Serial Killers in the U.S

Before we can discuss what serial killers do, we must first define what a
serial killer is. Some people might place serial killers into the same group as
mass murderers. This would be incorrect because they are two totally different
types of killers. While both of these individuals may kill many people, the
difference lies in the reason they kill and the period over which they kill
their victims. An event or a build up of circumstance triggers mass murderers
and causes them to act. This may be the result of a stressful situation or
frustration either at work or in their private lives. For whatever reason, they
may choose to use a weapon and kill people that they feel are responsible for
their prob-lems. They may also kill total strangers in a bid to get even with
whomever or whatever they feel wronged them. Whatever their reason, they are
usually cooperative and quite often docile if they survive the episode. It
seems that this one-time outburst of violence, once enacted, puts an end to any
future events of this type for that individual. While the mass killer may kill
many people in one attack, when the attack is over, their mission is complete.
The mass killer\'s victims may not be chosen for any other reason than being in
the wrong place at the wrong time.
Serial killers are a totally different and more dangerous threat to society.
They may not kill many people at one time, but they may kill for many years
without being detected. They are able to kill again and again without being
caught because they are careful in their choices of victims. They typically pick
victims who are vulnerable and un-able to defend themselves such as children,
the elderly or women. They also pick victims who will not be missed by society,
such as migrant workers, prostitutes, hitchhikers or homosexuals. They may even
pick victims based on specifics such as physical build or hairstyle.
Because of the fact that many serial killers may be mobile, similarities in
crime scenes may go undetected by law enforcement agencies. The nation\'s police
departments often lack the modern equipment and technology needed to track and
recognize connections between cases. It is generally accepted that many cases
of serial murder have not been reported because of lack of evidence or the
person murdered is never noticed to be missing.
The U. S. has had more than 150 documented cases of serial killers since
1800. Retired FBI analyst John Doug-las believes that at any one time, there
may be from 30 to 50 serial killers active in the U. S. Good locations for
serial killers include any city or area large enough to support prostitution,
drug cultures, runaway children or street people. They can and do operate
successfully in rural areas.
Serial killers were once considered a rarity. Even though reports in Europe
go back as far as the fifteenth century, only a few were written about prior to
the mid twentieth century. One of the most widely written about was Jack the
Ripper, who claimed only 5 victims in a three-month period. This would put him
in the bottom of the class by to-day\'s standards. During the past twenty years,
serial killings have become more frequent. We have even seen up to a half dozen
of their cases on the news simultaneously. Cases such as San Francisco\'s Zodiac
Killer; New York City\'s Son of Sam; Atlanta\'s child murderer, Wayne Williams;
Los Angeles\'s Hillside Strangler; and Milwaukee\'s own, Jeffrey Dahmer. Many
times, they fit into a pattern, but sometimes there is no pattern. The
phenomenon is world-wide, from England\'s Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe\'s
killing of 13 women prior to 1981, to Russia\'s Rostov Cannibal, Anderei
Chikatilo, who slaughtered and partially consumed at least 53 men and women over
a 12 year period prior to 1990.
It is hard to predict whether a person will become a serial killer. A set
of childhood characteristics believed by many to be symptoms of violent behavior
has been named the "McDonald Triad". Named after psychiatrist John M. McDonald,
it speculates that three factors in a person\'s childhood may determine violent
behavior. These three fac-tors presumably linked to homicidal behavior are
bedwetting, firesetting, and torture of small animals. There is evidence that
many serial killers have some or all of these factors in their past. The fact
remains, there are many people with symptoms of the McDonald Triad who do not
become serial killers; unfortunately some do. One of the Hillside Stranglers,
Kenneth Bianci, had a