The big criminal justice news this week is the arrest of long time mob fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger. Bulger had been an FBI informant and was on the run for 16 years after he was tipped off of a coming arrest by his FBI handler. The New York Times has a number of interesting stories about Bulger including the one where this bit came from:
“We are trying to reach a different audience that will produce new leads in the case,” said Special Agent Richard Teahan, who leads an F.B.I. task force that has searched for Mr. Bulger worldwide. “Greig has certain habits, characteristics and idiosyncrasies that are recognizable.”
They include having her teeth cleaned monthly before she fled. She also “loves dogs and all kinds of animals,” “likes to frequent beauty salons” and has “had multiple plastic surgeries,” Mr. Teahan said. The public service announcement includes a photo of the pair strolling with a black poodle.
That different approach, one that involved the FBI buying add time on shows that would be popular with women and using them to profile Bulger's longtime girlfriend, apparently worked as several news stories indicated that tips about the girlfriend led to Bulger's arrest.
The big lesson for many of us in law enforcement is that this is a demonstration of the old adage "there is more than one way to skin a cat". By focussing on the girlfriend instead of the fugitive and raising publicity about her, they generated tips that led to Bulger.
This idea that you can often solve a crime problem in more than one way is an important part of a community policing or problem oriented policing strategy. If you are trying to solve a difficult crime problem, make sure that you examine the problem from all angles. You might be able to solve the problem by coming at it from another angle.
When was the last time you solved a crime problem by using an unusual strategy?