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How to Describe a Crime Scene

People ask me why I use the terms “Organized,” “Disorganized” and “Mixed” for describing criminals. The practice dates to when I first began research into the mind of the killer. Then, I noticed that the behavioralists were using psychological jargon — “psychopaths,” “antisocial,” “sociopath” — to describe basically the same person. These terms were very confusing to me as well as to others in law enforcement.

At times, I couldn’t help but shake my head at some of the descriptions I heard. For example, one psychologist called Charles Manson a “psychopath.” Another psychologist described him as a “paranoid schizophrenic,” which is a psychotic disorder.

I never felt qualified to speak from the standpoint of a lot of doctors’ degrees and that kind of education. I’m in law enforcement. With crime profiling, I never felt we were qualified to use psychological terms — we have no business throwing diagnoses around.


Function terms

Instead of such ambiguous phrases, I decided to come up with functional terms that described the crime’s appearance: Organized, Disorganized or Mixed. That appearance reflects directly on the offender.

  • Organized. When I say a crime is organized, I generally mean it was premeditated. Little evidence is found at the scene. The subject carefully planned the crime to minimize risk and apprehension. Generally, the organized criminal is the anti-social personality. Someone who knows right from wrong. Someone who is not insane, who will show no remorse over his criminal acts.
  • Disorganized. In contrast, when I say disorganized, I’m referring to a crime or crime scene that shows little, if any, pre-planning on the part of the Unsub (unknown subject). The disorganized Unsub has a high risk of being identified and apprehended. Evidentiary items such as fingerprints, blood and semen are often found at the scene. In cases of rape and homicide the Unsub often utilizes a “blitz” style of attack that renders the victim unconscious or dead. The disorganization of the crime may indicate any or all of the following conditions: a youthful offender, the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, difficulty controlling the victim or mental illness.
  • Mixed. When I say mixed classification, I mean a case such as that of O.J. Simpson, where the crime scene appears to be very premeditated. The subject brings to the scene the weapon, gloves and a hat — premeditated. Yet the crime scene appears disorganized. The subject had a well-planned idea but did not expect to be confronted, as the subject was, in this case, by Ron Goldman. So he — O.J. — basically lost control over the situation so the crime’s ultimate appearance shifted from organized to disorganized.

When you look at some cases in the mixed category, you may be able to pick up more than one offender at the scene. For example, one part of the scene may appear to be very sophisticated and very organized, while other parts are in total disarray. This may indicate that two people participated in the act, operating in concert with one another.


Sharpest possible portrait

The use of such straightforward descriptions suits the work well. Criminal profiling, after all, is essentially a research function conducted from a law enforcement perspective. The best terminology is that which helps paint the sharpest possible portrait of the Unsub.

The simple and easy process that I use in all my cases is applicable in every crime of violence, including homicide, rape, child abduction, arson, bombing, product tampering and extortion.

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