My comment – This article came to me from a learned and accomplished friend – a now, retired judge. With all the liberal “psycho-babel” out there now, I thought this warranted passing along.
My friend’s intro – “I have long-regaded Stanton Samenow, Ph.D., to be the world’s foremost authority on the dynamics of the criminal “mind” and over the years we have become friends through e-correspondence. This is a recent blog he wrote for “Psychology Today,” the magazine in which I first learned of his work back in the late 1960s or early 1970s. As a psychology major the issue of criminality has always been of interest to me, and that interest did not abate when, as a young lawyer, I was asked to represent people accused of a wide variety of crimes and as a judge had hundreds of accused criminals in my courtroom. Dr. Samenow’s excellent books include Inside the Criminal Mind, The Myth of the Out of Character Crime and Before It’s Too Late (an excellent book for teachers or parents dealing with a youngster seeming to be headed toward a life of irresponsibility)”
Boredom and the “Senseless” Crime
“I have frequently been contacted by media outlets to comment as to why a man or woman committed a particular crime. There is always the search for a motive. Was the perpetrator driven by greed, lust, revenge, envy, peer pressure, or some other inner or out circumstances?
Often, no matter how deeply one probes, no such motive surfaces. Take the situation of a man snoozing on a bench during a lazy summer afternoon in a deserted park. Suddenly, there descends upon him a young man – Pete – who drags him into the bushes, assaults him, then disappears into the bushes. Pete did not know this gentleman. He had never seen him before. So there could be no personal grudge. From the victim’s disheveled appearance and tattered clothing, he did not appear to be well to do. He wore no watch or jewelry. Carrying no personal belongings at all, he was an unlikely target for a robbery. Pete’s cruelty toward a perfect stranger appeared to be senseless, defying explanation. As it turned out, the park was not entirely deserted. A witness saw what transpired and dialed 911 on his cell phone. The police response was immediate, and Pete was apprehended.
As I interviewed Pete, he said in an offhand manner that he had nothing to do that afternoon and was “bored”. His attack on the man lying on the bench relieved that boredom. It was “something to do.” He experienced intense excitement at each phase of the crime. Prowling about to search out a vulnerable person, he spotted this man asleep. He honed in on his target and scanned the environment to be sure no one was around. The thought of attacking this man in broad daylight and getting away with it spurred him on. It provided a “rush.” Planning, executing the crime, then making his escape all contributed to dissipating his “boredom”.
A mental health professional can always arrive at some explanation for such an act. Perhaps Pete was abused as a child and therefore abused others. Perhaps something about the victim triggered a memory of a traumatic event. Maybe Pete sought to compensate for low self-esteem by proving he was bold and tough. Explanations are endless and often are more clever than they are correct. Revealing little about the offender, he can seize upon them as excuses. One offender, in a moment of rare candor, commented about his interactions with a psychiatrist, “If I didn’t have enough excuses for crime before psychiatry, I sure have enough now.”
Questions that try to identify “root causes” or tease out some allegedly hidden motive can interfere with efforts to understand the offender. If an interviewer endeavors to comprehend the world from the offender’s viewpoint, he will focus upon thinking processes — in this situation, what Pete meant by “boredom.” We have all experienced boredom but few of us have considered seeking relief by committing a crime. We endure boredom or find a diversion that does not result in injuring others. No one was preventing Pete from developing new interests or engaging in any number of legitimate activities. But he had no interest in doing so.
Pete remarked that he often found himself with “nothing to do” and bored. The criminal’s boredom is with responsible living itself. Pete’s criminality did not begin with the assault in the park. To him, life was great when he was hanging out with buddies who were game for about anything — burglary, vandalism, fighting, and racing cars down neighborhood streets. These activities that relieved boredom.
An investigator must learn what it is important to the offender and how he handles life’s challenges and adversities. Understanding the person’s thinking process are vital to making sense of the “senseless” crime.”