By Andy Kahan
In my capacity as Director of Victim Services and Advocacy for Crime Stoppers of Houston I regularly make presentations on the issue of serial killers profiting from crime to civic groups, victim service organizations and universities.
For the most part the public has heard of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez and David Berkowitz. All of them and many others continue to achieve infamy and immortality they richly don’t deserve yet remain household names due to the nature of their crimes. Some live on via movies (My friend Dahmer), Netflix (Bundy Tapes), Documentary’s, True Crime Blogs and books. The stark reality is true crime is panache and definitely in vogue. For full disclosure even I am featured in two Netflix series appropriately titled ‘Nurses who Kill’ and ‘Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer’. Usually, I speak on behalf of those who can no longer speak for themselves thanks to the actions of serial killers.
The heightened era of the serial killers who in the `1970’s and 80’s obtained via the media cool catchy nicknames like the ‘Killer Clown, Son-of-Sam, Co-ed Killer, Night Stalker, BTK, Green River Killer and Sunday Morning Slasher does indeed to be over. Now from my perspective Mass Murderers and School Shooters appear to this generations claim to fame. Think about it: Who is the last serial killer you can easily name that captured and raptured the attention of the American public. I am fairly certain most of the public has no clue of The Grim Sleeper Samuel Little---Blimey- he doesn’t even have a decent nickname or The Golden State Killer. Heck even I couldn’t tell you who they are without Googling them. So the obvious question is why the demise of the serial killer and the rise of Mass Murderers and School Shooters. First of all and primarily, technology of course has played a major factor in reducing the ability of serial killers to roam around picking off victims while going undetected. Communication between law enforcement evolved where agencies regularly communicate with each other regarding unsolved homicides. Cameras on practically every street corner also reduces the ability of wannabe serial killers. Other factors likely involved in the serial killer drop-off are longer prison sentences, reduction of parole, 911 and of course cell phones. We definitely have more experts in fields like DNA and forensic sciences and shows like CSI have played a major role in reducing the ability of a serial killer to thrive and accumulate victims. In plain English, serial killers can’t get away with racking up multiple victims in this day and age.
In the new era of homicidal behavior, it appears if you want to be ‘known’ one must be a mass murderer and or a school shooter. School shootings for the most part burst onto the American scene with Columbine in 1999. There were some before in Kentucky and Arkansas but until Columbine it really didn’t become a ‘national crisis’. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold still have name recognition and resonate with some who idolize them. We all know about the Virginia Tech Massacre, Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas and Santa Fe amongst sadly many others.
Texas has had at least three mass shootings in the past few years including two in the last two months in which victims were picked off by one shooter shopping and the other one drove around targeting random victims. Las Vegas had a deranged killer gunning down helpless victims from his hotel, a black church in Charleston, a synagogue in Pittsburg and San Diego, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, an Army base in Texas, a movie theater in Colorado a nightclub in Orlando and on and on with recent timely examples of mass shootings. Mass and school shootings sadly have become so part of our new norm it seems like almost daily all of us are saying ‘thoughts and prayers’. Children are afraid to go to school where active shooter drills have become incorporated into the curriculum. When I go to public venues I am constantly scouring for exit routes and suspicious characters. Like it or not this is reality in the so-called land of the free and brave. Mass and School shootings occur in every part of our country: The harsh stark reality is there are no more safe havens anymore. Like it or not there are truly evil people in the world who could care less about your well-being and living. Here’s to the new norm in which serial killers are a dying breed but like in evolution a new and more evolved killing species has taken over in the killing food chain.
As the immortal iconic witty and still relevant satirist Tom Lehrer would sardonically croon ‘Who’s next, who’s next’---Sadly, we all know there will be a ‘who’s next’
Just my little ole perspective
Copyright 2019 by Andy Kahan. All Rights Reserved
Andy Kahan is the Director of Victim Services & Advocacy at Crime Stoppers of Houston