The Craze and Fads of Infamous Crimes and Killers

Currently, the top issue in most security or law enforcement publications and websites is the threat of active shooters. Since the horrific murders at Sandy Hook Elementary, the public’s attention has also been drawn back to the topic of active shooters.

Active shooters have certainly become the “crime du jour.” The danger in this is that other would-be murderers will fantasize about mass shootings as the way to carry out some high-publicity and hideous crime. If you look back at past decades, it seems that other trends in crimes have captivated the public and most likely, in some cases, attracted the criminal mind to that particular offense in a search for notoriety.

In the 1930’s, bootleggers and gangsters of the likes of Al Capone filled the headlines. After prohibition, some of the most famous criminals were known for bank robberies and the willingness to shoot it out with police – eventually only to be on the losing end, such as Bonnie and Clyde or John Dillinger.

In the 1960’s, killers turned to assassination as the means to build a name for themselves and garner attention. Some of the assassinations of the period remain the most notorious and well-known today, such as Martin Luther King, Robert and John Kennedy.

The decade of the 70’s saw a move into hijackings as a way to get attention and try to build attention around a cause. The decade also brought us some infamous serial killers, such as Ted Bundy. Throughout the 80’s, serial killers struck fear with the likes of Dennis Rader, as the Bind/Torture/Kill (BTK) killer and Jeffery Dahmer, who was known for necrophilia and even eating his victims.

The 1990’s brought us Columbine and one of the more heinous cases of an active shooter. Since then, we’ve seen many forms of mass murder from China, Norway and in the U.S. Churches, hospitals, Amish schools and colleges have all been targets, culminating most recently in Sandy Hook.

Of course, this is hardly a scientific analysis of criminal mindsets. Many of these criminals tracked the news stories about what they had done or had left messages stating that they hoped to top the last major violent crime with more death and destruction left behind.

This criminal evolution or progression will undoubtedly continue. There is an old saying that generals try to re-fight the last war. It is important to be alert to new tactics that killers may use to commit the latest hideous and disgusting crime to top the charts…at least until the next one after that.

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email


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