Most crime scenes tell a story and just like any story, it has characters, plot, beginning, middle and the conclusion. Investigators are involved in the last part and their work is to understand the dynamics of a crime, which means to analyze and interpret activities of an offender prior to, during and after a criminal act. This activity is called “behavior,” and the process is termed “Criminal behavior Analysis.” The end of this story depends on the investigator’s ability to analyze criminal behavior and a significant advantage of this instrument is, that in hands of a skilled analyst it can be done whether the offender is identified or not.
In order to ensure, that the conclusion will be satisfactory, the investigator must realize, that the outcome of criminal behavior analysis depends on the insights into the dynamics of a human behavior. That is, their verbal and nonverbal gestures, writing styles, speech patterns and other traits that shape the human behavior. The cumulation of characteristics cause the individual act in an unique way and those behavioral specifics usually remains consistent in time even in various kinds of activities.
Since the commission of a criminal act involves dynamics of an average human behavior, the ability to recognize behavioral manifestations will help analysts find out more about the offender. It will also help distinguish between different offenders within the same types of criminal act.
When conducting criminal behavior analysis, the following manifestations left at the crime scene are taken into account: Modus Operandi, Crime Scene Signature, Depersonalization, Staging, Undoing Behavior, Ritual Behavior. In this article I will overview some of them briefly.
Within the context of criminal behavior analysis, M.O. is used to find out all the behaviors, which are requisites to a particular offender and are initiated by him/her in order to successfully commit a crime without being identified. M.O. can be a very complex or quite simple, depending on the type of offense, motivation, experience and intelligence of a perpetrator. However, Douglas and Munn (1992) observed, that the M.O. is dynamic and adaptable and gradually develops, as the offender gains experience and confidence in his/hers patterns of behavior. Let’s see a few examples for illustration.
Imagine a novice burglar, who shattered a window in order to access house for obvious reasons. Fearing, that the sound will cause attention of people, he/she is forced to limit time. Next time, he will attempt to gain access to the house with the instruments in order to force unlock the door, it will minimize the noise and in result will give him/her more time to get more profitable haul and decrease the risk of getting caught.
A19 year old rapist, who did not use condom at the crime scene was caught because of DNA evidence. When he came out of prison, he raped someone again, but in this case he wore a condom. From the first victim he stole a radio, TV and a notebook, while in the second case he stole only jewelery. In some cases offenders admitted, that they were reading a professional literature on their crimes of choice.
Forces, that are not under control of the offender, can also influence the manner, in which the criminal act is committed. In the “First Floor Rapist” case the offender was used to rape those, who lived on the first floor. However, the 17-th rape was executed on the second floor. The investigator concluded, that the last rape was committed by another criminal and he was mislead, because he did not take into the consideration, that the offender was unable to locate the victim on the ground floor or the window was secured, so he had to carry out his intent on the second floor.
However, not all aspects of Modus Operandi are subject to change. If a particular act worked well for an offender, he is likely to repeat it in future crimes. As each behavior is being repeated over a number of situations, the offender becomes more familiar and learns better to predict outcomes of them. And those repeated behaviors give offender a sense of familiarity and control, that gives him/her possibility to focus more on the execution of intent.
In this part of an article we can conclude, that there are some aspects of criminal behavior, that are not subject to change, but not taking into account MO’s dynamic nature may lead to failure. It is the task of those, who are carrying out criminal behavior analysis, find out what aspect of behavior will likely change and what – not.
Ritual Behavior&Crime Scene Signature
Sometimes a violent, repetitive offender shows aspects of behavior, which are unnecessary for execution of a criminal intent. These kind of behaviors often express fantasies of a perpetrator and are primary motivators for commission of a crime. Those are symbolic, not functional and highly individualized.
Violent offenders very often are broody and daydreamers. After time passes, they develop a need to express their fantasies and commit a criminal act. And finally, when they carry out their intent, some elements of their behavior demonstrate an unique, personal expression of their fantasies. Very often a commission does not satisfy needs of an offender and they carry out actions, which goes beyond the scope of a criminal activity and looks like a ritual. When those rituals are displayed at the crime scene, the offender leaves “calling card”, which is highly individualized.
When crime scenes reveal unusual offender input or peculiar characteristics during commission of a crime, calling card/signature aspect is manifested.
For example, a rapist may reveal his signature when expressing his domination, manipulation and control during verbal, physical, or sexual stage of crime. Preparation of a script for a victim to repeat, the use of excessively abusive, vulgar language represents a verbal signature. For example, a constant repetition of questions like “tell me how good I am at it”, “tell me, that you want more” is a verbal signature.
Unlike MO, a signature aspect is not dynamic and does not change. However, the original signature may develop in time. It also does not always show up because of unexpected occurrences like unexpected response of a victim or interruptions.
While implementing criminal behavior analysis, the investigators must be able to analyze crime scenes and understand human behavior’s dynamics. Having ability to recognize different manifestations of human behavior, investigators will be able to ask right questions in order to get valid answers.
If investigators approach crime scenes with awareness of these factors, they will steadily get better in reading true story and will get better equipped to arrest offender.