Publications, journals and websites

A friend sent me a link to a press release about a British study on contract killers. Published in The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, a British academic publication, the piece explores “the shadowy world of Britain’s discount hitmen,” or contract killers. And not just any contract killer, but the bargain basement type: The guy who hires an itinerant criminal to kill his wife for a few hundred, or thousand, dollars, as opposed to professional killers, like those normally associated with organized crime.

The study compared British hitmen (and one woman) who worked contract killings in England from 1974 to 2013. They looked at a total of 27 murders involving 35 killers by “using transcripts and off-the-record interviews with ex-offenders,” according to Prof. David Wilson from Birmingham City University’s Center for Applied Criminology. Researchers also studied newspaper articles in compiling their report.

Wilson’s study made some fascinating conclusions: The hitmen ranged in age from 15 to 63. Employing that range the average age worked out to 38 years, meaning that the victims’ longevity fell short of their killers. The average age of a victim was 36, according to Wilson, and most who died were killed by guns.
Another fascinating fact: The fee paid to these killers ranged from about $120 to a high of just under $60,000, with the average contract killing going for a little more than $9,000. They also broke down the killers into types and analyzed the motivations behind each one for taking such a job.

One of Wilson’s remarks is especially poignant: “The motivations to pay a hitman the relatively small amount to carry out a murder were often depressingly banal. Spouses fell out, business deals fell apart, and young gang members wanted to impress their elders.”

The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice is a scholarly peer review filled with fascinating studies of the everyday work involved in the criminal justice field. It also encompasses some of the less common types of cases and behaviors police encounter. Another study available on the journal’s site takes a look at the tragic crimes involving men who kill their own families. That one involves British men who murdered their families during the time period that stretches from 1980 to 2012.

Some of the journal’s focus is aimed at prisons and the handling of parolees and probationers, and its research is scholarly in nature. However, for those criminal justice professionals interested in studying the more esoteric aspects of our careers, who enjoy a glimpse into the obscure and less-frequently encountered criminals and their crimes, material like this is both fascinating and educational.

Some months you may be surprised to find in the pages of LET articles that relate to some of the roads less traveled in our profession. Now and then this publication likes to mix it up a bit and explore the lesser known avenues of criminology. And provides both an overview of almost every aspect of wearing a badge, from equipment to the latest news and trends, as well as provides a forum where officers can share their opinions and information.
Publications like LET and the aforementioned journal help officers move to the next level. Management should make materials like these available to their personnel. When they do, the whole department benefits.

While some material requires a subscription, there’s also a substantial amount of free material online at the journal’s website