Archive for the ‘Criminal Investigation’ Category

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.”

Advertisements

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.

Delaware reviewing hair evidence convictions

March 5, 2019

The FBI determined in 2015 that its crime lab had a very high error rate in microscopic (non-DNA) hair comparison analyses completed prior to 2000, possibly contributing to mistaken convictions. Delaware has now joined several other states conducting independent reviews to identify any past convictions involving questionable hair evidence, as reported here. The announcement notes that use of such evidence “would not necessarily cast doubt on the case’s resolution if additional evidence, such as confessions or DNA analysis, supported the conviction.”

Scooting away from the scene of the crime

January 30, 2019

A bank robber in Austin, Texas made his getaway recently on a rental scooter, as reported here. Apparently he didn’t realize that, having used an app with his credit card to activate the scooter, he was leaving “digital bread crumbs” all the way home. One detective observed “In the past you were looking for fingerprints and then it was DNA, and now you’re looking more and more towards examining people’s digital footprint.” As for rental scooters, they have been used in the commission of crimes in several other cities as well.

Murder clearance rates have actually improved — with one big exception

January 26, 2019

This article analyzes city clearance rates for murders and shootings. One key finding is a drop from 65% to 42% since the 1980s in the clearance rate for black and Hispanic victims killed by guns — aside from this category, murder clearance rates have actually improved. Also, non-firearm homicides, which are more likely to yield DNA and other suspect evidence, are solved at higher rates regardless of victim characteristics. Solve rates for non-fatal shootings vary widely but tend to be well below those for murder, at least in part due to overwhelming caseloads.

Investigating homicides in the UK

January 23, 2019

This article chronicles a week in the life of a detective chief inspector in London who commands one of 18 major investigation teams in the Metropolitan Police. His team has 27 members and is currently responsible for 13 active cases. The team was on-call during the week beginning December 4 and caught one new case involving a victim who died during a burglary. The article focuses on the decisions required of the detective commander, and reveals a level of resourcing in death investigations that probably far exceeds that found in most U.S. agencies.

Rapid DNA in action

January 22, 2019

This article reports early adoption of Rapid DNA technology in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and a few other sites around the country. The equipment requires little training and returns results in 90 minutes. Scientists are generally satisfied with the accuracy of matches from cheek swabs but consider crime scene DNA much more complicated to process and interpret. A current limitation is that most machines only link to local databases, not the FBI’s national CODIS system. Critics worry that the technology will tempt police to collect DNA from anyone they deem suspicious, leading to an ever-larger DNA database susceptible to misuse.