Posts Tagged ‘crime’

Here’s a fun way to lighten things up as we start off the new year, and wind down from what seems to have been a surprisingly long holiday season: A look at Police Blotter Haiku.


This unusual idea is the brainchild of Jim Jones (no, not the founder of the People’s Temple), a talented writer and poet who is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for his book of haiku based on the content of local police blotter entries.

Essentially, he transforms the narrative of police reports into a 17 syllable poem that captures the offense much more artfully.

For example, he wrote this after reading about a jilted lover who took revenge on her ex:

With his new girlfriend,
Robert watched his old girlfriend
slash three of his tires.

Jones said he got the idea after reading the police blotter in a small town he was visiting. He said the blotter wasn’t just about crimes, it was also equally revealing of the town’s character – including people’s perceptions of crime there – sometimes in situations where no offense had actually occurred. According to Jones:

This got me interested in crime as it portrays human nature: not so much everyday property crime, theft, and muggings, but how the emotions and judgement of people who consider themselves normal can become clouded enough that they do things that get them into a world of cops and charges and mishaps that they didn’t expect to be in. Sometimes it’s a farce, sometimes it’s a tragedy, sometimes it’s just rumination on the consequences of poor impulse control (my personal favorite).

For Jones, haiku is a way to express the essence of troubling human acts in a poetic way that leaves room for interpretation and connection, which I think is just a fascinating idea.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out his blog here. Or, better yet, consider backing his Kickstarter project and getting a copy of his book for yourself.

Police Blotter Haiku Kickstarter Campaign Video

Have a safe holiday!

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Prefer to get your crime news in tiny, six-second sound bites? Or, like to capture video snippets of yourself breaking the law? Well, either way, Vine is definitely for you, then.


Even though it’s incredibly stupid to film yourself committing a crime, people do it anyway. Like the woman you’ve probably already seen running onto the field at the college world series. She paid $1500 for the privilege, and for her 15 minutes of fame.

But, hey, in the modern media age, 15 minutes is practically an eternity. Right?

Actually, hers was probably one of the more interesting crime Vines out there that I could find, despite its inherent vanity and inaneness. At least it tells a story, as opposed to most Vines that rapidly descend into chaotic, seizure-inducing jump cuts.

Predictably, Vines have also captured more serious offenses, such as an alleged rape in Chicago that’s still under investigation. Whoever filmed it should absolutely have intervened instead, of course, but at least there’s some evidence for the police to use in their investigation.

What follows, though, are some of the Vines I was able to find that had to do with crime, public safety, or something related. Some are NSFW due to language, but otherwise are pretty tame.



Want to see some heroes at work? This week’s vid features the trailer for a documentary by a young film maker, Justin Salerian, and an equally young producer, Michael Marantz, who deftly captured the intense drama of working as an EMT in Johannesberg, South Africa.

Their movie, Tell Me and I Will Forget, tells the story of paramedics struggling to treat patients amidst the violence and chaos occurring in Johannesberg. It was filmed using handheld cameras, which just makes an already engaging story all the more intimate and compelling.

Trailer for “Tell Me and I Will Forget”

If you’re not aware, Johannesberg has one of the highest crime rates in the world, making it not only one of the most dangerous places to live and visit, but an even more dangerous place to work.

According to the US Department of State, violent crime is a particular concern there:

Violent, confrontational crime is a major concern. Such crimes include home invasion robberies, burglaries, carjackings, street muggings, smash-and-grabs, organized attacks on commercial and retail centers (shopping malls and outlets), bombings of ATMs, as well as attacks on cash-in-transit vehicles/personnel (i.e., armored car/personnel).

The EMTs featured are some of the most highly trained in the country, and they respond to many of these crime scenes using specially equipped vehicles that allow them to travel quickly across long distances.

If you’re interested in emergency medicine, especially the work EMTs do, then you’ll absolutely enjoy this film.

It’s currently available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon.

Have a safe weekend!

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The LA Times ran a story at the end of last week about a California Supreme Court decision that forces LA County to release thousands of inmates early due to overcrowding. Predictably, jail officials cried foul, claiming that early release would lead to increases in crime and would negatively impact public safety.

Image courtesy of tiverlucky

Image courtesy of tiverlucky

The essence of their argument goes something like this: The longer someone is incarcerated, the less crime there will be in the community. This seems logical enough on its face. if someone is in jail, then they’re not out committing crimes on the street.

But, the logic of the argument breaks down when we look at incarceration as a system.


It’s all the judge’s fault, or the police, or our prison system, or our ________________;  just fill in the blank with your favorite scapegoat. This is one of the fundamental misunderstandings about crime – that its source is somewhere just over there, and its solution is just one simple step away.

We believe that if we just tweaked this or that part of the system, or sent more people to prison for longer stretches, or maybe just started killing criminals altogether – well then, all of our problems would be solved.

Except they wouldn’t. Not even close.

Sentencing Tweet


Have you ever witnessed a crime? If so, do you believe you remember it accurately? If you’re like most who have been an eyewitness to a criminal act, you probably believe that you were easily able to recount exactly what occurred.

Eye b&w

The truth, though, is that most of us are not able to correctly recall the details of a stressful event, even though we fully believe we can. 

Thousands of studies on eyewitness testimony have concluded that many factors affect the accuracy of witness recall, including physical exertion before or during an event, receiving misinformation about the incident after the fact, or experiencing trauma during the incident itself.  As a result, some court systems have changed the way they treat eyewitness testimony. According to a New York Times article on New Jersey’s changes to court rules and procedures regarding eyewitnesses in 2011:

The decision listed more than a dozen factors that judges should consider in evaluating the reliability of a witness’s identification, including whether a weapon was visible during a crime of short duration, the amount of time the witness had to observe the event, how close the witness was to the suspect, whether the witness was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, whether the witness was identifying someone of a different race and the length of time that had elapsed between the crime and the identification.

This week’s videos feature some fascinating information about the challenges of eyewitness testimony, including the below Ted Talk by Scott Fraser, a forensic psychologist who studies memory and crime.  He tells the story of his involvement as an expert witness in a murder case that relied heavily on eyewitness testimony, and which has a very interesting outcome.

Scott Fraser’s Ted Talk on memory and crime

And, if you want to see just how fallible memory can be, take a look at the below video that explores an experiment conducted in a college classroom to test students’ ability to recall the details of a staged crime.

The Eyewitness Test: How do you stack up?

Keeps your eyes peeled, and have a safe weekend!

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If you’re an academic, student, or government staffer, you likely have access to some amazing professional databases chock full of articles you can consult when doing research or crafting criminal justice policies or legislation.

In the real world, we don’t have easy access to those types of information tools.

It’s not that we don’t need such tools – we do.  Too often, though, we’re stuck relying on media outlets to report information accurately (which they frequently don’t do) on criminal justice topics.  And, when it comes time to vote or debate on these topics, we need facts and figures, not anecdotes or sensationalized news stories rife with bias and inaccuracies.

So, here’s a list of 10 free, high-quality sources of data and research on a wide variety of criminal justice topics that offer anyone the chance to do their own independent research.

1. National Criminal Justice Reference Service  – An information source sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, this site has a wide range of current research articles on courts, corrections, policing, victims issues, and other areas. Not all articles are available as full text, but many are.

2. Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) – This is the FBI’s consolidation of crime information reported by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. The data doesn’t cover all types of crime, and it can seem somewhat incomplete as a result. If you want to know, though, how many sexual assaults, robberies, or other serious offenses were reported to the police in a given year, however, you can quickly have that information at your fingertips.

3. Bureau of Justice Statistics – According to their website, their mission is “[t]o collect, analyze, publish, and disseminate information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government. These data are critical to federal, state, and local policymakers in combating crime and ensuring that justice is both efficient and evenhanded.”  They produce one of the important counterparts to the UCR above, the National Crime Victim Survey.

4. National Crime Victim Survey – This is the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report that uncovers what’s referred to as “the dark figure of crime.” These are offenses that are never reported to authorities, and therefore don’t show up in the Uniform Crime Reports. The BJS surveys a random sampling of households in the U.S. to gather this data, as opposed to relying on official law enforcement reports. The NCVS, therefore, provides a good counterpoint to the FBI’s dataset when investigating the prevalence – both reported and unreported – of a given type of crime.

5. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) – According to their website, the NIJ “is dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. NIJ provides objective and independent knowledge and tools to reduce crime and promote justice, particularly at the state and local levels.” One of their aims is to use “Translational Criminology” as a way to bring research to bear on the real-world problems of the criminal justice system. They have over 4,000 articles in their database, many of which cover practical aspects of criminal justice issues.

6. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention – According to their website, “[t]he Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) provides national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization. OJJDP supports states and communities in their efforts to develop and implement effective and coordinated prevention and intervention programs and to improve the juvenile justice system so that it protects public safety, holds offenders accountable, and provides treatment and rehabilitative services tailored to the needs of juveniles and their families.”  Their database covers an array of juvenile justice issues, from child abuse to victim issues, and includes information on research, programs, and funding sources.

7. National Center for State Courts – According to their site, “The National Center for State Courts is an independent, nonprofit court improvement organization founded at the urging of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Warren E. Burger.” Their article database covers a wide range of court-related topics, including adoption, judicial administration, election law, and social media.

8. Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies – This site is less about specific research, and more of a tool to identify further leads for information. Every department or agency operated by the federal government is listed, including all of those dedicated to criminal justice matters.

9. DHS Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report – This page from the Department of Homeland Security is information “collected each business day as a summary of open-source published information concerning significant critical infrastructure issues.”  This isn’t research, per se, but it can be an interesting source of national-level information about threats to infrastructure from a wide variety of threats, both natural and man-made. There are some who use it as a way to identify stories for blog posts, for example, or as a source of leads for further research on issues not being covered in the mainstream press.

10. National Archive of Criminal Justice Data – This site is operated and maintained by the University of Michigan, and their mission is “to to facilitate research in criminal justice and criminology, through the preservation, enhancement, and sharing of computerized data resources; through the production of original research based on archived data; and through specialized training workshops in quantitative analysis of crime and justice data.”  In addition to research articles, they also provide access to datasets individuals can use to conduct their own analysis.

There are many other resources, and this is just a sampling of some of the more well known ones. What’s your favorite source of criminal justice info? Comment and share a link below.

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Well, I’ve taken the plunge and put together my very first podcast.  I’m trying to keep it simple at this point, so this first episode is only a few minutes long and simply discusses three common myths about crime and criminals: Crime is on the increase, all offenders are the same, and there’s nothing we can do to change criminal behavior. 

Give it a listen by clicking on the player below, and share your comments and feedback!

CJ Podcast – Three Myths About Crime

This is a guest post by Crystal Schwindt, author of “Shout the Secret: A Survivor’s Guide Through Domestic Violence and How to Thrive In Its Aftermath.” 

Much as an oil spill in the midst of a giant ocean begins as a drop and spreads quickly, slowly sucking the life out of every living thing it touches, so it is with domestic violence.  It contaminates generation after generation of a family, seeping into the cores of those exposed to it.

chained heart

It even expands to engulf our schools and our churches – affecting teachers and students, worshippers and clerics alike.  And, of course, it overwhelms our court systems, police forces, and other legal entities to the brink of potential victimization of the victim.  All of these cycles continue, much as the oil slick flows and grows on the current of the sea.

From a survivor’s standpoint, overcoming domestic violence is a challenge in its own right.  Recovery from the effects of violence and trauma is difficult to rise above in the best of circumstances.  It becomes even moreso when the person being victimized is forced – by nature of “due process”, bureaucracy, and red tape – to not only deal with their own challenges but also the external factors of a seemingly insensitive, uncaring, and self-justifying criminal justice system.

Ambulance Light

For example, historically, some of the men and women sworn to “protect and serve” within our police forces have been quite uninterested in dealing with “domestic matters.” They have, at times, even been restricted by laws that dictated the limits of what could be done when called to a domestic disturbance.  Fortunately, some states are now passing “mandatory arrest” laws that require officers to make an arrest if probable cause for an assault is established.  The only downside being that it’s not uncommon for the victim to be the one arrested.  Afterall, abusers are master manipulators of many things and perspectives — lying and making up stories being one of the biggest.

Also, police in most states, if not all, are now required to give victims in a domestic dispute a pamphlet about domestic violence with numbers to call for counseling, shelter, and other services.  This is something of an improvement, but it’s far from a total solution.

From a survivor’s viewpoint, I can tell you that the mere thought of engaging with the criminal justice process is daunting.  And, for some, this alone can become a reason not to call the police and to instead stay in an otherwise dangerous and violent relationship.  The confusion and the fear are simply too much.

What happens after the police intervene, the perpetrator is arrested, and then released on bail or bond, and comes back home? Mandatory arrest, pamphlets, and programs are not going to stop him from assaulting again. They may even make things worse.

This is difficult for people, including the police, to understand.

What you need to know is that “I” may be a victim of violence, but “I’m” not helpless and, although I may be ignorant, “I’m” not stupid. “I” make decisions every day about how to survive the challenges of living with a violent partner. Sometimes that means being quiet and staying put, and sometimes it does mean calling the police. It also sometimes means taking him back after an assault — not because “I” want to, but because there is no real, definitive protection (so to speak), and there may be other issues that “you” may not see or know that prevent me from feeling or being capable of rising to the challenges that await “me”, should “I” try to stand my ground.

And, even if none of this makes sense to you, it makes sense to me. It’s about navigating that oil spill – the sticky, unruly, and deadly waters of violence. It’s about survival.

Although Crystal is a DV survivor, she isn’t defined by that. Her experience spans 13+ years, two venues, and a multitude of courtrooms, judges, attorneys, and other legal resources, as well as representing herself on several occasions. Her book “Shout the Secret:  A Survivor’s Guide Through Domestic Violence and How to Thrive In Its Aftermath” is her fulfillment of a commitment to use these experiences for good — to help others so they may not have to endure as long.

Learn more, read about her book, and get connected to other resources at

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According to official statistics, the crime rate has been declining for more than two decades now.  As a result, the public narrative about crime has gone from the overheated rhetoric about the emergence of super-predators and rampant crime in the early 1990s to an overall more reasoned, but still contentious, discourse about crime and violence today.


Nevertheless, the cause or causes for the steady decrease in crime are not clear. Some data suggests longer prison terms are the cause, while other information seems to dispute that assertion. Other pundits point to less obvious, but highly controversial connections, such as the legalization of abortion as the primary reason for the downward crime trend. Others dispute that assertion as well.

These and other explanations rely largely on the premise that one primary factor, typically the criminal justice system’s ability to punish, is responsible for the downward trend in crime, which may not be an accurate conclusion at all.

It may be the case that small-scale intervention efforts are having a cumulative crime-reducing effect.

For example, several recent articles have reported on the possibility that reductions in crime are the result of smaller efforts that combine to have a large downward effect on crime rates. For example, the use of business improvement districts and cognitive behavioral therapies may each contribute to crime reduction in their own ways. Even zoning laws have been shown to have a crime-reducing effect.

Society has long been in search of a comprehensive solution to crime and violence, but that solution has often simply involved passing new laws or otherwise getting “tough on crime.” Is it possible now, though, that we’ve inadvertently stumbled into a combination of approaches that together can reduce criminal offending?

Might it be the case that crime reduction is not solely a criminal justice system endeavor after all, but a multi-faceted activity that emerges from the very fabric of society?