Archive for the ‘Criminal Investigation’ Category

50/50 whether homicides get solved

July 14, 2022

The national clearance rate for homicides has fallen to about 50%, the lowest in more than 50 years, according to this article. It was 83% in 1965. A few states do substantially better than others — Alabama and Nebraska were best at 83% over the period 2015-2020, while Rhode Island was lowest at 21% (a quarter of the states have had data problems making it impossible to calculate their clearance rates over the 5-year period). The data also indicate lower clearance rates for victims of color. The article provides examples from several cities, noting an unusually high proportion of exceptional clearances in Chicago, which had a 44% clearance rate in 2020, but half were exceptional clearances.

DOJ guidance on response to sexual assault & domestic violence

July 6, 2022

The US Department of Justice has published guidance on police response to sexual assault and domestic violence, with an emphasis on identifying and preventing gender bias. A 4-page summary document, available here, presents and explains 8 principles that should guide police actions. A longer 36-page report, available here, provides additional background information and offers numerous examples of good and bad practice.

Corporate investigators target organized retail crime

June 1, 2022

Large retailers like Target and CVS are undertaking their own investigations in an effort to solve organized theft cases, as reported here. Techniques include interviewing and trailing shoplifters to discover who they work for, and conducting surveillance of people and places involved in trafficking of stolen goods. According to a CVS official, “We only follow someone if we think they are part of a ring worth $1 million or more. We don’t do small cases.” When investigations are successful, the information is turned over to police and prosecutors. “They often give us evidence. They give us leads. We don’t ever use them as a surrogate for our own investigation. But they can be incredibly valuable partners,” said a U.S. Attorney.

Criminal investigation and the art of the interview

February 14, 2022

Interviewing and interrogation are key elements of policing, including criminal investigation. Aggressive and accusatory methods have been the norm for a hundred years or longer, aided by psychological techniques designed to “gradually break down the suspect’s defenses, convincing him/her that it would be in his/her best interests to confess.” More recently, however, those techniques have been shown to produce too many false confessions, and in addition, to obtain less relevant information than other more conversational methods. The conversational approach has become the standard in the UK and several other countries, but practices in the U.S. have been slower to change. This paper reviews the history and makes the case for “a national conversation about the efficacy of relying on interviewing tactics that are largely unregulated, unrecorded, and either uninformed by science or based on science from the 1950s.”

Preventing fraudulent vehicle purchases

February 1, 2022

Houston PD has developed a partnership with auto dealers to prevent fraudulent purchases by individuals using stolen identities, as reported in this news clip. The approach has prevented $5 million worth of thefts since 2018 and led to numerous arrests. HPD has provided training to auto dealers on how to spot identity fraud and the strategy is being exported to other jurisdictions throughout Texas.

2020 reported crime

October 13, 2021

As reported here, FBI UCR data for 2020 indicated a historic 29% increase in homicide from the previous year, yielding the highest U.S. homicide rate since 1997. The clearance rate for murders fell to 50% — it was 82% in 1976. Among homicides, more of the circumstances were undetermined (46%) and more victim/offender relationships were unknown (52%) than in prior years. Meanwhile, the property crime rate continued its steady decline since 1991, although that is likely an artifact of the increase in various forms of fraud and cybercrime, which are not counted in Part 1 UCR statistics.

Massive encrypted phone investigation

March 15, 2021

U.S. indictments have been issued against two Sky Global executives and EU police have arrested 78 suspects and searched 275 homes in Netherlands and Belgium in conjunction with an investigation into encrypted phones used by criminal gangs, as reported here and here. The EU investigation also resulted in “seizure of thousands of kilograms of cocaine and methamphetamine, hundreds of firearms, and millions of Euros.” The indictment alleges that the Sky ECC encrypted communication platform “was designed to aid in the trafficking of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine by transnational organizations moving the drugs into Australia, Asia, Europe and North America.” Europol announced that authorities “had been secretly collecting messages on some 70,000 Sky Global phones through a massive wiretap operation,” resulting in interception of over a billion messages.

At-home rape kits

April 23, 2020

One California county has begun using at-home rape kits as “a temporary protocol put in place amid staff shortages and fears of infection during the coronavirus pandemic,” as reported here. The process includes police delivering the kit to the victim’s residence, and then a video call with the victim, the officer, an advocate, and a forensic nurse. The practice is not used for child victims and is only an option when adult victims are willing and physically able to conduct their own examination. A local prosecutor indicates that she is “confident that the evidence collected in those exams would be admissible in court.”

Facial recognition technology identified murder suspects

April 15, 2020

Police use of facial recognition technology is becoming more common and it is controversial, since it raises important civil liberties concerns. This article provides a detailed account of an investigation in which the technology was key in identifying, and subsequently convicting, suspects in a murder case. The lead detective emphasized that facial recognition serves as an investigative aid — “It’s not a fingerprint or DNA. There’s still a need to corroborate the potential candidate as we would any other information gleaned from a witness, or otherwise.”

Art, perception, and policing

February 3, 2020

New York and Chicago PDs have incorporated fine art in training aimed at enhancing perception skills and overcoming bias, as reported here. One CPD commander notes “By training in the art field, your brain tends to adapt and see things in a way [other] people might not see,” including learning not to make quick assumptions about what you observe. The historian who teaches “The Art of Perception” says “In this disengaged world that we’re living in, art from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries still has the power to engage people to look more carefully.”