Reactive and proactive approaches to investigation of serial murders are adopted because the serial killers aim at not leaving any clue at the crime scene. The serial killers usually plan carefully in order to complicate the matter which makes it hard for those investigating the murders to lack sufficient evidence to incriminate them. However, it should be noted that reactive and proactive investigative approaches abound several differences in their techniques. For a clear understanding of these terms, definitions of reactive and proactive investigative approaches are provided. According to Hess & Orthmann (2008), reactive investigative approach involves offering support to victims after a crime has been committed. On the other hand, Pistorius (2000) describes proactive invetsigative approach as the methods incorporated to minimize the occurrence of serial murders. These two methods have several differences. Firstly, it is indicated that reactive investigative approach to serial murders does not empower victims as it is a method employed after a crime has being committed. On the other hand, proactive investigative approach emancipates the would be victims as they are at times involved in community policing and other methods of creating awareness regarding serial murders. Notably, the use of databases is essential to these two investigative approaches. The databases that are used include Uniform Crime Report, VICAP, Behavioral Analysis Unit, and the National Victimization Survey.

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This paper explicates the differences between reactive and proactive investigative approaches and discusses some of the databases essential in both of these investigative processes.

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Firstly, reactive investigative approach entails the follow up to serial murders cases in order to establish who the perpetrator is and what the motivation behind their acts is. Godwin (2008) indicates that this approach is mostly employed by traditional policing. Notably, the serial killers know the disadvantages of this method and that is the reason why they cross jurisdictions in their commission of murders. This is aimed at leaving no clues regarding who committed the crime. Thus, Godwin (2008) asserts that the traditional policing method is not sufficient, which calls for the employment of a task force to facilitate the completion of the investigation. This calls for the allocation of specific roles to different quarters involved such as who is solely responsible for addressing the media to minimise the chances of contradictory messages finding their way to the media. Other people that are involved in the case should also be allocated an individual who will address them regarding the progress of the investigation. It is also essential to note that reactive investigative approach involves police patrols and responses to distress calls from the members of the public. The advantage associated with this method is that the operations of police officers is public and their responses have the public’s consent. Thus, public corporation is particularly significant in this category as it helps effect police to response to serial murders.

Secondly, proactive investigative approach to serial murders is a method that was adopted due to the complexities involved in reactive investigative approach that did not facilitate the identification of the perpetrators of crime. Pistorius (2000) intimates that the proactive investigative approach was adopted mainly for purposes of stopping serial killers from continuing with their killing sprees. A good example of proactive investigative approach involves the calling in of the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Research indicates that this method involves the Behavioral Analysis Unit coming up with a profile that reflects the alibi on the scene or the killer’s behavior. In turn, this helps the police in identification of the serial killer. In some instances that involve the serial killers employing social networks, the proactive invetsigative approach is utilized for the purposes of identifying individuals who can be the targets of serial killers. Thus, proactive investigative approach seeks to stop the serial murders from taking place.

However, it is essential to note that these two approaches sometimes take place concurrently. For instance, the reactive investigative approach focusses on police patrols, which is aimed at the reduction of serious crimes, and this adds up as the purpose of proactive investigative approach. Another significant point in this case is that the public’s reassurance tranquility should be promoted through visible patrols by the police. As mentioned earlier, there are databases that are utilized in both reactive and proactive investigative approaches.

The databases

Some of the databases employed in these investigative approaches include VICAP alerts, National Law Enforcement Teletype System, and the Law Enforcement online systems. These databases point out the motivation behind different serial murders and indicate that it is formed under a multitude of factors. Most significantly, it is motivated by the serial killer’s personal prerogative to proceed with their crimes. Thus, the databases were formed for the purpose of sharing information amongst the law enforcement agencies. The VICAP alerts is a significant database to both reactive and proactive investigative approaches because it furnishes those involved with a case some basic factors regarding the victim of serial murder. For instance, the VICAP alerts provide information regarding the race, height, hair color and making sex, and the clothing worn by the victim. There is also a provision of sketches depicting the faces or physical make up of the victims, which are essential in both reactive and proactive investigative approaches.

According to Hess & Orthmann (2008), the Law Enforcement Online System involves online systems that are accessed by the FBI. These online systems have the purpose of providing the supportive investigative operations, issuance of alerts and notifications, and furnishing other intelligence systems and law enforcement agencies with information. The significance of this database to reactive investigative approach is the provision of information regarding serial killers to police officers who patrol the streets. On the other hand, the database has significance to proactive investigative approach because it links different departments to ensure the success of the investigations. Lastly, the National Law Enforcement Teletype system is a database found within all states. The system has the function of ensuring a flow of information between the states, justice and safety agencies and local and federal law enforcement. In summary, all the databases have the function of ensuring that inforamtion flows from one state to another and from one department to another to make it easier in dealing with serial killers who move from one jurisdiction to another with an aim of avoiding prosecution.


Reactive and proactive investigative approaches are methods employed to eliminate the prevalence of serial murders. The reactive approach involves the police response to public distress and usually takes place after the commission of the murder. On the other hand, the proactive approach is more detailed as it involves the incorporation of efforts of different departments to ensure the success of the investigations. These two approaches utilize databases to easen their work and these includes VICAP alerts, Law Enforcement Online Systems, and the National Law Enforcement Teletype systems. These databases have more or less the same functions, since, they all provide a network for the different states for tracking offenders running from one jurisdiction to another and they issue alerts regarding a planned or committed serial murder. The databases eases the work of the departments as information is found under one database serving a myriad number of users.

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