“The taste of death that lives within
He loves it when he
Tastes their final breath
Stalking gives him pleasure
Killing is the final act
He takes no pity
With his lust for death.”
—-’Psycho Man’, Ozzy Osbourne
The recent arrest of the notorious Golden State Killer, a man now identified as 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo Jr, caused the resurfacing of our society’s recurrent predations by serial killers.
DeAngelo operated for over a decade, from the 1970s to the 1980s, terrorizing parts of California with his ten murders and 46 known rapes. Citizens began changing the locks on their doors, buying guard dogs and arming themselves as the Golden State Killer, a former police officer, remained one step ahead of authorities for over thirty years.
While me may not like to think about it, there has always been a subculture within society fascinated by serial killers but their thankfully infrequent exploits often leave more questions than answers, with one of these interrogatives being ‘How many serial killers are currently out there?’
Murder is in the Eye of the Beholder
Live Science writes that the answer depends on who you ask.
Thomas Hargrove, the founder of the Murder Accountability Project, has conducted research focused on counting the number of incidents in which one murder linked to one suspect may be linked to at least one additional killing and contained a ‘cooling off’ period between the two or more slayings. Hargrove worked with FBI documents and DNA evidence to establish his criteria.
Using this criteria Hargrove estimated that there are at this moment as many as 2,000 serial killers at large, which would mean that of the current 220,000 unsolved murders in this country, two percent may be due to serial killers.
Another researcher, Kenna Quinet, from Indiana University-Purdue University used evidence gathered by law enforcement and investigative journalists to arrive at the number of individuals linked to at least three murders.
With this metric, Quinet arrived at 625 possible serial killers dwelling within American society.
A more conservative estimate was deduced by Radford University psychology professor Mike Aamodt, who has estimated that there are most likely 30 serial killers operating at present.
Deadly Ebbs and Flows
Aamodt noted to Live Science that the quota of killers in society ebbs and flows for no apparent reason. For instance, the modern high water mark of serial killings took place during the 1980s, when the professor asserts that around 145 predators hunted their human prey seemingly indiscriminately.
The Golden State Killer’s barrage of rapes and murders began in a gold mining area east of Sacramento in 1976. By 1986, it seemed to have stopped. Why? https://t.co/eZ16OjjUXR
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 28, 2018
Part of the problem thirty years ago was that criminal forensics and law enforcement technology were not as advanced as today.
Then there was the age old problem that continues to impede investigations to this day: ‘linkage blindness’.
It appears to be the nature of most law enforcement officials to jealously guard their investigations, leads and evidence. The penultimate manifestation of this tendency was a leading cause of federal agencies being unable to piece together clues that may have stopped the atrocities on 9/11.
Live Science writes that “homicide detectives are assigned single cases, and unless one happens to chat with a colleague who has a very similar case on his or her docket, those cases are unlikely to be linked.”
Hargrove explained that, “If the murders occur at separate jurisdictions, such conversations never happen.”
The FBI has its Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), which collects data and DNA on crimes cross the nation. Despite this extensive database being accessible to all law enforcement, most state and local agencies do not tap into it.
The United States, according to the FBI, has the lowest percentage of solved murder cases in the Western World.
Only 59 percent of homicides are resolved, but far worse is this nation’s record on solving cases of rape (36.5 percent) and robbery (29.6 percent)
Hargrove writes that insufficient “funding for detectives and technicians keeps police from solving many murders.”
Also adding to the poor performance is the increasing oversight and censuring of police officers operating in a society that sees them more as a threat than as servants of public order.