US population? The 'golden age' pretty much corresponds to the early adulthood of the baby boomers and tails off as the youngest of the boom generation ages into their 40s.

10:56 PM, January 07, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

Der Hahn: Maybe, maybe not. Although the boomers are aging, 100 million of the 300 million Americans are still under 18, so that still gives us plenty of potential serial killers. I didn't read the book on serial killers so I don't know about the stats. Are a percentage of them rapists? If so, rape is starting to be a tough crime to deflect considering every inmate now has to give up a DNA sample. With cameras at every intersection of many cities, the police can track persons-of-interest movements. Dig a hole in an urban or suburban park? People tend to notice these things much more. People have cameras in their cell phones and are likely to take pictures. It is getting tough out there to be certain types of homicidal criminals.

If you want to kill somebody in 2011 and get away with it the best way to do it is shoot them in a darkened environment at 30 feet. Leave the body where it is, don't use your car. Get rid of the gun and your clothes, go home and take a shower. Don't tell anyone. That gives a murderer the best chance of evading detection but I doubt that methodology would be much fun for a serial killer who would probably enjoy killing through asphyxiation or blunt force trauma.

9:47 AM, January 08, 2011  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Helen
RE: Heh

What about mass murderers? Of Congress people?


P.S. The downward spiral is 'accelerating'. Faster than I care for.....

3:47 PM, January 08, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

In this case a serial killer is defined as person(s) who commit "a string of four or more homicides committed by one or a few perpetrators that spans a period of days, weeks, months, or even years."

There's a host of reasons the number committed may have gone down. Police may be catching serial killers before they get to 4 or more, one of the best cases. Or, as noted by others, authorities have changed definitions or aren't identifying serial killers.

Maybe the increase in concealed carry weapons has helped.

6:03 PM, January 08, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

I had the very odd privilege of personally knowing Bob Bordella, the KC killer. Very creepy guy. Had a booth at the local flea market. Told daughter to never go to his booth. Not his target group, but there was no doubt he had one.

6:18 PM, January 08, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're welcome, Doctor Helen.
I'll add this to the theorizing about the causes that influence serial murderers' rampages. Individuals, and entire cultures, learn to de-humanize others. Once you determined that another person is less-than-human, all manner of cruelty becomes possible. "Infidels" may be beheaded (earning points with Allah, not his wrath); slaves may be bought, sold, and abused because they are "property"; American soldiers on Bataan may be bayoneted; the list goes on. And on, and on.... Just throwing that out for consideration. A person, and a whole culture may learn the most depraved cruelty. --Mike

8:41 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

Excellent comment Mike. To add further, I've developed a parallel theory. That is that if we humanize murder victims and murderers the community will become much more concerned about homicides. For example: If newspaper reporters merely report the name, age and address of a murder victim and then move on to the next story then the community won't care that person died. However, if the newspaper reports more information like the victims hobbies, talks about the school record, gets some quotes from friends and family, then the victim becomes more real and human, and you will have much more outrage and concern from the community. A prostitute becomes a loving mother who enjoys scrap booking. A drug dealer becomes helpful grandson and guitar player.

9:25 AM, January 09, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cham, The only people who care about someone's school records and banal hobbies are their friends and family, otherwise it's just another list of attributes that mean nothing.

It's not about making them more WASPy for general consumption but about people realizing that "there but for the grace of God go I" and seeing the humanity in everyone, no matter how far they've fallen and even if they don't scrapbook on the weekend or help their granddad rake leaves.

Having said all that, when we're talking about serial killers, we're talking extreme fringe here, and to blame that on the desensitization of the general population to crime, then on newspapers not "humanizing" victims, you are off the mark. In fact, if you think the victims need to be "humanized" by making them more like you, there's something amiss in your thinking.

9:43 AM, January 09, 2011  
Blogger Words Twice said...

Michael said: “In my rather small community we had contact with three well known serial killers. The Freeway Killer, William Bonin, was caught when stopped by a highway patrolman for erratic driving." 8:22 PM, January 07, 2011

That was actually Randy Steven Kraft.

11:09 PM, January 12, 2011  

Post a Comment

<< Home