The US is the serial killer capital of the world. A dubious honor to be sure, but one that comes with a giant asterisk after it. While we do churn out more serial killers than most countries, it’s not just because we are a cesspool of crime, violence, and hate.
It’s mostly due to underreporting. When I was a college student, I did a presentation of serial killers for a sociology class. At that time, the US was known for holding around 5% of the world’s population but nearly 90% of the world’s serial killers.
At that time, the Kremlin still hadn’t released it classified serial killer files from the Soviet Era. China still refuses to report them for statistical purposes and we only hear about them when something goes wrong with their media machine. The Middle East is notorious for not reporting them. It’s nearly impossible to track them in parts of Africa and South America, where they can thrive for decades without being caught. India doesn’t like to spread that kind of information around and I could name a dozen or so other places, but you get the point.
So that statistic is no longer true. What is still true is that for every serial killer you do hear about there are probably a dozen or so you don’t. Also, the reason we don’t hear about a lot of them is that we don’t catch them.
For example, how many people are aware that the FBI currently estimates there are between 300 and 400 serial killers driving our highways right this second? Probably not many. Did you just get a chill? Did it shock you a little? Both of these reactions would be adequate and make you rethink talking to that nice young man who stopped to help you with your flat tire.
The truth is, frequent travelers such as long haul truckers and those who travel the country for work (like my nephew, who mostly just travels through Kansas because he works for Verizon and goes to different stores each week) are responsible for a number of serial killings (fairly certain my nephew is not a serial killer, just FYI). And their jobs are the perfect cover for it. They have a reason to be in the places where the people going missing from and a reason for being in the places where their bodies turn up.
It’s not uncommon for routes to overlap. So there might be 100 different work travelers in an area where someone goes missing and the same 100 might be where the body is found. Narrowing down 300 from a pool of over a million is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The good news is they are working on it; they have profiles for some of them and they have survivors from some of them.
The bad news is that doesn’t mean they are going to catch them. Their mobility and anonymity gives them the power of invisibility. The majority of their victims are runaways and prostitutes, people that society doesn’t want to acknowledge exists, which makes connecting them to a location or even establishing a firm date of disappearance nearly impossible.
It does get worse though; the public expects all serial killers to look like Charles Manson or Richard Ramirez. Killers like Dennis Rader, Andrew Cunanan, Robert Yates, and Phillip Markoff prove that they look rather normal. In fact, the majority of serial killers appear and act rather normal. Which means finding the deranged mind among the hundreds of thousands of normal people is difficult to say the least.
The majority of over-the-road truckers and travel-based workers are completely normal, average, everyday people. That is part of the reason this has always been a quiet investigation process, no reason to cause mass hysteria and something like this could do just that. However, the quiet investigation means that most people have never heard of this problem.
This brings us to a slight warning. We know they exist, we don’t know who the majority of them are, so we can’t really do anything about it. That doesn’t mean you should be terrified of everyone who does travel for work, but it’s never a bad idea to be aware of your surroundings, even when you are in your car on the highway.