Undercover Cops: 3 Heroic Stories

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Undercover police work is a fascinating universe due to the inherent paradox. You have a person sworn to uphold and enforce the law, who then becomes immersed in – and ingratiated into – the world of outlaws.

In addition to the innate risks of being around criminals, undercover agents live in constant danger of having their identity compromised. In other words –  the peril of being outed as law enforcement is a looming concern. There is also the very real fear that the agent will “go native” by empathizing, and identifying, with the criminal targets.

One slip-up as an undercover cop could mean an agent’s life. But, despite all the risks – brave individuals still go deep undercover with the goal of bringing down criminal enterprises.

Here are three successfully bold undercover agents who helped lock-up some dangerous people.

Billy Queen

In 1998, ATF agent Billy Queen infiltrated one of the nation’s most dangerous biker gangs – the Mongols. Assuming the identity of “Billy St. John,” Queen was introduced to, and joined, the San Fernando Valley chapter of the gang. And within a short time, the undercover ATF agent became a well-respected “patched-in” member of the outlaw motorcycle club.

Cruising around Southern California on his chopper with his long-haired, tattoo laden, beer guzzling biker brothers, Queen’s street smarts and tough guy attitude earned him instant credibility. Being so well-respected by the outlaws, Queen rose quickly through the ranks to the position of treasurer.

Fighting off any instinct to embrace the dangerous, outlaw lifestyle, Queen kept in close contact with his ATF handler, providing the feds with quality intel concerning the full extent of the Mongols’ criminal actions.

At the end of his undercover operation, the feds conducted a nationwide sting that resulted in the arrest of 54 of the 350 members of the Mongols. The charges ranged from rape and murder, to arms violations and narcotics.

Despite the successful operation – deceiving and crippling an outlaw biker club has some significant drawbacks. There’s little doubt that Queen has a price on his head, and he most certainly sleeps with one eye open.

Terry Mills

As a 30-year veteran of the Missouri Highway Patrol, Terry Mills spent a great deal of time doing undercover work. He immersed himself into the world of drug dealers, terrorists and gang members. And even though he lived dangerously for many years, the one case that made a huge impact on him involved animals.

In 1986, while working as an investigator with an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Mills came upon a major multi-state dog fighting ring. And for 15 months, Mills assumed the identity of a dog fighter who operated from a rural Missouri property where he trained pit bulls. Over the course of his investigation, he attended dog fights throughout Missouri and Southern Illinois. What he encountered left a permanent scar on his psyche.

Witnessing the horrid abuses inflicted upon these dogs made this an exceptionally difficult assignment for Mills. A man who had gone undercover with ruthless gangs was shocked at how brutal these dog fights were, and how the people involved had no regard for the lives of these animals. Mills was astounded that these people believed dog fighting was a cultural right, along the same lines as hunting, fishing and even – religion.

Because of Mills’ tireless and soul crushing work – over 100 people were arrested, and more than 500 dogs were rescued.

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Operation Iceman

By the mid-1980s, New Jersey contract killer Richard Kuklinski had already killed over 100 men. Known by the mob and law enforcement as “the Iceman,” Kuklinski was a stoic, ruthless murderer, who never displayed much emotion. (Kuklinski’s nickname is attributed to his cold-blooded nature, and the fact that he froze the corpses of his victims to mask the time of death.)

The Iceman was on law enforcement’s radar for a long time. Then finally, in 1985, the New Jersey Criminal Justice Department set up a joint federal, state and local task force dedicated to bringing the hammer down on Kuklinski. The task force was simply known as – “Operation Iceman.”

With a career spanning five decades, Kuklinksi was a fierce hitman who killed with reckless abandon. Operation Iceman agents were determined to lock this guy up. The undercover cop assigned to befriend Kuklinski was ATF Special Agent Dominick Polifrone.

Although the Iceman had killed with guns and knives, his late-career preferred assassination method was cyanide poisoning. So, when Polifrone was introduced to the Iceman, the ruse was that the undercover agent wanted to hire Kuklinski to kill someone using cyanide. They developed a relationship, and Kuklinski freely shared murder tips and stories with the agent.

Operation Iceman turned out to be a success. Agents arrested Kuklinski on the day he purchased – what he thought was – pure cyanide from Polifrone.

In 1988, the Iceman was convicted of five murders and sentenced to consecutive life sentences. Then, 15 years later, he was found guilty of the 1980 murder of an officer of the NYPD, resulting in an additional 30-year sentence. In 2006, Kuklinski died in prison of natural causes.

One thing that all these undercover agents possessed was the ability to act like a chameleon. They were able to blend in with their targets, think on their feet, and relate to just about anyone. An undercover cop’s social skills are almost more vital to a successful operation than their investigative skills. Are there any undercover stories over the years that have piqued your interest?

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5 Writing Tips for Punching up Fight Scenes

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I love reading and writing action-oriented stories. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie or book—I love all the action with fights, weapons, car chases, martial arts, or an old-fashioned shootout. It may sound easy enough to write, but you might be surprised what it takes to make your fight scene really shine and get your readers excited.

If you’re incorporating some type of fight scene into your story, there are a few things that you should be aware of when prepping for it. It’s not just a one-two punch and that’s the end of the fight. It may look that easy, but I have a few tricks that help punch up the scene.

  1. KNOW YOUR HUMAN ANATOMY

The first phase to writing a fight scene is to know and understand basic human anatomy. Visit a reputable website(s), borrow a book from the library, or purchase a book for research (highly recommended).

Did you know that you have 206 bones in your body? More than half of those bones are in your hands and feet. Truly amazing. Take a closer look at your own hands. Study the details of the bones, tendons, veins, and how your fingernails are shaped. Think about it and how it would pertain to your characters. The next time your characters are in a fist fight or searching for something to defend themselves with, there are many possible scenarios of what can happen to the body, specifically the hands and feet. Think about injuries, weaknesses, and strengths.

It’s not just about the bones. By having an understanding of where the major organs are located, such as the kidneys, solar plexus, liver, and the heart, it will make the scene much more believable.

  1. UNDERSTAND WEAPONS

I don’t know how many times I’ve read a novel where the author doesn’t understand the difference between a revolver and semi-automatic gun. EmilyStone_Stills_006AIf you’re going to use a gun as the character’s weapon of choice, know everything about it—size, make, model, type of grip, how many bullets it holds, how to hold, and how the safety works.

Weapons aren’t just limited to guns. There is a whole host of weapons that could be used in a fight. Besides bare hands, the character can use hatchets, hammers, knives, swords, bats, and just about anything that a person could use to attack someone or defend themselves. I’ve used kitchen pots and pans to implements found in a garden and garage for my character’s fights. The list is endless. Whatever the weapon of choice in a fight—find out everything about it.

  1. IDENTIFY SELF DEFENSE & OFFENSIVE MOVES

If you’ve ever taken a basic self-defense class or some type of martial arts, it will help you on a fundamental level to know where your characters should and shouldn’t stand during a fight. Know the stances, both for defensive and offensive moves. EmilyStone_workoutHow does your character stand? Where is the position of feet and hands? What are some of the realistic capabilities for your character?

You can watch movie fight sequences or pick up a book on various fighting techniques. Once you put your mind to it, there are almost limitless possibilities to your character’s fighting techniques. Whether your hero is a freestyle amateur or trained fighter, know your defensive and offensive moves.

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH

When you’re preparing to write a story, whether a book or script, make sure to add to the research list your fight scenes. I know that it may not sound a big thing, but don’t drop the ball on understanding what you need to know for your fight scenes.

You can get as detailed as necessary, whatever the fight scene dictates. Plus, as an added bonus, whatever research you’ve done for one project can work for other stories as well. I think you’ll find that preparing for your fight scenes can be really fun as well as beneficial to the story.

  1. SKETCH OUT SPECIFIC SCENES

This may seem extreme or even funny, but I cannot express to you how helpful it is to take a plain piece of paper and sketch out your fight scenes—nothing fancy just the basics.Fight I do this for my crime scenes, when I have a scene with several people involved, detailed action scenes, and when I need the hero to kick some butt in a fight. Even if you’re not an outliner, it’s highly recommended that you outline a good fight scene. It’s actually fun and helps you to visually realize your scene. Try it. I promise it will help you make your fight scene jump off the page…

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Law and Culture: 3 Horrible Crimes that Changed America

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Photo courtesy of miamiherald.com.

There are certain devastating crimes that shake a culture to its core. These events, although horrific, do have a silver lining. And that is, the crimes help us identify and rectify certain gaps in our legal system.

Here are three terrible crimes that helped change American law—for the better.

The Abduction and Killing of Adam Walsh

Tragedy struck Hollywood, Florida on July 27, 1981. On that day, 6-year-old Adam Walsh went to the local mall with his mom, but he was never again seen alive.

Kidnapped from Sears, Adam’s whereabouts were a mystery for 16 agonizing days. Then, a parent’s worst nightmare occurred. Adam’s decapitated head was found not far from the area in which he was abducted.

Because of this tragedy, one of the glaring issues that came to the forefront was the lack of a centralized system that would alert the public to be on the lookout for a missing child. Adams’s mother spent almost two hours searching for him throughout the mall and its surrounding area. If she was able to immediately alert the public that Adam was missing, there may have been an actual chance of Adam being spotted with his abductor.

Adam’s father is famed television host John Walsh. He channeled his heartbreak into advocacy for missing children. Walsh founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And, in 2006, President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This Act created a national database of convicted child sex offenders, and it strengthened penalties for persons convicted of harming children.

Also, because of Adam’s tragic death, the “Code Adam Program” was started by Walmart and is now used at retail chains across the nation. This program ensures children are recovered quickly and safely if they are lost in a store. In 2003, a law was passed that requires all federal facilities to participate in the Code Adam Program.

Adam’s death was a devastating tragedy, but his spirit lives on through the thousands of children that have been safely recovered due to the laws and programs established in his honor.

The Stalking and Murder of Rebecca Schaeffer

Rebecca Schaeffer was a young actress who starred in the successful 1980s sitcom, My Sister Sam. Rebecca’s life and career were on an upward trajectory, and it appeared that this 21- year-old had the world in the palm of her hand.

Then, one day, her life was cut short by a deranged killer—Robert John Bardo, who had been stalking Schaeffer for months.

Using weak motor vehicle privacy laws to his advantage, Bardo was able to obtain the actress’ home address in West Hollywood. On the day of the murder, Bardo arrived from Arizona at Rebecca’s apartment and asked her for an autograph. Rebecca reluctantly complied, then promptly asked him to leave—which he did. But, the stalker showed back up again a little while later. And when Rebecca opened the door, Bardo shot and killed her.

Bardo was arrested in Arizona the following day and sentenced (in California) to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Rebecca’s murder resulted in America’s first anti-stalking law when California became the inaugural state to criminalize stalking. Additionally, because of Rebecca’ murder, California passed the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which is a law that prohibits the DMV from releasing people’s home addresses.

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Photo courtesy of celebritypix.us.

Kitty Genovese ‘s Killing

There exists a sociological phenomenon called “the bystander effect.” In a nutshell – it simply means that people lose their moral compass when they are in a crowd. A tragic example of this concept occurred deep in the night on March 13, 1964 in the New York City neighborhood of Kew Gardens, Queens.

On that night, a young woman named Kitty Genovese was stalked, stabbed, raped and murdered by a vile criminal. The attack lasted a few minutes, and during the entire horrifying experience, Kitty cried out for help. But, no one came to her aid in the densely populated urban landscape.

This terrible crime revealed a few issues that needed to be resolved, and while it is difficult to change the collective behavior of any entire city, there was one aspect that could be rectified.

And that was the efficiency of contacting emergency responders. At this point in history, 9-1-1 did not exist. Citizens would either dial “0” for the operator or dial the entire number for the area police. The phone call would then be routed through a communications bureau, which in turn would relay the message to the precinct that was nearest to the emergency.

Many believe that Kitty’s neighbors did contact the police, but their calls were lost or mishandled due to the convoluted communications system that existed. About four years after the tragedy, a Presidential Commission was established to develop a universal emergency reporting system that would utilize one nationwide, simple number. The result was 9-1-1. And, the first call using this system was made on February 16, 1968 in Haleyville, Alabama.

Kitty’s murder was a senseless and brutal act, but her legacy lives on, as she was the inspiration for the development of 9-1-1. Today, any person in the US can reach the police by dialing that three-digit number.

While these crimes are certainly not the entire list of horrific acts that prompted change, they are certainly seminal cases. Can you think of any other modern crimes that led to a positive legal change in America?

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Murder in America: 3 Infamous Crime Scenes

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Photo  courtesy of frightfind.com.

Scattered throughout the American landscape are crime scenes that live in infamy. Each of these notorious locations have their own unique homicidal story.

Here are three such stories.

Holmes Murder Castle

It was 1893, and Chicago was hosting the World’s Fair. Over 27 million visitors poured into the Windy City to take part in the massive event. With so many visitors descending upon the city, there was an obvious need for lodging. And that’s what the murderer H.H. Holmes was counting on.

Born in New Hampshire as Herman Webster Mudgett, Holmes changed his name after abandoning his family and moving to Chicago. Upon arriving in Chicago, he began working for a small pharmacy in the Jackson Park neighborhood – the same area where the World’s Fair would eventually take place.

Utilizing his con artist skills, Holmes manipulated his employers into giving him money, so that he could purchase a vacant lot and build an apartment building. His idea was to provide housing for visitors looking for temporary work at the World’s Fair.

Holmes’ building was a labyrinth of deception. Inside, he filled the edifice with secret passages, soundproof rooms, and a dizzying maze of stairwells and hallways.

Holmes lured visitors into his building, and then would trap them in one of his rooms. Each apartment was outfitted with trapdoors that disguised chutes, which would drop victims into the building’s subterranean level. Holmes’ basement was filled with acid vats and a crematorium, which was used to dispose of his victims’ bodies.

Eventually, the police were alerted to Holmes and his murderous ways. So, he fled Chicago and wound up in Boston. There, he was arrested for killing a man and his two children. At that point, Holmes claimed that he killed more than 200 people at his Murder Castle.

At trial, Holmes toned down his claims, and confessed to murdering 27 people, including his Boston victims. He was eventually hanged for his crimes.

A few years after Holmes’ execution, his Murder Castle was gutted by fire. But, the building itself remained until 1938, at which time it was torn down. Currently, the location houses a post office.

Amityville Horror Home

In the quaint Long Island town of Amityville sits a house whose infamous past has spawned a plethora of horror films and books. Originally the scene of a mass murder, the home purportedly became a haven for demonic paranormal activity.

It all started on November 13, 1974 when 23-year old Ronald J. DeFeo, Jr. executed his entire family while they were asleep. DeFeo was arrested shortly after the killings and is now serving multiple life sentences for the murder of his parents and four siblings.

Only thirteen months after the killings, the home was sold – at a significant discount – to the Lutz Family. But, they only lasted 28 days in the home.

Why?

Because they supposedly encountered frightening paranormal occurrences, including levitation, strange odors, voices, moving objects and most shockingly – bodily possession. After living in the house for less than a month, the Lutz’s vacated and told their story to the world.

To prove the veracity of their encounter, the family took lie detector tests and passed. Less than three years later, Hollywood produced its first “Amityville Horror” movie.

Since the killings, the house has been owned by four separate owners. And, even though the 5-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom estate is a beautiful residence, it never gets sold for its asking price due to obvious reasons. One of the owners made the smart move of changing the home’s street address.

In February 2017, the home was purchased once again for well-below the asking price. It makes you wonder – who would be brave (or crazy) enough to live in the Amityville Horror House?

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Photo courtesy of wacotrib.com.

Branch Davidian Compound

In central Texas, there is a town that witnessed a great American tragedy. The town is Waco. And, the calamity was a deadly showdown between federal agents and Branch Davidians – a controversial religious group.

In 1992, local Texas law enforcement alerted the ATF to potential federal firearms violations at the Branch Davidian Compound. The suspicion began when a UPS driver reported to police that he had been delivering large amounts of ammo, grenade hulls, gun parts, military gear and chemicals to the compound.

The ATF investigation led to the conclusion that the group’s fanatical leader – David Koresh – was building an arsenal for an eventual apocalyptic battle, as foretold by God.

On February 28, 1993, federal agents arrived at the compound with the aim of arresting Koresh. What ensued was a gun battle that did not lead to an arrest, but rather, resulted in 10 deaths – four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians.

Because of the failed and deadly operation, the feds became ensnared in a tense 51-day stand-off with the cult. Koresh and his followers refused to surrender, despite being surrounded by armored vehicles, tanks and over 600 federal law enforcement agents.

After an almost two-month showdown, the confrontation finally ended. But, as one can imagine, it concluded in tragedy. On April 19, 1993, a fire engulfed the compound and killed 75 people, including Koresh. Although there has been speculation as to the origin of the blaze, a seven-year DOJ investigation determined that members of the sect started the fire.

When the fire subsided and investigators examined the crime scene, it was discovered that many of the deceased members had gunshot wounds to the face, head and chest. Koresh was found with a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. The FBI asserts that no federal agent fired a single bullet during the standoff and no FBI gun was discharged after the initial siege – 51 days prior.

Today, there are no signs of the former compound other than a hole, which was once a pool that was converted into a bunker during the standoff.

Any other infamous American crime scenes that stand out in your mind?

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Fatal Women: 4 of History’s Most Ruthless Female Criminals

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Bonnie Parker, Source: mirror.co.uk  

After looking through my past blog posts, it hit me – most of the criminals mentioned are men. Well, that doesn’t seem fair. Granted, most criminals are men (sorry, guys.) Still, there certainly has been some notoriously ruthless females throughout modern history.

These dangerous women range from highly-trained assassins to serial killers. But, regardless of their forte, there’s one thing to keep in mind – you’d never want to encounter any of these ladies alone in a dark alley.

Here’s four of modern history’s scariest women.

La Tigresa (1980s)

Known for her sexual prowess and cunning tactics, Idoia Lopez Riano (aka “the tigress”) is a former high-ranking commando for the violent Basque Separatist Organization. La Tigresa is credited with the assassination of 23 people in Spain during a particularly volatile period of the Basque independence campaign.

Responsible for a Madrid explosion that killed 12 Civil Guards in 1986, La Tigresa has also been held accountable for sporadic acts of violence, including gunning down individual police officers and soldiers.

La Tigresa was eventually brought to justice after being caught hiding in France. The Spanish government sentenced her to 1,500 years in prison. La Tigresa’s extreme prison sentence was more symbolic than practical, in that Spanish law only permits a 30-year maximum prison sentence. While in prison, this revolutionary assassin renounced violence and apologized for her heinous crimes.

After renouncing her crimes, La Tigresa was kicked out of the terrorist organization. Years later, she was released early from prison. 

Maria Swanenburg (late 1800s)

Maria Swanengburg was a Dutch serial killer, who spent the better part of her life caring for children and the ill. Nicknamed Goede Mie (“good me”), Swanenburg lived in a poor section of the historical city of Leiden in Holland. She earned her income by taking care of those who were too young, sick or old to handle their own affairs.

After years of tending to the feeble, Swanenburg became fed up with her poverty-stricken lifestyle. So, she began to use arsenic to poison those under her care. Before killing her sickly victims, Swanenburg would open insurance policies for her prey under the seemingly legitimate pretext that the money was intended to cover the inevitable funeral costs. After the victims perished, she would keep all the insurance proceeds.

As time passed, Swanenburg’s greed became insatiable. Instead of poisoning the one person under her care, she would murder entire families, and then collect their inheritance. Swanenburg was eventually caught attempting to poison a family for which she worked. Although charged with 90 murders, Swanenburg was only convicted for her final three killings. Thirty-two years after being arrested, the Dutch killer died in prison.

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Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com.

Dagmar Overbye (early 1900s)

Responsible for the death of approximately 25 children (including her own), Dagmar Overbye is an example of pure evil. Operating an unofficial adoption agency, this Danish serial killer posed as a foster mother to children born outside of marriage.

At a time in history when it was considered shameful to birth a baby out of wedlock, Overbye exploited society’s irrational prejudices by running a so-called ‘babyfarm.’ Essentially, the babies under her care were unwanted by their parents, which allowed Overbye to carry out her sinister actions unchecked.

During a seven-year period, Overbye killed 25 children by either strangling, drowning or burning them. She was a pure monster, who either cremated, buried or hid the bodies of her victims. After a police report was filed concerning a missing child, an investigation was opened that led to Overbye’s arrest. Due to lack of sufficient evidence for all the murders she committed, Overbye was convicted for the deaths of nine children (despite killing many more.)

Although she was initially sentenced to death, her punishment was eventually reduced to life imprisonment. Many believe that the full extent of Overbye’s actions were downplayed by the Danish government, which has been accused of a massive cover-up to save face. To that end, Overbye’s horrific acts led to a massive overhaul within the Danish government concerning oversight of those responsible for taking care of children.

Kim Hyun-hui (1980s)

Born and raised in the authoritarian state of North Korea, Kim Hyun-hui lived a relatively “privileged” life as the daughter of a diplomat. Though she spent most of her life in the rogue nation, Hyun-hui’s family resided in Cuba for a short time.

Hyun-hui was a trained actress, who starred in North Korea’s first technicolor film. But, her acting career was halted, after being recruited by the government to work as a state assassin. Hyun-hui’s years of brainwashing by the North Korean government led her to commit a heinous act of violence. In 1987, she was responsible for the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858, which led to the death of 115 people.

Eventually, Hyun-hui was caught and sentenced to death by the South Koreans. And, as expected, North Korea quickly denied her existence, claiming Hyun-hui was a fabrication of the South Korean government.

Although she was responsible for killing over 100 people, Hyun-hui’s death sentence was pardoned in exchange for intelligence concerning North Korea. Currently, she resides in an undisclosed location in South Korea with her two children and husband (who was the South Korean agent responsible for handling her case).

I know there are many we’ve seen on TV or the Internet. Are there any other dangerous women who you believe should be included on this list of nefarious psychopaths?

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Social Order: The Historical Evolution of Policing

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Photo courtesy of nwheritage.com.

Throughout civilized history, it has been vital for society to maintain some semblance of order with respect to crime. And, although, in ancient times, there existed no official, organized police function, people still managed to keep crime somewhat under control.

In those ancient societies, revenge was essentially the only form of law enforcement. The concepts of deterrence and crime prevention were not yet in existence, and such notions were not implemented for a couple millennia.

Here’s a brief overview of the evolution of policing.

Ancient Times

As stated above, there was no official law enforcement in ancient societies. If a crime occurred, the victim would seek revenge against the perpetrator. Depending on the severity of the offense, and the region of the world, the retribution would come from either the individual, family or the clan. Regardless of who sought revenge, leniency was rare, and punishment was often severe.

Military Order

Once societies became more organized and developed, there was a need for a more unified approach to law enforcement. And the most logical entity to fill that vacuum was the military. Already equipped with weapons and trained to battle, soldiers were essentially the most qualified individuals to enforce the law.

During the Roman Empire, centurions would seize law breakers, and patrol the streets. The mere presence of the soldiers led to a primitive form of crime prevention. The contemporary notion of deterrence is a result of more modern theories of criminology, which occurred much later in western civilization.

Clans Rule

After the collapse of the centralized Roman Empire, Western society once again became more provincial. As a result, responsibility for enforcing laws and maintaining order reverted to back to local authorities.

During this transitional period, it was an individual’s duty to protect themselves and their property. Under British law, people were granted authority to use force so that they may exercise this right. In addition to protecting yourself, it was expected that neighbors and family members would lend a hand. This was known as “kin policing.”

This clan mentality was a throwback to ancient times. And often, these blood feuds would lead to the decimation of entire families.

Community Policing

As society emerged from the Dark Ages, and into the Middle Ages, urbanization grew, and it became apparent that a new form of organized social order was required. This new system of control put communities in charge, as opposed to individuals and families.

One such method of community policing was known as frankpledge. Under this system, all males over the age of 12 were required to form groups of ten individuals, known as a tything. These groups were charged with detaining any person guilty of a criminal offense. Each tythingman took an oath to protect his fellow citizens, and such duty was obligatory and unpaid.

To increase the effectiveness of order and control, individual tything’s were brought together to form teams of one hundred men, who were under the supervision of the local constable. Although modern policing was still centuries away, the constable was the first notion of a police officer, in that he was a person specifically assigned the full-time task of maintaining law and order.

The groundwork for the hierarchy of a modern police department was laid out during this period with the establishment of the shire reeve (sheriff). The shire reeve was appointed by the King and was charged with managing all the constables in the region, or shire.

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Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com.

Parish System

Eventually, the frankpledge system collapsed due to regional disputes and lack of oversight by the monarch. In its stead, the parish constable system was implemented. Males in each parish (or village) were given a 1-year stint as a constable.

As part of their duties, parish constables had to appoint night watchmen, who were beckoned to the call of duty at moments’ notice in case of a crime or emergency. The watchmen would be obligated to remain “on duty” until the criminal was apprehended, or the emergency was resolved.

Justices of the Peace

The parish constable system was later enhanced with justices of the peace, who were appointed by the monarch to aid the shire reeves by issuing warrants, trying cases and sentencing guilty parties.

This form of law enforcement served small communities into, and throughout, the 19th Century. But, large cities began utilizing a different form of law enforcement beginning in the late 18th Century. And this can be attributed to the population explosion that occurred throughout the Western world, most notably in the United States and Great Britain.

The Genesis of Modern Law Enforcement

Once the population explosion occurred, leading to the urbanization of the West, there was a great deal of civil unrest. At that point, it became apparent that there needed to be professional, uniformed police forces that acted under the government’s official authority.

Society’s modernization coincided with the emergence of criminology. Those involved in that field, along with philosophers and sociologists, called upon officials to institute a centralized police force, whose primary roles were to maintain order and protect the populace.

Modern Police

There was a great deal of resistance among the masses when the idea of a centralized police force was introduced. The prevailing fear was that the police would become an extension of the military and serve as an occupying force.

Many of the fears were quelled after English Parliament Minister Sir Robert Peele formed the first modern police department—London’s Metropolitan Police Services. The “Bobbies” as they are still called were named after Peele, and their actions of instituting order and preventing crime eventually became a welcome addition to the dangerous city of London.

Some of the methods used by Peele to distinguish between the police and military, and to assuage the fears of the citizenry was to give the police a different color uniform, and to not provide guns to the Bobbies.

The principles instituted by Peele found their way to the United States, and across the globe. Peele’s philosophy combined with the long, storied evolution of policing has led to today’s modern police departments.

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Smooth Criminals: 4 Notorious Masterminds

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Photo courtesy of abc7chicago.com.

The criminal underworld is filled with all types of characters. Thugs. Psychopaths. And masterminds. These sociopaths are often so diabolically creative and clever, that it becomes virtually impossible for law enforcement to bring these outliers to justice.

Instead of helping the world, criminal masterminds utilize their creative intellect to the detriment of society. Here are four such individuals.

Carl Gugasian

Holding a master’s degree from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania and a PhD from Penn State, Carl Gugasian also received special forces and tactical weapons training during a brief stint in the US Army. Loaded with outstanding academic and armed forces credentials, Gugasian’s potential for a positive societal impact was limitless. Yet, despite all these accolades, Gugasian chose to spend his life robbing banks.

Soon after receiving his doctorate, Gugasian began meticulously planning bank robberies. During that time—on eight separate instances—Gugasian was on the brink of moving forward with his robbery fantasy, but then backed down at the very last minute. On the ninth instance, however, he pushed down his reluctance and went forth with his plan. Using a stolen car as a getaway, Gugasian finally crossed the line into a life of crime. And there was no turning back.

Gugasian was notoriously diligent with his planning. He would scout a bank location by first referencing topographical and street maps in local libraries. His goal was to find to a bank in a small town that was close to a wooded area, but also easily accessible to a freeway. After narrowing his search, Gugasian would determine which banks had late autumn and winter closing times. This way, he could escape under cover of darkness.

Gugasian would even find a secret location in the woods where he would hide the stolen cash, any further evidence of the crime and his getaway dirt bike. He would leave the stash tucked away until the “heat” of the crime cooled down. Then, Gugasian would return and grab his cash.

Wearing a tightly fit ‘horror’ mask and loose clothing, while moving around in a hunched over manner to hide his true size, Gugasian would flash a gun during his quick and intense robberies. Only once did Gugasian resort to violence, and the person he shot eventually recovered.

Despite years of successfully robbing at least 50 banks, Gugasian’s eventual downfall occurred after two teenage boys came across a secret hiding location that contained his masks, ammunition, maps and other equipment. After assisting law enforcement in closing the case on a large amount of unsolved bank robberies, Gugasian’s initial 115-year sentence was reduced to seventeen years in federal prison.

Photo courtesy of alchetron.com.

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Photo courtesy of alchetron.com.

Albert Spaggiari

It was a beautiful, warm weekend in picturesque Nice, France. The year was 1976, and this part of the French Riviera was teeming with vacationers looking for some relaxation and sunshine. But, despite all this relative peace, there was a massive heist afoot.

Albert Spaggiari, and his team of 20 men, had spent several summer weeks digging a 25-foot tunnel underneath the street leading to the Societe Generale bank. Spaggiari’s crew had managed to connect the bank and Nice’s sewer system without drawing any attention.

Then, from Friday night through Sunday, the merry bandits emptied the bank’s safe-deposit boxes, and stole most of the financial institution’s cash reserves. By the end of the heist, the “sewer gang” walked away with between $8 to $10 million in cash, gems, jewelry and gold. Not only did Spaggiari and his team rob the place blind, but during their weekend in the vault, they drank wine, cooked meals and even used antique silver tureens as toilets.

When the bank’s staff arrived on Monday morning, they were greeted with a plundered vault and a message written on the wall that read “Without Guns, Without Violence, Without Hate.”

Within a year of the robbery, the police arrested Spaggiari and six members of his crew. But, Spaggiari’s incarceration was short. Soon after being jailed, Spaggiari was being processed in a magistrate’s office. While interacting with law enforcement, he complained of the heat, so they allowed him to open a window. As soon as Spaggiari opened the window, he leapt out and landed on a car that waited for him nine feet below. That was the last time law enforcement ever saw him. Spaggiari funded the remainder of his life with the proceeds from the robbery.

Years later, at the age of 57, Spaggiari died from lung cancer. His body was anonymously dropped off in the front of his mother’s home in Nice.

Hassan and Abbas O. (Twin Brothers)

Some argue that this January 2009 heist was the perfect crime. Deep in the night, three masked, gloved men slid down ropes from the skylights within the haute Berlin department store, Kaufhaus des Westens. Their skillful entrance allowed them to evade the store’s high-tech security system. The thieves walked away unscathed with over $6.8 million in exquisite jewelry.

The problem was—the robbers left behind some evidence. Through forensic analysis, the police located a small drop of sweat on one of the thieves’ discarded gloves. The DNA was run through the German database. And, surprisingly, the DNA got two hits. That’s right—two identical twins were identified by the computer program.

The men identified were 27-year old brothers, Hassan and Abbas O. (German privacy laws prohibit full name disclosure.) These Lebanese born brothers had criminal records for theft and fraud. Berlin police promptly arrested the men and charged them with burglary.

Just before trial, the men were released from police custody. Why? Because the DNA evidence reveals that at least one of the brothers was involved in the crime. But, without witnesses or a confession, it was impossible to determine which exact brother committed the theft.

If new evidence emerges, the thieves could be charged again, but for now, these men beat the justice system and got away with a high-stakes robbery.

These wild stories reveal the clever and cunning traits of some criminals. Can you think of any masterminds that should be included on this list?

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