Monday, June 24, 2013

Why Rape Victims Don't Always Act Like We Think They Should

Police work is a weird profession. There are cops who like working murders and those who like working robberies. Each type crime is different with their own unique challenges. There are not a lot of police officers or detectives that would say rape cases are their favorite cases to work.

There are so many issues that come up when investigating sexual assaults. One major issue that puts cops off is the issue of victim credibility. You don't often have to investigate a victim's credibility in a murder. You do end up having to look at a victim's credibility in sexual assault cases. If you don't have this thoroughly nailed down before you seek a prosecution, the defense will certainly bring the issue up at trial.

There was an interesting piece over a Slate magazine that looked at why some victims of sexual assault act in inexplicable ways, ways that may make the victim seem less than credible.

In the past decade, neurobiology has evolved to explain why victims respond in ways that make it seem like they could be lying, even when they’re not. Using imaging technology, scientists can identify which parts of the brain are activated when a person contemplates a traumatic memory such as sexual assault. The brain’s prefrontal cortex—which is key to decision-making and memory—often becomes temporarily impaired. The amygdala, known to encode emotional experiences, begins to dominate, triggering the release of stress hormones and helping to record particular fragments of sensory information. Victims can also experience tonic immobility—a sensation of being frozen in place—or a dissociative state. These types of withdrawal result from extreme fear yet often make it appear as if the victim did not resist the assault.

Via Slate.com

The whole piece is worth the read. Hit the link to read it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An Increase In Citations In Lieu Of Arrest, Leads To An Increase In Warrants For Failure To Appear

Chalk this up to the Law of Unintended Consequences. There was a story in the local Killeen Daily Herald that looked at the consequences of a move to allow Texas officers to write tickets in lieu of making a custodial arrest.

The Legislature in 2007 changed misdemeanor laws, allowing officers to give tickets for such crimes as shoplifting and low-quantity drug possession and have offenders show up later to court.
Such “cite and release” programs were designed to ease crowding at county jails and free officers from spending hours arresting and booking suspects.

But the Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday that a “cite and release” program being run by some law enforcement agencies in Travis County has resulted in more than 40 percent of defendants never returning for their assigned court dates.

Via The Killeen Daily Herald
One thing that the article didn't touch on is does the cost savings by not having officers make a custodial arrest for minor non-violent offenses outweigh the increase in costs caused by defendants failing to appear who then are subject to arrest warrants.

It may be that even with a large number of these offenders skipping out on their court dates, the cost savings are such that the idea may still make sense. The flipside of 40% not showing up for court is that 60% actually did show up. Of that 40% that didn't, I wonder how many got arrested on a Failure To Appear warrant later in the year?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is Our Fear Of Violent Crime Legitimate?

The Pacific Standard had a great question in a piece titled: Violent Crime Is Dropping: Why Are We So Scared?
One criminologist and professor of sociology, Dr. Mark Warr at the University of Texas, has said that, every time a new report on national crime is released, his phone rings off the hook, with reporters asking him to comment on “rising crime,” even though that’s not what the reports actually show.

Via The Pacific Standard
The piece quotes several criminologists who make a connection between these mistaken perceptions and media coverage of violence.

So why do we want to believe violent crime is worse than it really is?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

iPhone Update To Reduce Apple Picking Smartphone Thefts

Earlier this week, Apple Computer held their World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). During these events, Apple usually announces the new products that will be released. This WWDC was no different. One part of the announcement of a new operating system for iPhone and iPad devices included an announcement that will benefit law enforcement.
Now the company that gave the crime its name is taking a step to stop it, with a "kill switch"-style update aimed at making the mobile gadgets less valuable to thieves.

Activation Lock will be part of iOS 7, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system expected to roll out in the fall. The feature will require an Apple ID and password before the phone's "Find My iPhone" feature can be turned off or any data can be erased.

via CNN
The popularity of these devices also has a negative consequence, that of also making the devices popular with thieves. Crime analysts often refer to these items that are popular with thieves with the acronym CRAVED. I've posted about CRAVED before here.

I'm hoping that this type of technological advancements will help stem the tide of Apple Picking thefts, at least for a little while. I also hope more manufacturers will get on board with these efforts.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Houston Police Unit Provides Alternatives In Dealing With The Mentally Ill

It's no secret to those in law enforcement that we spend a significant amount of time and resources dealing with the mentally ill. There was a great story over at the Journal Sentinel Online that looked at an innovative program by Houston, Texas Police that reduced the amount of time HPD spent dealing with mentally ill "frequent flyers".

HPD created a Chronic Consumer Stabilization Unit that focuses on finding alternative ways to deal with the mentally ill rather than the traditional arrest / hospitalization / release / arrest again cycle.
After intense intervention by the two case managers, the same 30 individuals were reported to have been involuntarily committed by officers 39 times in the following six months — a decrease of 76.4%. They were involved in 65 police offense reports — a 66.5% decrease.

Via Journal Sentinel Online
 It's along article but worth the read. How does your agency handle the mentally ill?

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Best Approaches To Tough Crime Problems Are Comprehensive

One thing I've noticed over my years working in law enforcement is how prostitution offenses have changed over the years. Much of this activity, even in the sleepy little burg where I work has moved to online sites such as Craigslist or Backpage. Even the most desperate street walking "crack whore" is using these sites to ply her trade nowadays. The Internet and all it's good points and bad points have become that ubiquitous.

Wired Magazine had an opinion piece worth reading on combating sex-trafficking. The piece by Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft discusses the role technology plays in this type of crime. In it, Danah as this worthy bit:
Lately, there’s been a tide shift. There’s a movement afoot where technologists, social scientists, government agencies, advocates, and NGOs have started coming together to imagine and build technology-based innovations that would disrupt the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Because creating meaningful technical — and social — interventions to combat human trafficking (and other forms of exploitation) requires moving beyond fears and dreams. Beyond dystopian and utopian rhetoric.

Via Wired
When Craigslist became infamous for this type of activity, they were pressured into making changes that forced much of this activity off Craigslist. The problem was that Backpage popped up to fill the slack and most of these sex traffickers were right back in business.

Danah's right. You're not going to solve a difficult crime problem with a simplistic solution like shuttering a website. It's going to take a lot of smart people getting together and devoting time, talent and energy to come up with creative solutions if these problems are going to be solved.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

With Recent UCR Numbers Up, Should You Worry?

The Urban Institute's Metro Trends blog had a piece that looked at the troubling news that the FBI's Uniform Crime Report numbers showed an increase in violent crime in 2012.
By itself, this might not be too troubling. But this follows last year’s announcement from the Bureau of Justice Statistics that national survey data showed an even bigger jump in violence—17 percent.  (It should be noted that violence is very rare, so while it’s a large increase percentage-wise, in real numbers, the increase was from 3.3 violent victimizations per 1,000 to 4.3 per 1,000. Those numbers are very similar to the FBI data, which shows 3.8 violent victimizations per 1,000).

Via Metro Trends
So what do you think, should we be worried that we're headed back to the bad old days?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Whose Crime Numbers Are Right, The FBI's or a Local Agency's?

This piece over at the Denver Post has me a bit befuddled. In the piece they state that the FBI's crime stats show Denver's crime was headed downward while Denver PD's crime numbers show it's going up. This is where it really gets weird with DPD claiming their crime stats are accurate while the FBI's aren't.
Colorado police departments send crime reports to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, which then submits them to the federal government. Certain errors, such as minor problems with an officer's report, can cause CBI to reject the entire report, Murray said.

A CBI spokeswoman did not return a call Monday night.

"There is no accountability for the data. It's uniform, but it's uniformly wrong . ... Our data is much more accurate because we require that," Murray said.

Via The Denver Post
Let me get this right, Denver PD sends their crime data to the state of Colorado CBI, which then in turn sends it on to the FBI, but somewhere along the way the FBI data became inaccurate? If, as they claim, an officer's report has problems that cause it to be rejected, is their data really that accurate (even if they "require that") if it contained these erroneous reports that will later be rejected by CBI?

What I really find unusual about this story is that DPD is asserting that Denver crime is worse than the FBI makes it out to be. Usually when an agency complains that the FBI's data is wrong it's the other way around, the FBI's data showing their city to be worse off than the local agency says it is.

This whole story is just weird.

Monday, June 3, 2013

2012 FBI Crime Numbers Out For Large Cities

The FBI released the preliminary 2012 Uniform Crime Reports crime numbers for cities of 100,000 or greater today.
The new preliminary Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics for 2012 indicate that when compared to data for 2011, the number of violent crimes reported by law enforcement agencies around the country increased 1.2 percent during 2012, while the number of property crimes decreased 0.8 percent.

Via FBI.gov
If you follow this link to the 2012 Crime In The United States page, you can view the number for your city, provided it has a population of 100,000 or greater. The FBI will release the rest of the 2012 UCR data later this year.

It won't be long now before we start seeing news stories that quote a press release indicating that some city has been declared "the most dangerous" in America. This happens despite the fact that the groups that conduct these "analyses" often employ a pretty sketchy methodology to come up with these lists and that the FBI and others warn against such simplistic analysis.

Such is the bloodsport that is crime statistics.