From time to time, we read about “senseless” crimes. These are crimes for which there seems to be no identifiable motive such as lust, revenge, or greed. Such a crime occurred in Duncan, Oklahoma last summer when two men followed a student from Australia while he was jogging, chased him down with their car, and shot him. The reason they gave was that they were bored and wanted to kill someone.
A recent news report related that newlyweds in Pennsylvania desired to kill someone just for thrills. Through Craigslist, the new bride enticed a man by promising companionship in exchange for money. Forty-two year old Troy LaFerrara responded to Miranda Barbour’s ad and met her in a parking lot. He was stabbed to death. The couple then went out to dinner to celebrate their three week wedding anniversary.
If one understands the criminal mind, it becomes apparent that much of what criminals do is for excitement. This is not the excitement that a surfer experiences as he rides a mountainous wave. It is not the excitement that a person on a zip line enjoys as he whips through the jungle. It is the high voltage of doing what is forbidden, illegal, something that others would not dare to do or even think of doing.
There is excitement in every phase of a crime—before, during, and after. First, there is the conceiving it, fantasizing about it, talking about it with an accomplice, and planning the details.. Then there is excitement in committing the crime, especially enjoying terrorizing the victim. There is additional excitement afterward—celebrating the getaway, the self-buildup, and the publicity. Even if the perpetrator is apprehended, the excitement continues as he maneuvers to deal with police detectives, court officials, lawyers and, perhaps, baffled mental health professionals.
The next time you read about a “senseless” crime, remember that, from the criminal’s standpoint, it makes a lot of sense. As one man said, “Crime is delicious; it’s like ice cream.” Another commented, “Take my crime away, and you take my world away.”
Author: Stanton Samenow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist practicing in Alexandria, Virginia and author of Inside the Criminal Mind.