Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods


Method Of Attack

The method of attack refers to the offender's mechanisms for initially overpowering a victim once he has made his approach (Turvey). It is generally not appropriate to use the terms "con" and "surprise" here, as they are not really suited to describing attacks.

The method of attack is probably best described in relation to the degree of force used and the presence of any weapons and their role in the attack. The attack may range from mild (such as verbal threats) to severe (overwhelming physical assault with the excessive use of a weapon). The method of attack may not immediately follow the approach; for example, if the offender is interrupted or the victim escapes momentarily. In any situation though, the method of approach and the method of attack should be examined as separate to one another, then as a combination together to provide a sequence of events and context information.

Masters cites the following example of a crime committed by Jeffrey Dahmer to illustrate the method of approach and the method of attack. On the 20th of May, 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer met Raymond Smith at the 219 Tavern. Dahmer approached him and offered him $50 to come back to his place for sex. This is the method of approach and could most accurately be described as a con. Dahmer used a ruse or ploy to get the prospective victim to lower his guard and follow him back to his apartment. When they arrived back about 3.00 a.m., Smith stated that he would not be staying long for fifty dollars, and Dahmer asked him to stay the night. Smith said it would cost a lot more, and was assured that he would get the rest in the morning. Dahmer went into the kitchen where he mixed up a concoction of alcohol and sleeping tablets. Within half an hour, Smith was unconscious and Dahmer strangled him on the floor. Even though the victim was unconscious, this still constitutes the attack, and in this case, is best described as a blitz.

The method of attack is vital to understand what an offender is capable of and what he is comfortable with in a given environment, with a given victim (Turvey). These issues have implications in many areas such as with future victims. Say for instance, in examining the method of approach and attack of one offender over a series of attacks that we can determine the offender was reluctant to use force against the victims, and showed overall concern for their welfare. It may mean that they genuinely do not want to hurt their victims, and that the safety of further victims may not be in jeopardy. In examining the method of approach and attack of another offender, we can see that he is taking progressively greater risks and using more force against each victim, including using a weapon in later attacks. The safety of subsequent victims of this offender is in question given the escalation of violence in the attacks.