“Do Some Criminals Want to Get Caught?” I was researching criminals and whether or not on some level they want to get caught in their criminal career. At SAFE International, we teach that attackers generally do not want to get caught, so part of one’s self-defense response verbally or physically should include skills that address that. I began to question whether they want to get caught or not because we increasingly hear stories where people perform acts of violence where you think they must know they will likely die or, at a minimum, be seriously injured. And then we often read stories of the “World’s Dumbest Criminals” who take ridiculous chances or make seemingly stupid decisions which might cause us to think, they must want to be caught on some level. And then it appears in this age of immediate media coverage that they may do it for the fame they will receive even to the point they will risk being caught or killed.
So in this blog, I thought I would explore the thinking of a criminal regarding whether they might want to get caught on some subconscious or conscious level.
I found an excellent article by Stanton E. Samenow Ph.D. in which he states, “
I have been conducting psychological evaluations of offenders for 46 years. Not once have I found that an offender in any way, shape, or form desired to get caught. A detailed understanding of the thinking patterns that underlie criminal behavior leads to a completely different conclusion.”
As in many “careers,” killers/rapists start with a lack of experience initially. Hence, the details that go into planning a killing, rape, or whatever criminal act they engage in is quite detailed and meticulous. Initially, they are beginners who strategize who they will target, how they will implement their plan and where it will take place over and over in their head. You might be surprised how much thought and visualization goes into the planning of their violence. As athletes do nowadays, they play it repeatedly in their head, visualizing what they consider to be a success. They weigh the pros and cons until they feel they have a plan with very low risk of being caught. Is there any wonder why the person they target is at a disadvantage right from the outset of a possible attack. Once they experience the thrill and excitement of their violence, it becomes even more critical to continue this trail of violence without getting caught because quite simply put, if they get caught, the thrill of their violence stops. They might experience the same violence on them if they were to go to jail. Now the amount of time between attacks may be days, weeks, months, or years. Subsequent attacks then take place based on past experiences and their success to have a formula for success in their minds. You can compare it to how many run a business where they set their goals, how they will achieve those goals, and evaluate the results of those goals, but in this case, it is the business of violence.
Some may not like my use of the word career, but for most attackers, it is approached like a business activity that takes place over the years, with one looking for areas to advance their goals. I also like to use the word career to emphasize how criminals take it as seriously as one might a job career. If we understand how seriously attackers approach violence, we are more likely to increase our knowledge base on violence and how to deal with it.
For some, they make what we would view as careless, even reckless decisions, but they are still not expecting to get caught in their minds. Their continued success breeds apathy, much like most people feel about themselves falling victim to violence. An excellent example of this reckless decision making can be seen in an article written by Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. where he says about serial killer Joel Rifkin who was a serial killer in New York State where he murdered 17 prostitutes in the 1990s,
“Rifkin was unexpectedly and unceremoniously caught when his Mazda pickup truck was pulled over by a state trooper for having no rear license plate. Upon approaching the truck, the state trooper smelled the unmistakable stench of death and discovered the decomposing body of Rifkin’s final victim under a tarp in the back of the truck. When questioned about the corpse, Rifkin coldly replied, “She was a prostitute. I picked her up on Allen Street in Manhattan. I had sex with her. Then things went bad, and I strangled her. Do you think I need a lawyer?”
So what are we to take from all of this? Understanding how much effort goes into planning attacks shows you why everyone must learn some basic knowledge of how attackers/rapists think. Also, learning some basic strategies on identifying, avoiding, or dealing with potential violence may be the difference between life and death.
Managing Director, SAFE International