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Criminal Justice Theories And Criminological Ideologies

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For many years, people have studied the patterns and lives of serial killers in the effort to establish how they're created. In the 1980's, the mythology of serial killers became to be known to the public through the F.B.I. and the media (Lecture, 9/8/2005). As a society, we often wonder if the idea behind serial killers is just a myth, or if in fact reality. The purpose of this argument is to analyze the "serial killer" myth in America and explain it through four imperative criminological theories.

Through our class lectures, we have learned that, "serial killers have set a particular image that is a myth." And also, "serial killers are outside strangers and we need to do everything within our power to stay away from them" (Lecture, 9/8/2005). As a society, we need to take into account that "serial killers provide the most graphic illustration of dangerous outsiders" (K&P, 91). This would lead us to the question of whether or not serial killers do in fact commit random murders. For example, could it be one who would wait in a park and kill a random person or do we actually know the murderer? Thus being someone who we associate with on a daily basis, such as the person we talk to each morning at the bus stop or gas station on our way to work. The myth of serial killers also states that "serial killers are peculiar individuals, they are out to 'get' everybody" (Lecture, 9/8/2005).

In past history, the media didn't focus their perceptions of information on serial murders. When they did shift their focus on serial killers, the rates of murders of serial killers became public around 1984 and 1985. Were the citizens of America concerned with this information? Were they afraid, or even know about such a thing as a "serial killer" or "serial murder"? In 1984, Life Magazine printed an article stating that "serial murder as an almost uniquely American problem" (K&P, 79). Were the American people not simply afraid, because of the fact that they didn't want to believe that there was such a thing known to them as a "serial killer" myth, or because they in fact did believe in such a thing as a "serial murder" and didn't know how to face the reality of the fact? Maybe in fact serial murders were a bigger problem than what it was first portrayed to be from the media. Newsweek magazine printed an article during this time period that stated "as many as two-thirds of the estimated 5,000 unsolved homicides in the nation each year may be committed by serial murderers" (K&P, 79). This put a twist on the serial killer myth because in fact the rates really weren't all that low after all. As the question of, "what is considered low for rates of serial murders", I can only assume that now the people (American citizens) did in fact have a reason to believe in the serial killer myth, or in the very least take some time to really think about what it meant to them. From classroom lecture, we have also studied learned that approximately 2%-3% of homicides in the U.S. are due to serial killings; essentially one in 10,000 homicides are the result of a serial killer (Lecture 9/8/2005). Kappeler and Potter's statement can justify the fact that the news media can be very biased, therefore making people believe in the fact that either there is such a thing as serial killers, or in fact it's just a myth. They (Kappeler and Potter), state that "the nature and quality of reporting is likely to change over the years, while newspapers concentrate on what is likely to interest a local readership" (K&P, 81). Whether it's just newspapers or the media in general, all forms of mass media do in fact have the ability to interest its local readership.

The whole idea of serial murders has only been well known for about 20 years now, however, there are theories of crime that have been well known for over 150 years that we can use to analyze such a myth as serial killers. One such theory that would help us better understand the concept of whether or not that the idea of serial killings is just a myth would be that of Cesare Lombroso, "who developed his own ideological idea of the positivist theory or crime, which explains that crime is caused or determined" (C&A, 5). Lombroso suggests, "most criminals are in fact born criminals" (Lecture, 9/8/2005). As you could attempt to classify a person into the "serial killer" category, Lombroso suggested the reason for being able to classify such individuals, was the result of biological differences between "criminals" and "normal individuals". Lombroso claimed that "criminals are not as evolved as other individuals: they are savages in the midst of modern society" (Ferrero in C&A, 23). Is there really such a way to label a serial killer? Through outside research, I found that the "politically correct" definition of "serial killer", derived from the F.B.I., is first; "how many victims there are (at least two or three), and that there needs to be a 'cooling-off' period, and/or the fantasy reenactment cycle are the most important component" to the definition (Serial Killer Typology, p.3). In this sense, I assume then that you can't actually label a serial killer, and Lombroso is correct regarding the issues of biological differences of the criminals. Those biological differences that Lombroso had studied allowed him to hypothesize in fact that it was biological anomalies that made him suspect criminal tendencies. Of those 2%-3% of homicides that were mentioned earlier in this argument, Lombroso suggests, "born criminals form about one third of the mass of offenders...the other two thirds are composed of criminaloids" (C&A, 24). What this statement means, is that of the one third that Lombroso is suggesting to, they belong to a "criminal army" because "they are constantly appearing before the public and also because the crimes committed by them are of a peculiarly monstrous character"(C&A, 24). The remaining two thirds, are those who we as a society, wouldn't think twice about as being a serial killer. Lombroso labels them as, "criminaloids" or minor offenders, "who do not show such a marked degree of diversity from normal persons" (C&A, 24). Lombroso strongly felt that criminals were anything but normal and lived in their own state of mind. As a result of Lombroso's theory of criminality, it has "helped lay the foundation for what is known as the 'positive school' of criminology" (C&A, 18). Through the "positive school" of criminology, we have learned crime is not the result of "free-will"; it is ultimately due to underlying

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