Crime and Media

The crime scene in the original version of the...
The crime scene in the original version of the game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Tabetha Cooper

Murders happen all over the world in all forms; your regular single murders, mass murders, spree murders, and of course serial murders.  In the United States, serial murder has been captivating the mind of citizens for a long time with all the movies and television programs focusing on this issue.  It is important to remember though that much of what can be seen on television isn’t completely accurate.  Through an understanding of the global perspectives on serial murder and the investigative approach and tools used the most in these cases, a person can better identify what impact serial murders have on the media in the United States versus other countries.
            As Hickey (n.d.) points out, serial murder from a global perspective brings out some points that need to be addressed.  First is the definition of serial murder and how others see this phenomenon.  For example in the U.S. the FBI defines serial murder as a series of three or more murders over a period of time with a cooling off period in between each murder.  In addition most serial offenders in the U.S. are thought to be lust killers and each murder tends to share common characteristics (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 2005).  On the other hand other countries have noted that most serial murderers do not classify as lust murders and that there are not always similarities in the murders (Hickey, n.d.).  Not every culture exploits serial murder as we do in the U.S.  The second thing to remember is that the differences in cultures between countries provide different motives for serial murders as well as different means to carry out the murders.  For example guns are a big weapon of choice in the United States but many other countries the weapon of choices tends to be a knife, as can be shown with the case of Jack the Ripper in England (Hickey, n.d.).  The last point to keep in mind is that largely due to the other two differences, the profiles given to serial murderers in the U.S. are far different from the profiles given by law enforcement personnel of other countries.  The ability to access important data may also play a role in the different profiles of serial murderers between other countries and the U.S.
            Since the popular television show Criminal Minds, when the average American thinks of approaches to catching a killer, profiling pops in their mind.  There are several types of profiling including: criminal profiling, victim profiling, and geographical profiling.  Profiling is just one tool used in the interdisciplinary approach.  This approach explores criminal behavior through the sciences of psychology, biology, and behavioral analysis (Hickey, n.d).  In other words the interdisciplinary approach utilizes forensic sciences.  Spatial mapping is another tool used in this approach.  Crimes committed within an area can be recorded to a map and through analysis of this information it is possible to figure out when and where the next crime in a series will be committed.  Computers aid a lot in the interdisciplinary approach, where data can be stored and retrieved quickly.
            In recent years there have been steps taken to fill in the gap between countries when it comes to crime.  The inability to access data concerning serial murders that travel internationally, data bases are being created for easier access to information.  One data base used by other countries is the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System or VICLAS.  This data base originated in Canada and is used in the United States, Canada, and Germany (Hickey, n.d.).  The International Crime Police Organization, better known as Interpol, was created in 1923 to also aid countries in sharing criminal information.  It was designed to help aid different organizations and law enforcement agencies in an effort to catch criminals that cross boarders and to prevent further crimes from being committed.  Since its start in 1923, 188 countries have become members of Interpol (www.interpol.int).
With the vast differences throughout the world when it comes to serial murder, it has to be asked: What role does the media play in the world of serial murder?  Many countries do not report serial murder in the news nor display such an interest in it through movies and television programs.  There have been countries in which suspected serial murderers were not publicized.  This has its benefits and downfalls!  If the public is not notified of a serial murderer running the streets then they have no idea to keep themselves safe.  If a killer is attacking women between the ages of thirty and fifty in dark allies only in the night, then those women don’t know to keep themselves out of that area during the dark hours of the day.  Although a benefit of not publicizing a serial murderer is not getting the entire town in an uproar.  Sometimes serial killers, such as the BTK killer (Dennis Radar), use media to contact the police.  Those who receive these types of messages need to take care with what is done with them.  The police should be notified before the message is publicized (www.fbi.com).
In the United States the media such as news papers report on the murder.  Depending on the information that they reporter gets their hands on, this can let the killer know what the police know.  This can cause the killer to change his modus operandi, is selection of victims, or even cause him to go into a cooling down period until the heat is off him.  If he relocates it takes the problem out of the place it originated but causes it to start somewhere else, which may go undetected for a period of time before the crimes can be linked as serial.  When so many people become privy to important information pertaining to a serial murder case it also opens a door for copy cat killers to use the same motives.  This can throw law enforcement personnel off the track of the actual killer.  When media puts such a great emphasis on the murderer it also takes light away from the victim (www.fbi.com).  Victims become forgotten easily, causing yet another injustice to both them and their families. Also with the fascination and glamorization television shows and movies give serial killers it desensitizes the incidences.  Women become fans and the killers begin to become idols to some. 
No matter the country or the definition of serial murder, a killer reeking havoc can be detrimental to everyone.  Some countries allow the media to cash in on the tragedies that seem to captivate the minds of many.  This can be good, but it can also be very bad.  In the United States, our Constitution guarantees us freedom of press and freedom of speech, so we can count on many more shows, movies, and news reports regarding serial murder.  


Hickey, E. W. (n.d.) Serial Murderers and Their Victims. 4th ed. Mason: Cengage Learning

Enhanced by Zemanta

This is


Post a Comment

All comments and feedback appreciated!

Criminology & Justice Headline Animator


Law Books




Serial Killers



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...