Archive for the ‘Criminal Investigation’ Category

Reducing auto theft including carjacking

March 8, 2023

Police in Denver are implementing a vehicle tracking system that they hope will make stolen vehicle recoveries quicker and also prevent thefts, as reported here. Overall in Colorado, vehicle thefts have doubled in the last 5 years. City residents with sensors in their cars will be able to register those with police, speeding things up when they report their car as stolen. Also, police are providing stickers that owners can put on their cars publicizing that they are registered in the program. The initiative is modeled after one in Cook County, Illinois, where jailhouse interviews indicated that the sensors and stickers would significantly reduce the likelihood of a vehicle being targeted for theft.

ATF releases crime gun report

February 27, 2023

ATF has recently issued its most comprehensive reports on firearms commerce and crime guns in 20 years, as reported here. Among other things, the reports document “a spike in the use of conversion devices that make a semiautomatic gun fire like a machine gun, along with the growing seizure of so-called ghost guns, privately made firearms that are hard to trace.” The firearms in commerce report, available here, shows that from 2000 to 2009 more rifles were manufactured in the U.S. than any other type of firearm, but since then pistols have surged well ahead. Smith & Wesson, Sturm/Ruger, and Sig Sauer accounted for 60% of U.S. manufactured pistols in the period 2016-2020. The crime guns report, available here, provides information on tracing, guns recovered, firearm thefts, and the use of NIBIN to enhance the value of ballistic evidence. In regard to the latter, over 150,000 investigative leads were produced through NIBIN in 2021, nearly triple the number in 2017.

Regulating use of facial recognition

February 20, 2023

Facial recognition technology is being used in policing today but significant issues remain about accuracy and privacy. This report from RAND reviews “policy options that fall between the extremes of permissive use and banning law enforcement use of the technology altogether.” It notes that both federal and state legislation are currently lagging behind technology developments and utilization by police agencies. Recommendations include transparency, careful evaluations to determine the effectiveness of the technology, and more fully developed standards to limit variation in how facial recognition is implemented across different agencies.

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.