Profilers must be having a bad time of it. For years experts from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit headquartered at Quantico, VA have been asked to assist local law enforcement agencies around the country and overseas with certain crimes, especially when they involve lethal serial offenders. They also handle federal investigations and since 9/11, we must assume they have been essential to identifying characteristics that would predispose individuals to engage in acts of terror. Even though the term profiler is not an actual title, it is one lay people use when referring to the behavioral scientists who provide these essential insights into the probable traits of someone capable of such crimes. This help is usually invited in and greatly appreciated as it has been proven very helpful in solving tough cases. In other words, they are good at what they do.
However, more recent cases seem to be changing what we have always believed about serial rapists, murders and terrorists. In the past they were often described as unmarried, loners, not known to neighbors or co-workers, were considered anti-social and often described as odd.
Then we began to experience a paradigm shift. There was the BTK killer who was married, active in his church and well-known in his community. We also had the Boston Marathon bombings, where the younger perpetrator was an American citizen, a college student, had many friends and was out-going and well-liked. There was the 16 year old CT boy who killed a female friend after she turned down his invitation to the prom. Just this past week a popular high school freshman, football player and newly elected Prom Prince walked into his high school cafeteria and shot and killed several students and ended up dying from a gunshot wound that may or not have been self-inflicted. Everyone was stunned and they are all asking why.
These are only a representation of the many cases in recent years that have left people in disbelief that someone they thought they knew, someone who seemed so normal—could do such a thing. Profilers must be scrambling to come up with new insights and applications that will help them to find something that sets this new breed of monster apart from the rest of us. What do these otherwise normal offenders have in common that makes them different? Is there something in particular that sets them off and ignites a dark side that only they can see? Or are they set off by unique and highly individual triggers that lead them to such inhumane choices?
Perhaps social media will give us our best clues going forward. In many of these cases, it was found out later that the person had been setting off alarms in their writings, particularly on social media accounts. However, it is neither practical nor desirable for our government to be monitoring the personal writings of its citizens. Therefore, the responsibility may end up falling to the rest of us; friends, family, loved ones and even acquaintances–to notice, to question and even to pass along to someone who could intervene and save not just one life, but the lives of anyone who may be unfortunate enough to cross the path of someone who is driven by unseen demons to kill.