Discover Magazine has a bleakly fascinating article about the decline of serial killers in America:
After that three-decade surge, a rapid decline followed. Nearly 770 serial killers operated in the U.S. throughout the 1980s, and just under 670 in the '90s, based on data compiled by Mike Aamodt of Radford University. The sudden plummet came with the new century, when the rate fell below 400 in the aughts and, as of late 2016, just over 100 during the past decade. The rough estimate on the global rate appeared to show a similar drop over the same period. In a stunning collapse, these criminals that terrorized and captivated a generation quickly dwindled. Put another way, 189 people in the U.S. died by the hands of a serial killer in 1987, compared to 30 in 2015. Various theories attempt to explain this change.
It should go without saying that this is a good decline to have. But the question remains: why is it happening? Why was it such a trend to begin with, and what has happened in our society to correct against it?
The article presents a few different hypothesis. Maybe the decline has to do with the decrease in hitchhiking. Maybe would-be serial killers are scared that improvements in police technology and DNA forensics mean they're more likely to get caught. Perhaps those would-be serial killers have received better mental healthcare and behavioral treatment from earlier ages. Or maybe they've found toxic depths on the Internet to satisfy their darkest urges. (There's also one brief suggestion that perhaps serial killing has been supplanted by mass shooting, but this doesn't seem to be supported by evidence.)
There's no hard answers for any of this, of course. But we can probably learn a lot about our society by examining the rise and fall of the serial killing trend.
What Explains the Decline of Serial Killers? [Cody Cottier / Discover Magazine]
Image: Julio César Cerletti García / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)