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Violent Crime Scene Analysis: Modus Operandi, Signature, and Staging

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 61 Issue: 2 Dated: (February 1992) Pages: 1-10
J E Douglas; C Munn
Date Published
11 pages
The modus operandi, signature, and staging aspects of an offender are discussed in the analysis of crime scenes in terms of human behavior.
Learning to recognize crime scene manifestations or behavioral patterns enables investigators to characterize the offender and to distinguish between different offenders committing the same types of offenses. The modus operandi (MO) is a learned behavior that evolves over time as offenders gain experience and confidence. The offenders continually reshape their MOs to meet the demands of the crime, whereas the signature aspect remains a constant and enduring part of each offender. It may evolve in progression from crime to crime; or elements of the original ritual become more fully developed. The investigator may not always be able to identify the signature aspects as in cases of violent offenses involving high-risk victims or decomposition of the body, which complicates recognizing the signature aspects of an offender. Staging occurs when someone purposely alters the crime scene prior to the arrival of the police. It is done to direct the investigation away from the most logical suspect or to protect the victim or victims. 3 footnotes