Defining occult crime, not surprisingly, is as controversial a task as defining occult activity. As The Occult Debate, Issue #3suggests, some members of the law enforcement community utilize definitions that place occult and occult-related crime into a new category of criminal behavior specifically called occult crime. Other law enforcers, however, strongly object to placing occult and occult-related criminal activity into a specialized category. To these practitioners, anyone of any belief who commits a crime, whether or not to further their beliefs, has committed a crime - not an occult crime, Satanic crime, or for that matter, a Christian crime.
While this study does not advocate a position on this debate, it does recognize many law enforcers, law enforcement agencies and law enforcement trainers are specifically defining occult crime. For such professionals, the following definition is suggested:
Occult crime encompasses ceremonial actions and/or ritualistic acts, involves occult-related behavior patterns, and is motivated by a belief in some occult ideology.
Additionally, law enforcers who favor defining occult crime must be careful not to interchangeably and synonymously use the terms occult crime, Satanic crime, and/or ritualistic crime. Satanic crime is a type of occult crime; it encompasses only those criminal activities that may be committed by practicing Satanists, not all occultists. Similarly, ritualistic abuse is a type of occult crime involving repeated physical, sexual, psychological and/or spiritual abuse which utilizes rituals.
The reader will become increasingly aware of these clear and very important distinctions as the chapter proceeds.
In law enforcement circles today, occult crime is a hotly debated topic, not just because such criminal activities involve belief systems diametrically opposed by many Americans and are allegedly heinous in nature, but because few law enforcers agree on the extent of occult crime; the motives of perpetrators; the types of crimes perpetrated by occultists;
or the veracity of adults and children who claim they are victims of occult crime, especially ritualistic abuse. This chapter sheds some light on these debates by explaining the various controversies and documenting the arguments of various advocates. In so doing, it does not take sides but rather, seeks to provide an objective forum for continuing such debates and reaching some compromise resolutions that will benefit both the investigators and the victims of occult crime.
Although the vast majority of occultists are law-abiding practitioners, some step over the line between involvement in occult activities and involvement in occult crime. Just where is the dividing line? In the words of occult-crime investigator, Cleo Wilson of the Denver Police Department:
"Where all these occult religions go bad is when people aren't satisfied to live within the environment they have created. It's not enough to have power over themselves. They want to control the heavens and each other. As the need for more power grows, occult crime increases. It attracts people who aren't satisfied; they want more power. The more powerful you are, the more people you have power over, and the more powerful you become in turn." (Wilson, as quoted in Kahaner, 1988:i.)
Those in search of such power are the ones who usually make the transition from occult activity into the world of occult crime. Because no "hard and fast" typology exists for occult criminals, they are usually described in one of two ways: either by their method of operation; or by their motive.
The typology that utilizes methods to describe occult crime perpetrators identifies two distinct categories: dabbling and ritualism.
Dabbling involves people who are intermittently and experimentally involved in occult activities. While dabbling in supernatural belief systems involves non-criminal activity which stems from a vague, curious interest, some dabbling involves intense preoccupation that culminates in criminal behavior. Such perpetrators most often act alone or in small loosely organized groups. Dabblers usually make up their own belief system based upon some occult ideology and perpetrate criminal activity that conforms to that ideology.Membership in either group is not mutually exclusive. Indeed, dabblers may commit ritualistic crimes and ritualists may also dabble in the occult.
Ritualism involves people who commit criminal activities characterized by a series of repeated physical, sexual, and/or psychological assaults combined with a systematic use of symbols, ceremonies and/or machinations. The need to repeat such acts can be cultural, sexual, economic, psychological, and/or spiritual.
The typology that utilizes motives to describe occult crime perpetrators also identifies two distinct categories: true believers and true criminals.
True believers are occult practitioners who commit crimes because such acts fit into and/or are required by their particular belief systems. These persons are involved in crime primarily because the ideology, rituals and behavior patterns related to their occult beliefs motivate and require them to do so. Because their criminal actions are dependent upon an occult belief system and include some form of spiritual ritual, true believers are often called spiritual ritualists. True believers either commit crimes for theologically evil purposes or for theologically good purposes.