Serial Murder Requires Both a Reactive and Proactive Investigative Approach
Serial Murder Requires Both the Reactive and Proactive Approaches
The most convenient starting point for this present discussion is to explain the features of serial killers. In line with this, it is sufficient to note here that any individual who kills three or more victims, with emotional time breaks between such killings, is a serial killer. Often, these breaks (which are referred to as the cooling-off periods) normally range from days, and sometimes weeks or months between each killing. It may also be stated that serial killers are usually psychopathic. This implies that, even though they are very much aware of their criminality and are not out of touch with reality, they have a profound personality disorder. Street-wise, charming, intelligent and charismatic are the best adjectives for describing serial killers. Since the serial killers are usually mobile, they can travel any distance to search for certain type of victim. In addition, serial killers generally have the ability to "talk" their victims to a location where they can feel comfortable or safe (otherwise known as their comfort zones). Thus, serial killers are equally manipulative. The experience of murder is one of great pleasure to the serial killer because they feel that they have the power of life and death as well as a controlling power over their victims (Egger, 2001; Gerbert, 1990; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2011).
Due to the kind of challenges which serial murders present to criminal investigators, the phenomenon have become one of increasing concern in homicide investigation in recent years. In the criminal justice system and the community in general, the phenomenon of serial murder is attracting significant attention. Because the serial killer usually stalk and select their victims at random and have the capability of travelling long distances to kill their victims, they are especially frightening to the community (Egger, 2001; Brooks et al., 1987). How the criminal justice system should respond to these killers has been an issue of considerable discourse in recent years. In this paper, I will explain how both reactive and proactive investigative approach is necessary for investigating serial murder. In the materials that follow, emphasis will be on the concepts of reactive and proactive investigative approach as well as their applications to serial murder investigations.
Reactive vs. Proactive Approach to Investigation
The reactive and proactive policing are the major choice or strategies for investigating crime, particularly, serial murders. Generally speaking, when the police respond to public calls for help, they are said to applying the reactive approach. This approach has significant merit in that it affords the police an opportunity not only to operate openly but also to efficiently respond to real public demand with the consent of the public. Under this procedure, whenever the police personnel are not answering calls, they should participate in activities that deter wrongdoing, especially patrolling. It is necessary to note here that this is the traditional approach adopted by the police in many countries. Besides, by using information from the members of the public and through public cooperation, the police can easily detect and report crimes. However, this method of investigation has its flaws -- they can become inefficient in some situations since it may not be possible for the police to bump into criminals whether or not the criminal is on their way home from a burglary (Wright, 2002).
The proactive approach, on the other hand involves the targeting and surveillance of criminals in order to build up pictures of potential threats to piece or potential criminality. The aim is to identify and develop counter measures for preventing or solving crime via intensive gathering of vital information and intelligence. It is important to note here that such intelligence or information may or may not come from the general public. Since this form of policing is highly reliant on the analysis of crime patterns as well as information obtained from informants, it always requires the use of specialist squads such as the homicide, drug and the drug squads, and so on. This investigation approach has its shortcomings. First, because it is a secretive approach, it requires less accountability. Besides, there may be a greater possibility of selecting the targets out of prejudice (Wright, 2002).
It is however worth pointing out here that in reality, these two investigative or policing approaches are practiced at the same time. Besides, there are some degrees of compromise between these two investigative approaches. On the one hand, patrolling and reactive policing seemed to be an ineffective approach for handling serious or professional crime -- the type of crime that should be the target of proactive policing or investigation. On the other hand, only through visible patrols and reactive policing can address public tranquility and reassurance -- which are important goals of every society (Wright, 2002).
Having explained the concepts of reactive and proactive investigative or policing approach in this section, a natural question to ask at this point is this: how can these approaches is better for serial murder investigation? Before discussing this question, it may be worthwhile to first of all examine the databases that serve as the source of information needed for efficient application of each approach in murder investigation within the United States. This will be the topic of the following section.
The Key Databases for Reactive and Proactive Investigation
The first of these databases is the one known as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Popularly called the lifeline of law enforcement, the NCIC serves as an electronic clearing house for crime data -- a database which virtually every criminal justice agency in the United States can access at any time of the day or the year, particularly whenever they are engaged in either reactive or proactive investigation. The criminal justice professionals involved in both reactive and proactive investigation in the United States regularly use the data from NCIC to apprehend fugitives, recover stolen property, locate missing persons, and identify serial killers and terrorists. In addition to providing the law enforcement officers with the information necessary for protecting the general public, the NCIC equally assist them in performing their official duties more safely (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010).
Another crime database I will examine here is the one known as the Homicide Investigation Tracking System (HITC) -- a violent crime database program being used by the Office of the Attorney General in Washington State. With this system, the state can effectively track homicides and rapes especially those that relates to that state and the State of Oregon. The HITC equally receives crime and homicide data from at least three other states in U.S. As well as from Canada. In addition, using the HITC database, law enforcement agencies can have access to information on over 6000 murders and 7000 sexual assaults. Sometimes, the law enforcement agencies can even receive advice and assistance on ongoing investigations via HITC (Office of Attorney General, 2007).
Having premised these two key databases that can be used for both reactive and proactive investigations, I will now discuss whether or not serial murder investigation should require both approaches in the following section.
Applications of Reactive and Proactive Approaches to Serial Murder Investigations
Due to the position of the police department in terms of available resources and investigation professionals, serial murder often raises enormous challenges. Given that there may be neither an identifiable motive nor an initial recognition that a serial killer is operating, serial murderers are usually difficult to apprehend. As a result of this, the police department needs to be always alert to the identifiable characteristics of a serial killer. In addition, they need to regularly collect, collate, analyze as well as disseminate relevant data to appropriate groups or authorities. This they can do by the adoption of both the reactive and…