Archive for the ‘Criminal Investigation’ Category

Psychological phenomena affecting investigations

September 1, 2019

The International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Innocence Project offer 7 videos here, each one 4-5 minutes long, explaining psychological factors that can negatively affect criminal investigations and the ensuing legal process. Topics include confirmation bias, tunnel vision, memory malleability, and mistaken eyewitness identification.

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Insurance companies funding police investigations

August 19, 2019

This article discusses the practice of insurance companies funding police (and sometimes prosecutors) to investigate cases of alleged insurance fraud. On the plus side, it’s an example of public-private partnership and cost sharing. In some cases, however, it puts police in the position of serving the financial interests of insurance companies. The article reports several examples of flawed investigations that wreaked havoc on individuals later determined to be innocent.

Familial & moderate stringency DNA

August 13, 2019

This RAND report explains the increasing use of familial DNA in cases that lack an exact DNA match, as well as “moderate stringency” DNA searches designed to yield investigative leads. The report discusses legal, ethical, and practical issues and describes different approaches taken in California, Texas, and in the UK.

Trade secrets vs. due process

August 5, 2019

This article discusses the conflict that arises when evidence against a defendant is rooted in privately developed technology or software. Examples include probabilistic DNA typing, algorithms, breathalyzers, and stingray cell-site simulators. Defense efforts to challenge the validity of evidence derived from these technologies are often stymied by refusals to reveal key details about how they work, because companies say that would cause them to lose valuable trade secrets. Courts have generally sided with the companies.

Serial rape more common than thought

July 15, 2019

This article examines information on rape and rape investigation resulting from analysis of backlogged rape kits. In Cleveland, nearly 20% of CODIS hits “pointed to a serial rapist — giving the Cleveland investigators leads on some 480 serial predators to date.” That city and Detroit have been most aggressive at analyzing, investigating, and prosecuting from their backlogs. In general, however, a continuing problem is “law enforcement’s abiding skepticism of women who report being raped” — especially those who don’t fit the criteria of a “righteous victim.”

Crime solving up after MJ legalization

May 18, 2019

Marijuana legalization initiatives went into effect in 2012 in Colorado and Washington. One hypothesized benefit of legalization was that police would have more time to devote to other responsibilities. This column reports a published study that found a post-legalization clearance rate uptick in the two states for several crime categories, plus positive trends compared to national averages. The study does not claim that legalization caused better clearance rates but it “undoubtedly resulted in the opportunity for agencies to reallocate resources.”

Victim tracking of rape kits

April 9, 2019

An increasing number of states have laws establishing rape kit tracking systems, as reported here. At least 17 states now have such laws, with 5 others pending this year. A key feature of the systems, besides helping officials track cases and reduce backlogs, is empowering victims to monitor the status of evidence collected from them. Advocates argue this “provides a degree of transparency and accountability that, until now, had been notoriously absent from sexual-assault cases.”

Listening in Stockton

April 2, 2019

Stockton, California was in a rough situation when the current chief was promoted to that position in 2012. The city had filed for bankruptcy, there were police layoffs, morale was low, and violent crime was up. In this interview, the chief explains how he learned to listen more carefully to members of his community, including victims and the formerly incarcerated, as well as his own officers. He and the city manager went on a “listening tour” and now he and his staff do a listening session in the community about once a month. Over the last 5 years, public trust has improved, case clearances are up, and shootings are down.

Cyber forensic toolkit

March 21, 2019

Experts at Purdue University have developed a cyber forensics toolkit that “has everything criminal investigators will need to complete their work without having to rely on different network forensic tools,” according to this article. Developed with funding from the National Institute of Justice, the kit will be made available for free to law enforcement agencies. In addition, “online videos [are] available so law enforcement agents can learn the system remotely.”

Elder fraud

March 8, 2019

U.S. authorities announced a year-long “largest-ever” elder fraud crackdown resulting in criminal and civil charges against 260 defendants for defrauding more than 2 million victims out of $750 million, as reported here. The total annual loss to elder Americans is estimated at $3 billion. The investigation was aided by Europol and police in several individual countries, with “alleged fraudsters charged criminally and extradited from Canada, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Poland.” An additional 600 U.S.-based “money mules” who helped transfer funds were identified, most receiving warning letters rather than charges because they didn’t realize they were facilitating scams.