Modus Operandi of the Criminal Offender

You learned above that the standard model of policing is a reactive type of policing based on criminal incidents reported to law enforcement. That means that the police investigate crimes when they are reported. Often, the investigation may center on the victim and how that person became a victim.

The victim precipitation theory is based on the premise that “the person who gets hurt significantly contributes to the outbreak of violence” (Karmen, 2001, p. 104). Therefore, it is assumed that victims, either directly or indirectly, contribute to their own victimization by placing themselves at some level of risk. “Different types of offenders target different types of victims; therefore, determining the level of risk the victim engaged in helps us gain an understanding of the unidentified offender” (Schlesinger, 2009, p. 76).

Identifying the circumstances of how the victim came to be involved in a crime helps to better understand the modus operandi (MO) of the perpetrator of the crime. The MO of a criminal offender refers to that person’s method of operation, his or her style or patterns. From the crime analyst’s perspective, it is important in many crimes to identify the MO of both the offender and the victim. The MO of some criminals is to gain a knowledge of the daily routines of their victims.

Victims who place themselves in vulnerable or precarious situations may be more susceptible to becoming victimized. A young woman, for example, who chooses to walk to her car alone in the early morning hours, after the bar closes, may easily fall prey to a criminal whose MO is to stalk the bar district in hopes of finding such a victim.

MOs can range from a burglar always choosing to break into their target locations from a rooftop to a robber choosing a knife as his favorite weapon during an armed robbery. The MO can represent a comfort zone that helps the offender feel safe when committing his or her criminal act.

To the crime analyst, an MO is an investigative indicator that can be identified, mapped, analyzed, and assessed when there is a crime pattern, or crime spree. But identifying the MOs of both the criminal and his or her victims may be used in determining what type of tactical preparations need to be implemented in order to identify or predict the crime pattern—if not the actual individual.

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