Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

VICTIMOLOGY: THE STUDY OF VICTIMS IN CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

Method Of Approach

The method of approach is a term that refers to the offender's way of getting close to his victims (Turvey). It is useful to examine as it may provide many clues about the offender, such as his social skills, physical build, and ability to manipulate and charm. There are generally three methods of approach, described as con, surprise and blitz. These may occur singularly, or in conjunction with one of the other methods such as a con/blitz or surprise/blitz combination. While the terms are fairly self explanatory, a brief explanation of each will be given below, along with some examples of how they may be employed by an offender in a crime.

The "con" describes an offender who deceives a victim into believing an imaginary situation exists, with the intention of luring the victim into a more favorable position for the offender, or lowering the victim's guard to make the attack easier. One possible example of this type of behavior is the offender posing as a delivery or maintenance man to gain access to a house or other residence. The character of Buffalo Bill in the movie The Silence of the Lambs employed this method when he feigned a broken arm, thereby requiring help to move furniture, and luring the victim inside his van where he subdued her with the use of physical force. This behavior, while fictional in this instance, was actually employed by the serial murderer Ted Bundy. Through his study of psychology, Bundy had learned that people are more likely to come to the aid of someone with a physical handicap, and he subsequently began wearing a cast on his arm to assist him in the acquisition of victims.

The "surprise" approach is usually characterized by an offender laying in wait for his victim, then quickly subduing that person. The offender may wait for certain conditions to be met (such as allowing a car to pass, or allowing the victim to fall asleep), or may be relatively uncaring about the presence of eyewitnesses. This approach, too, may be combined with the blitz approach. An example of this approach would be where an offender hides in some bushes near a car park, waiting for a lone female to walk to her vehicle. While she waits near the car looking for her keys, the attacker walks up behind her and grabs her without her noticing his approach.

The "blitz" describes an approach where an offender rapidly and excessively uses force to quickly overcome the victim's defenses to get control of the situation. The problem with this is that it requires the use of force, therefore the blitz would most accurately be described as an attack (Turvey). Usually, the blitz will be preceded by a surprise approach, as in the example above. All of these methods describe the approach only, and not the subsequent attack, which is why it is difficult to apply the blitz style to the way the offender approaches the victim.

It may not be readily apparent strictly from the crime scene how the offender first approached the victim, though eyewitnesses or the victim, if alive, may be able to provide this information. It is important to know because an offender who manages to con a very suspicious and alert person could probably be deemed to have very good social skills. An offender who manages to surprise or blitz a 250-pound athlete may be described as physically fit or agile, or an offender who uses no verbal interaction at all and simply blitzes his victim may indicate that his social and verbal skills are poor. This will enable the profiler to be able to "paint a picture" of the offender's physical, verbal and social skills, and confirmed against other information might provide a viable lead or suspect in an ongoing case.

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