Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation Research Grant Application


The proposed project is a continuation of a systematic analysis conducted by Yaksic (2015) where it was discovered that research on atypical homicide is complicated by variations in definition, sample size, data sources and collection procedures. Almost three decades ago, Kiger (1990) highlighted the limitations of employing then existing data to study the social problem of serial murder and called for the creation of new sources to allow for quantitative assessments that used empirical data. In response, atypical homicide researchers that previously operated in ‘information silos’ were encouraged to contribute data to the Radford Serial Killer Database Project to build a comprehensive record of serial homicide offending. An ongoing data sharing initiative was also organized with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavioral Analysis Unit 5 and the Homicide Investigation Tracking System of the Washington State Attorney General's Office. Statistical evidence generated from these databases enables analysts to disprove ingrained myths and stereotypes about serial murderers. The broad term ‘multiple-event murderer’ was adopted after a Delphi expert panel proposed reconceptualizing mass, spree and serial murderers together under atypical homicide. This approach permits researchers to pursue knowledge unburdened by disagreement on time intervals between homicides or discordance about the shared methods and motives within each subset of offenders.
The primary outcome of the proposed research will be the creation of an electronic surveillance tool to detect and track instances of crime indicative of burgeoning atypical homicide offenders. One aim of the study is to supplant the underutilized Violent Criminal Apprehension Program as only 5,000 entries were made to the system which equals less than half of expected submissions. To ensure optimal functionality of the dashboard interface, the root causes of serial violence and aggression must be understood and codified for the program to effectively pinpoint factors symptomatic of the modern day atypical killer. To this end, a team of raters from Northeastern University’s Atypical Homicide Research Group will objectively assign a probability score to each offense, ranking the likelihood that a crime is part of an offender’s overarching design. This objective will be completed in the early stages of training a computing cluster to recognize acts that are potentially part of a larger criminal pattern. The cluster will be tested and implemented at three law enforcement organization pilot sites which will feed offender information directly into future iterations of the dashboard. Locating instances of burgeoning atypical homicide offenders of any type will surely lead to the discovery of others because mass, spree and serial murderers advance through similar pathways. Mass homicide is an urgent problem in the modern world but efforts are dedicated to funding programs aimed at predicting instances of terrorism or addressing fatal shootings by police. Financing for the aforementioned methodologies is unavailable through other sources due to decreased attention and support. This project may be the commencement of how we will learn to control violence and aggression by intervening at strategic points over the larger scope of an offender’s activities and will improve upon the extant literature by introducing the field of atypical homicide research to concepts from the realm of computer science.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Blurb for Arntfield and Danesi's Upcoming Book "Murder in Plain English: From Manifestos to Memes - Looking at Murder Through the Words of Killers"

“In Murder in Plain English, we accompany Arntfield and Danesi— pioneers of literary criminology—on an exciting odyssey to establish an ├╝ber-tale that explains the motives and meanings of murder by binding fictional, forensic, and psychiatric domains. The authors deconstruct symbolic and imaginary interactions between public and private statements, writings, and expressive artifacts of serial and mass murderers; they arrive forthwith at vivid character archetypes and compelling narrative typologies. Arntfield and Danesi shepherd us by way of a revelatory humanistic approach through an exploration of homicide as a means to understand ourselves. They expertly exploit the multiple murderers’ desires to both document and rationalize their crimes, with diatribes discovered by the authors to be distorted teaching moments on an imagined stage. By grounding the comprehension of murder in the human experience, Arntfield and Danesi investigate a phenomenon at the intersection of historical, social, and emotional contexts. Since the days of Cain and Abel and the tragedies of Greek literature, untangling the connection between tales and real-life homicides delivers us to a period overrun by modern suburbia’s mass media. We are transported through dark fables and fairytales while unraveling the threads of Shakespeare’s, Edgar Allan Poe’s, and Alfred Hitchcock’s influence on megalomaniacs and their utterances. Detailed within these pages are the delusional omnipresence of Charles Manson, the cryptographic messages of the Zodiac, the satanic scrawlings of the Night Stalker, the intelligible ramblings of the Unabomber, the sanitized prose of Dennis Rader, and the lurid disorientations of the Son of Sam. The anonymity provided by social-media forums and chat rooms is now usurped by similar offenders spreading their vapid hatred across the memescape. Reliance on words, linguistic mannerisms, and the lexicon produced by these offenders contributes to a sense of urgency to unveil the linkage between the inborn ‘murder instinct’ and limbic triggers. Here, Arntfield and Danesi demonstrate immense foresight in translating the multiple murderers’ inherent ritualistic behaviors into stories, narrative mechanisms that reveal more about homicide than any scientific theory and that may allow criminologists to develop a predictive early-warning modeling system to put ourselves out of business for good.”