Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Patrick W. Kearney: The Trash Bag Murderers

Public Relations as a Tool

A good public relations campaign can be hard for a criminal to outrun.

Natalee Holloway
Natalee Holloway

Most notably, victims' families use public relations as a tool to ferret out information from the public and to keep pressure on the investigative bodies. Tearful press conferences, like those the families of Laci Peterson, Natalee Holloway and Brooke Wilberger held, keep the story in the public eye and keep the local police on their toes. Amber Alerts and the "America's Most Wanted" television show turn citizens into amateur sleuths. Rewards, like those posted by families, or more recently by Oprah Winfrey, tend to capture the attention of the viewing public, an outgrowth of which is a better-informed citizenry and fewer places for a fugitive to hide.

The Hillside Strangler investigation task force was construed as a public relations vehicle. "The Los Angeles Police Department, going through the usual high-profile motions to reassure the public, set up a special task force which included the investigating officers from the Glendale Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office. Not that they had anything new to go on, but all the busy commotion and news conferences looked good on television," according to Ian Brady  in "The Gates of Janus."

The Gates of Janus by Jan Brady
The Gates of Janus by Jan Brady

The pressure was on Kearney and Hill, too, with their photographs posted on posters.


We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'