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Pioneer of FBI profiling method analyzes criminal psyche, motive

I have probably seen too much in my 25 years, more than any man or woman would want to see," said John Douglas, former special agent and FBI profiler, opening his talk in a crowded in McCosh 50 yesterday.

He is not exaggerating. Douglas has profiled some of the most notorious criminals of our time, including Jeffrey Dahmer, the Unabomber and Charles Manson.


But the focus of his talk, sponsored by SHARE, was not on those famous cases. He spoke instead about the mind of the serial killer and ways to avoid becoming a victim.

Douglas advised people not to make judgments based strictly on appearances. "These people don't look weird; they are like us." But he also warned, "These people are bright – they have above-average intelligence."

Serial killers and rapists, Douglas explained, have "preferential victims. There is a certain look they are going for. They are driven by fantasy." He said, however, if they cannot find their preference, they just go after whomever they can.

Even though some of his advice – such as not to leave the car if it breaks down on the highway – seemed simplistic, Douglas said a large percentage of homicide cases could have been avoided by following these recommendations.

No immunity

He warned the audience that Princeton is not immune to violent crimes. "You live in a very nice community here, but these guys are transient."

He appealed to parents in the audience: "Don't send your children out into the community to sell things. I don't care where you live." Most rapists and pedophiles, he said, "commit crimes on their own turf." As in sports, he explained, there is a psychological home-team advantage for criminals.


Douglas spoke of his personal life, which he said is consumed by his job. "You think your parents worry; I drive my kids crazy," he joked.

Douglas said people often forget the victims and the pain they had suffered before they died. "I never want to forget the victims," he said. "That is probably why I have had my own problems – health problems."

Several years ago Douglas experienced stress-induced complications: his immune system collapsed, he went into a coma and suffered temporary paralysis. After five months of physical therapy, he returned to his job.

He ended the speech by addressing the recent Jonesboro, Ark. murders, "There's been a breakdown. Ask any school teacher; they see this pattern." He offered advice to policy makers: "If you want a war on crime, let's do it; but 100,000 cops on the street isn't the answer. You have to do something with the children. They have become desensitized by the violence they see on T.V."

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