Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

Autopsies hindered by organ donation

October 17, 2019

Organ donation has become more common over the years, and several states have enacted laws aimed at speeding up the “harvesting” process so that body parts can be preserved to help others in need. As reported here, these laws sometimes enable companies to secure parts, including skin and bones in addition to organs, before autopsies have been conducted. Investigations have been compromised — “In multiple cases, coroners have had to guess at the cause of death.”

Grand Rapids slow to report public sentiment data

October 4, 2019

Grand Rapids, Michigan implemented a survey system 18 months ago to produce monthly data on public trust, perceptions of safety, and other aspects of public opinion. The chief at the time argued that such information was “as valuable as crime rates or any other numbers.” The agency’s new leadership stopped releasing the data, indicating that they find the information useful but “they’re still working with the company to establish a public dashboard feature to share the data with the community,” as reported here. City council members are expressing concern over the expense of the initiative.

Threatening to commit mass shootings

September 3, 2019

This article reports over 40 people arrested around the country over the last month for threatening to commit mass shootings or bombings, most after tips from the public. Common themes included right-wing ideology and threats against schools, Walmarts, and Planned Parenthood. The nature of the cases ranged from “vague social media threats from juveniles that set parents on edge to well-developed plots from people who had access to weapons and appeared to authorities to have been planning a mass murder.”

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.”

Racially motivated 911 calls

June 5, 2019

Grand Rapids, Michigan is considering a local ordinance that would make it a criminal offense to place a racially-motivated 911 call, as reported here. The proposal, which came from the city’s Community Relations Commission, has so far been discussed at one public hearing. Earlier, state laws were proposed in Michigan and New York but were not enacted, while a civil penalty statute is pending in Oregon. In lieu of criminalization, some experts suggest giving 911 operators and dispatchers more training and authority in order to screen out inappropriate calls.

Volunteers in Michigan

May 23, 2019

Many law enforcement agencies use volunteers to relieve officers of routine duties or complete tasks that otherwise wouldn’t get done. This article reports on the all-volunteer 13-member Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (Michigan) dive team, which is seeking a few more divers who love ice-cold water. The Grand Rapids PD uses volunteers for “duties unrelated to crime, such as abandoned vehicle tagging, parking violation enforcement, graffiti reporting, vacation house checks and senior resident visits” and is hoping to double its 16-member volunteer program, according to this article.

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.”

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.

Long-term drop in solving rape cases

December 28, 2018

This article reviews the national clearance rate for rape, which has dropped from 62% in 1964 to 32% in 2017. Some of the decline is probably due to increased reporting by victims and more complete recording by police. Also, the FBI definition was expanded in 2013 and, most recently, #MeToo has caused a surge in reporting, straining investigative staff in many agencies. DNA and other forensic impovements should help solve cases, but many still boil down to he-said/she-said over the question of consent.

Reducing car-bicycle crashes

November 20, 2018

This article reports early results from a NHTSA traffic safety initiative in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The city has adopted a 5-foot rule for cars passing bicycles, has 83% compliance according to radar devices attached to bikes, and has had a 30% decrease in collisions. The main emphasis is on educating drivers — police have made 146 stops but issued only 3 citations. Knoxville, Tennessee is currently doing a similar study using a 3-foot rule.