Profiling Prevention and Investigation

Week 5: Profiling—Prevention and Investigation

Law enforcement is effective for solving most murder cases. However, serial and mass murderers are the exceptions. In serial murder cases, murderers continue to terrorize the public and commit a significant number of murders before they are apprehended. The BTK killer, for example, evaded arrest for more than 30 years. During this time, he killed at least 10 people and taunted law enforcement by writing letters to the media.


Given that law enforcement encounters difficulty in apprehending serial and mass murderers, there is considerable interest in trying to prevent serial and mass murderers from developing in the first place. Criminal profilers are at the forefront of this movement by using their expertise to help guide and inform prevention programs for serial and mass murderers. Criminal profilers also provide specific details to law enforcement about serial and mass murderers that otherwise would be unknown, should they strike. This enables law enforcement to narrow their list of suspects. This week, you consider the use of profiling in the prevention of serial and mass murders. You also explore how profiling is used to address challenges encountered by law enforcement in the criminal investigation of serial and mass murders.


Learning Objectives

Students will:

Analyze the use of profiling in the prevention of serial and mass murders

Analyze challenges related to the criminal investigation of serial and mass murderers

Apply profiling to address challenges related to the criminal investigation of serial and mass murderers

Identify and apply the role of profiling in the prevention and investigation of serial and mass murders








Discussion: Prevention

The goal of a criminal profiler is to create profiles of serial and mass murderers to help law enforcement track down and apprehend them. Criminal profilers also are integral in preventing serial and mass murders by identifying risk factors of individuals who commit these crimes. As a result, the incidence of serial murders can be reduced. For example, if childhood abuse is a risk factor in the development of serial murderers, preventing childhood abuse might lead to a reduction in the number of serial murderers. Some prevention programs use details about the causes of crime gleaned from criminal profilers to develop and implement effective violence prevention programs. Therefore, criminal profilers not only work to aid law enforcement agents in crime solving, but also help social service professionals prevent violence, including serial and mass murders.


To prepare for this Discussion:


Review the article “Etiology of the Psychopathic Serial Killer: An Analysis of Antisocial Personality Disorder, Psychopathy, and Serial Killer Personality and Crime Scene Characteristics.” Focus on how identifying risk factors associated with serial murderers can be used to help prevent the development of serial murderers.

Review the video clip, “Crime Scene: The Virginia Tech Massacre.” Consider the warning signs exhibited by the mass murderer and how these warning signs, if used timely by the police and the investigators, could have prevented this mass murder.

Review the serial or mass murderer that you created for the Discussion in Week 1. If you need to, you may add additional details about the murderer.

Think about some of the characteristics you would include in the murderer’s profile and how they might inform prevention efforts.

With these thoughts in mind:

Post a brief profile of the serial or mass murderer you selected. Then explain how you might use specific aspects of the profile to develop prevention efforts of serial and mass murders. Be specific and use examples to illustrate your explanation.


Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.



DISCUSSION WEEK #1 Serial Killer and Mass Murderer

A serial killer entails a person who assassinates three or more individuals within a period exceeding a month, with resting time between murders. In this case, the murders are separate events that result from a psychological pleasure or thrill (Holmes & Holmes, 2009). Serial killers lack guilt and empathy, becoming egocentric individuals. The killers remain psychologically motivated and organized to commit murder. Serial killers employ a sanity mask to appear charming and ordinary while hiding their actual psychopathic tendencies. For instance, Ted Bundy was an appealing serial killer who methodically planned out murder (Stone, 2019). He would fake injuries to seem harmless to victims. He committed about thirty murders between 1974 and 1978 before his capture.

Mass murderers slay many people, usually at the same time, within a single location. For instance, James Holmes attacked and shot at a Colorado movie theater (Allely, 2020). As a result, he injured fifty-eight people and twelve individuals, making him a mass murderer. A psychiatry professor from Columbia argues that mass murderers comprise dissatisfied people with few friends and poor social skills. Generally, mass murderers’ motives are less apparent compared to serial killers. Professor Stone claims that males facilitate most mass murder cases, with most of them lacking clinical psychotic. Instead of remaining a sociopath like serial killers, mass murderers are distrustful persons with acute social and behavioral syndromes. Comparable to serial assassins, mass murderers exhibit psychopathic inclinations, including being uncompassionate, cruel, and manipulative. Nevertheless, most mass assassins are loners or social nonconformists whose actions result from triggers by some overpowering events.

Generally, mass murderers and serial killers often demonstrate similar manipulation characteristics and lack of empathy. Factors that distinguish the two involve the sum of murders as well as timing. Mass murderers assassinate people in a single time frame and location. On the other hand, serial killers often murder in different places and over a long period.



Allely, C. S. (2020). The contributory role of psychopathology and inhibitory control in the case of mass shooter James Holmes. Aggression and violent behavior, 51, 101382.

Holmes, R. M., & Holmes, S. T. (2009). Profiling violent crimes: An investigative tool (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Stone, M. H. (2019). The place of psychopathy along the spectrum of negative personality types. In Psychoanalysts, psychologists and psychiatrists discuss psychopathy and human evil (pp. 82-105). Routledge.

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