From Breivik to Paddock, passing for the hundreds of common people who suddenly become brutal killer. Time bombs that we meet on the tram, at work, in the entrance hall of our building, but of which too often we do not perceive the lethal ticking. Thus, when they explode, taking lives, dreams and hopes away, our only chance is not being nearby. We spoke about the common man that turns into a monster with the Clinical Criminologist Enrico De Simone.
Let us start from Las Vegas. The killer was 64 years old, without criminal record, a very comfortable life. Then he organized in details the perfect massacre. How is it possible that a criminal instinct so strong and rooted can remain in nuce for many years, without giving the slightest signal?
“This is a person probably affected by a latent psychopathology. A disease that keeps the subject in a condition of normality during the execution of all the daily tasks and activities and which can degenerate due to situations of stress or of which he suffers in a particular way, bringing him to perpetrate crimes such as this. It is a sort of mental short circuit which make the neurotic person pass into a phase of total disconnection with his atrocious actions “.
Therefore, nothing to do with the classic fit…
“Exactly, in these cases if on the one hand the subject is predisposed to the fulfilment of criminal acts, on the other hand his cognitive and processing sphere is not undermined in any way. This makes him capable of putting in place organised and sophisticated actions, even with the use of means and places, without giving signs of mental alteration, which manifests itself, instead, with the implementation of the criminal design. His cognitive and organizational sphere are absolutely not maimed, they indeed work perfectly. This is demonstrated by the choice of the place and the ability to introduce weapons without arousing suspicions, even in a carefully controlled palace. Everything has been studied in detail. Therefore, the killer not only had no impairments in his processing capacity but he was precisely this one that enabled him to kill all those people”.
Are there environmental or hereditary factors capable of transforming a person any in a brutal killer?
“There are theories that speak of possible inheritance, but they are overcome by the multifactorial ones. Which take into account not only the natural predisposition – as is the case of the so-called ‘born criminal’ – but also of external factors, social, family and cultural activities which affect the potential criminal. This however occurs mainly in cases of common delinquency. In facts as those of Las Vegas one should speak of a form of psychopathology, detectable through the study of the past life of the subject, who must have given in some way signs of discomfort to the people around him”.
What are the behaviours that can be considered suspicious?
“They may be of various types, since they depend on the psychopathology that affects the subject. A suspicious signal can be the attitude of closure against the others, the refusal to have social relations. In this case it is possible that the person concerned is creating a parallel life. Therefore, it is important to understand what he reads, what interests him, which TV programs he follows. Hints that can make people understand that the subject is isolating himself from his own context. The method chosen for the massacre of Las Vegas, the indiscriminate shooting against a defenceless crowd, suggests a feeling of hatred towards everybody and towards the same life and society that the killer had accepted until that moment “.
The idea that in the community there may be many, unexpected, time bombs scares. How can we protect ourselves from the common man?
“It is not easy. We talk about people who lead a normal life, who do not have a life from which we may deduce a particular tendency to commit crimes and, in most cases, they have never used narcotic drugs. But they have forms of inner suffering that they are able to maintain concealed. However, I repeat, those who live near these people can realize oddities, special behaviours. Returning to the case of Las Vegas, for example, those who frequented Paddock must have noticed some form of interest for weapons. No one can suddenly become a killer or an expert of that particular type of weapons. No one can suddenly become expert of the best places to create as much damage as possible to people. Those close to him must have noticed some sign. The perception of these signals is the only form of defence that we have”.
Is there a difficulty of intervention of the police in cases that are so complex?
“In Italy there are means of prevention that probably, others do not have. Like the strict regulations on weapons, which also provides a psychological examination on the ability of the subject to hold weapons. There is also a widespread mechanism of social control, entrusted to the forces of order and not only. Let us think of the schools and families, which often signal cases of interior conflict and social hardship”.
It is therefore important to create a network and inform the police when one notices any suspicious situations…
“Absolutely. We have seen it with the phenomenon of foreign fighters. The changes of behaviour, the path towards the religious radicalization have often been perceived by friends and relatives who have then signalled it. The forces of law and order, always invite citizens to have a greater sensitivity in perceiving and report, especially in situations of high social alarm”.
In the last period, there have been several crimes of passion, especially among the youth. Is the phenomenon increasing?
“The latest figures tell us that in Italy there has been a general decrease of crimes in general, including murders. Also in the case of crimes of passion we must remember that there are social sensors that are able inform us in time of what is going to happen. The first thing to do is to perceive the alarm of the person that receives threats and intimidations, also because there are restrictive measures that if violated can lead to arrest”.
We often speak of the relationship between internet and crime. How can a wrong use of the web affect a potentially dangerous person?
“The virtual world offers an infinite number of criminal occasions: scams, extortion, online harassment, child pornography and much more. In recent years, there has been an incredible leap in quality; just think of the enormous number of complaints concerning cybercrimes. The great challenge of the future will be, therefore, to create an ever-greater number of computer experts among police forces, because citizens are increasingly in contact with this dangerous tool often used without knowing its real potential”.