Using Patterns to Predict Crimes

blogpostWe have all heard that humans are creatures of habit. We like certain pillows when we sleep, we always drive the same route to work, maybe even have the same breakfast to start each day. Now it seems that our predictable nature is aiding law enforcement in predicting criminal activity, with the notion that past behavior creates a pattern for future plans.

In Madison, Wisconsin, crime analyst Caleb Klebig predicted a bank robbery last week that left the local police officers amazed with its accuracy. Klebig analyzed recent robberies in the area and shared five possible banks that he believed would be the location of the next strike and even suggested the day of the week and time of day at which the robbery would occur. Turns out, he was right! Detectives at the targeted shopping area were able to apprehend the suspect, Scottie T. Patterson, who admitted to being behind the other robberies that Klebig had examined to establish the pattern.

Obviously, most police departments cannot station officers at every possible location that fit aspects of a crime trend in the area. But as technology becomes more sophisticated and we are able to gain even more insight to how a perpetrator’s crime pattern is unfolding, officers can focus limited resources on just a few reliably pinpointed locations.

I love these examples of human instincts and hi-tech problem solving working together with the potential of making our neighborhoods safer. I don’t know if we will ever able to state with certainty, “The Safeway on Main Street will be robbed on Thursday at 3:27pm,” but it will be interesting to see where the crime-predicting effort goes.

Maybe Emily Stone needs to pair up with someone who has this type of analytic ability in a future novel . . .

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Take a Walk Through a Body Farm

Originally posted on Author Jennifer Chase:

Today’s post is not for the squeamish or faint of heart.  I find the scientific research into decomposition fascinating.  I originally posted this article more than a year ago and have received so many comments and questions about it, so I thought I’d repost again.

This is for all of you armchair CSI buffs or aspiring crime authors…

The body farm refers to a research facility where human decomposition is studied in different settings, conditions, and environments.  The invaluable research gains a more accurate understanding of the human decomposition process.

As ghoulish as it sounds, learning to properly develop techniques to extract information from decomposition remains, such as the time and circumstances of death, prepares investigators, law enforcement and forensic anthropologists to pinpoint and reconstruct the chain of events of a crime.

It’s a fascinating scientific process.  Bodies are studied out in the open, buried in debris and brush, inside small…

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Female Serial Killer in England Sentenced to Life in Prison

serialkillersWhile I focus a lot of research on crimes that are committed in the United States, and unfortunately there are no shortage of them, I also like to keep up with what is happening in other justice systems. This week in England, a serial killer was sentenced. There were two particularly unusual details about this event. First, the criminal was ordered to remain in prison for a “whole life term.” The second is that the criminal is a woman.

Male serial killers outnumber females by a wide proportion, which is consistent to the disparity in violent crime statistics overall. blogpostBut there is no doubt that Joanne Dehenny is a killer. She stabbed three men to death, and attempted to kill two others the same way. Her reason? Just to see if she was as cold and indifferent to human life as she imagined she was. Turns out, she discovered that she liked killing and she was diagnosed with paraphilia sadomasochism, which means she was sexually excited by the pain and humiliation of others.

The fact that the 31-year-old mother of two will spend the rest of her life behind bars is of note as well. This marks only the third time in English criminal history that a woman has been sentenced to life in jail, a punishment that Dehenny found amusing. England has no death penalty and the appeals court of the land just upheld recently that putting someone in prison until she dies is lawful, so such a sentence is not taken lightly.

I’m glad that Dehenny is behind bars, as it appears that she would not have any qualms about killing again. She still has a potentially long life ahead of her and hopefully now will get some treatment, both for the sake of her two young children and so that perhaps criminal psychologists can learn more about what makes some minds operate in this way.

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Photography Sunday — Beauty in Black & White

Originally posted on Author Jennifer Chase:

One of my favorite escapes from the daily grind and writing is to go to the beach.  I love to walk, take my dogs for a run on the beach, and I bring my camera for good measure because you never know what you’re going to see.  I find that some of the most beautiful subjects are often emphasized in black and white.

This particular day it was really windy, I mean really windy.  I saw a nice shot up a beach path and I had to make sure that I kept my mouth closed and breathed shallow; otherwise, I’d be tasting sand for the rest of the day. 

Here’s a curious seagull that wouldn’t leave me alone.  I was trying to get some shots of sea lions around the harbor.  I guess this little guy wasn’t camera shy.

This is one of my favorite beach shots.  The lighting this particular day was…

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Teenager Claims to Have Killed Dozens

Photo Courtesy AP

Photo Courtesy AP

If nineteen-year-old Miranda Barbour’s confessions prove to be true, she could be one of the worst serial killers in our nation’s history. The Pennsylvania teenager and her husband were arrested earlier this month on charges of criminal homicide after allegedly stabbing and strangling a man they met through Craig’s List. Once in custody, Barbour readily shared that this was not her first experience with murder and had killed somewhere between 22 and 100 people over the last six years. But, this confession does not make for an open and shut case.

Barbour claims that she was involved with a satanic cult and only killed “bad people” in a crime spree that occurred across the country, from Alaska to Texas to Pennsylvania. However, law enforcement officials in the various areas she lived have no reason to believe she is connected to any murders and even a spokesman from the Church of Satan has gone to the media to disavow any involvement with her. Instead, relatives and others who know her state that she is a sexual abuse survivor who now exists in a fantasy world fueled by drug use.

Whatever her involvement may be with other homicides, the evidence pinning her to the death of Troy LeFerrara, the Craig’s List respondent, is pretty strong. Does she feel the need to make her crimes exponentially worse, if only through fiction? If so, why? Whether it is true or not that she has killed dozens of people, how do you handle such a young individual whose psychological framework seems to be so damaged?

I cannot help but be grotesquely fascinated by Miranda Barbour’s story. With her background of enduring abuse as a child, it seems that she has grown into a callous and violent adult, perhaps out of a seeming need for protection. If she has killed one man or fifty, she deserves to serve the punishment deemed appropriate for her crimes and perhaps her example will be one that experts can study for warning signs before tragedy repeats itself.

What are your views? Are we, as a society, creating more serial killers?

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Forensics – The Past Meets the Present

Originally posted on Author Jennifer Chase:

Here are some fun facts about forensics. It is often thought that police forensics has been a relatively new contribution to interpreting, reconstructing, and solving crimes in our society.  Quite the contrary, police forensics, or more accurately described as forensic science, has been a part of history for more than a hundred years.

What is forensic science? 

The word “forensic” comes from the Latin word “forensis”, which simply means forum.  Today, the area of police forensics is split into two major working categories: criminalistics and forensic science.

Criminalistics is designed to develop and interpret physical evidence; namely, to identify the actual substance, object, or instrument used in the surrounding events of a crime scene.  Fingerprints, impression evidence, and trace evidence all fall into this category of expertise.  While forensic science, also referred to as forensic medicine or medical jurisprudence, encompasses some of the specialized areas…

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Writing and the Winter Olympics

Photo courtesy Associated Press

Photo courtesy Associated Press

Have you been watching any of the Winter Olympics in Sochi? I love how every four years we all become experts on curling and the biathlon and the luge as we analyze every athlete on our television screens. The spectacle of the opening ceremonies, the political implications at play between different countries, the rare chance that these men and women have to highlight the sports they love – all of it makes for fascinating viewing. But beyond just enjoying these Games for the sake of the competition, I started thinking about comparisons with the world of writing and publishing.

Isn’t crafting the perfect sentence somewhat like pairs figure skating? There is a flow to the language, with all of the pieces working together to create a moment of art. If you read the words out loud, the cadence rises and falls like waves.

There are some definite comparisons between participating in the skeleton and your first attempt at self-publishing. You start down that hill head first, putting everything on the line with great risk of rejection. Your writing is an extension of who you are, and to put it out there for an audience to review makes you vulnerable.

Maybe the writing process is like cross country skiing. You spend a lot of time by yourself and sometimes the scenery seems repetitive but you also get to experience exhilarating moments of real beauty. Or the biathlon, when you move along without much seeming to happen until suddenly you get to stop and take a shot at a book signing or meeting with a publishing house or a writing contest.

It could be that I’m stretching analogies a bit here, but it’s fun to brainstorm. So what do my fellow writers out there think? Have you watched a sport at the Olympics this year that you can relate to the making and marketing of your craft?

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