KN, p. 218 “What Does the Federal Bureau of Investigation Do?”


“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is an intelligence-driven and threat-focused national security organization with both intelligence and law enforcement responsibilities.”*  It is the chief fact-finding branch of the Department of Justice and helps other agencies by sharing that information and providing training.


Its mission is:

“To protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.”*


In 1908, the United States had about 100 cities with 50,000 people. The rest of the population (about 83 million) was spread throughout the rural areas of the country. Law enforcement personnel at the local level were often poorly paid (and were sometimes volunteer) members of the community. Murders were handled by local investigators and still are to this day. For the majority of the cases, murder is not a federal crime, unless carried out across State lines.


Prosecution of border security issues or organized crime was limited in 1908 since there was no adequate way to enforce the law at a national level. In fact, few criminal laws even existed at a federal level. For the most part, individual States and local jurisdictions handled their own criminal investigations, and sometimes that led to political corruption, corporate criminal behavior, and even slave labor in factories. Federal agencies were stretched thin or were nonexistent in some parts of the country.


President Teddy Roosevelt supported the idea of modernizing law enforcement, so when his Attorney General hired 34 of his own investigators (including nine seasoned Secret Service agents) to assist the Department of Justice, Roosevelt wholeheartedly endorsed the action. A few months later, the Bureau of Investigation was officially created. Hardly a large force, but it was a start.


At the beginning, incidents involving car theft across State lines, civil rights, and various kinds of fraud were the typical cases. The FBI also took on treason and domestic terrorism, and Congress (previously reluctant to loosen the purse strings) began to see the value of a national law enforcement agency.


It’s interesting to note that the Mann Act or “White Slave Traffic Act,” was passed in 1910 to help stop interstate prostitution and human trafficking, and the FBI had a role in the early investigations. One hundred years later, it has become an international problem and requires cooperation from many different agencies to obtain successful prosecutions.


World War 1 brought us the problems of sabotage by foreign agents against our military ships and munitions plants, as well as international smuggling. The FBI had entered the so-called spy business and worked hard to eliminate those threats.


In 1924, it was recognized that fingerprinting was a reliable way of connecting (or eliminating) individuals to a particular scene, and to collect that information in a central location would be helpful to other law enforcement agencies in the United States. Now, the FBI gathers and classifies fingerprints from convicted felons and other criminals, military personnel, federal applicants and employees, and shares that information with appropriate agencies. Additionally, fingerprints of military detainees and other persons of national security interest are being collected for national security purposes.


Formerly called Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the program processes over 63,000 prints a day, is now integrated with other forms of identification and called IAFIS, and can deliver digital information in as little as two hours. It is used in connection with biometric databases (facial and voice recognition) for more accurate identifications. Next Generation Identification (NGI) combines biometrics, fingerprints, and palm prints to expand identification possibilities.


One of the programs developed by the FBI is the ‘Ten Most Wanted’ list. It began in 1950 as a way to call attention to fugitives who might otherwise remain at large. Each new list is posted in United States Post Offices and on the FBI website.


Since 1950, 518 fugitives have been on the list, and 484 have been apprehended or located. The stats below are from the FBI site:

    • 162 fugitives have been captured/located as a result of citizen cooperation.
    • Two fugitives were apprehended because of visitors on an FBI tour.
    • The shortest amount of time on the list was two hours, by Billy Austin Bryant.
    • The longest amount of time on the list was over 32 years by Victor Manuel Gerena.

With the advent of increased world-wide terrorism, the computer and cyber-security age, more complex corporate crimes, and a global awareness of human trafficking, the focus of the FBI has shifted.


At the end of 2017, there were over 35,000 employees, made up of intelligence analysts, field agents, language specialists, scientists, and information technology specialists. They are tasked with investigating:


  • Terrorism
  • Counterintelligence
  • Cyber Crime
  • Public Corruption
  • Civil Rights
  • Organized Crime
  • White-Collar Crime
  • Violent Crime
  • WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)



Stay tuned for posts about Quantico and training for the FBI, and interviews with former FBI agents.


*Photo and quotes credit: (from FBI website)

1969 Latent Print Match
A latent print removed from a 1969 murder victim’s car was later determined to be a match to the suspect’s fingerprint (inset) contained in the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The Houston police detective and Texas Department of Public Safety latent print technician instrumental in solving the cold case were honored by the FBI with the 2011 “Latent Hit of the Year” Award.



Be Sociable, Share!

KN, p. 216 “Crime Scene at the Beach”



A recent vacation week took us to the beach and we were lucky enough to rent a cottage right on the ocean. What a pleasure to wake up to seagulls calling to each other as they found breakfast on the incoming surf at the edge of the broad expanse of sand. Morning coffee was extra special as we breathed in the sea air and planned the day ahead.


Aside from all the great sunsets, fabulous seafood restaurants, and much-needed relaxation, we found time to chat about fictional bodies and where to find them.


TV shows and movies feature their share of corpses that have washed up on the rocks lining the shores of lakes, bays, or oceans. Any crime scene at water’s edge has its own challenges for the CSI techs processing the area for evidence, and our vacation spot highlighted a few.


Consider footprints on the sand:





This print had been fully visible until a wave washed it partially into oblivion.






Sneaker treads next to the barefoot print, showed the traffic on the dry part of the beach just a few feet closer to the dune.






There was more than one kind of sneaker tread to be seen.






The sneaker and shoe companies have data bases going back several years indicating the treads and styles of the various shoes they have manufactured. A search warrant or a friendly conversation with the people at the companies will reveal specialty editions of their footwear and the year they were produced. Matching the footwear to the prints on the beach can narrow the suspect list – helpful if the culprit remained in the area and the sneaker was an unusual brand.


Consider the tire tracks:



A windy afternoon caused this tire tread to lose its definition.












This new tire tread was just ten feet away from the footprints.


















Beach bikes were in use as well. I didn’t have a ruler with me, so Sheila donated her sandal. This gives you some perspective of the width of the tread, essential in determining the type of vehicles near the ‘scene of the crime.’






Tire companies have data bases as well, and make their information available to law enforcement officers when needed. CSI techs take photos of the various treads for later ID and if needed, make casts of the footwear prints. Read “Is that your footprint?” here.


All three vehicle treads were within 20 feet of each other, along with all the footwear prints seen here – and it wasn’t high season yet, when a greater variety of cars, dune buggies, bikes, and shoes would be around.


Any crime scene in such a well-traveled place means it will be tough to find the killer. Nature washes or blows away the evidence and the crime scene is compromised by all the foot and vehicle traffic.  


Law enforcement officers have to hope for witnesses to the dastardly deed.


We turned our attention to the places to hide the body:




This lovely walkway leading from the cottage to the dunes gave access to an area that looked suitable for body stashing. Except that it wasn’t really all that great for anything covert. Three houses near ours had direct line of sight to that walkway, and all had overhead lights strung along their own paths to the beach.


Each of the other houses had three floors – ours was the smallest of the group.  That meant that anyone looking out at the ocean could also see anyone dragging a body out to the beach grass next to/under the boards.








But, let’s say that nobody is looking out the window. While it is illegal to dig up the beach grass in the dunes because of erosion programs in most oceanside communities, a killer would have no such concerns. BUT, that Beach Grass (actual name is American Beach Grass) is tough. It’s meant to be, so that it holds the sand in place during stormy weather. It would not be practical or at all speedy to dig a hole in a grass-covered dune in order to hide the body.


Maybe that’s why so many bodies in the TV movies are dumped elsewhere and merely wash up on the beach. Then the writers don’t have to worry about how to hide the body at the scene of the crime.



Photo credits: Patti Phillips at the North Carolina Outer Banks.





Be Sociable, Share!

KN, p. 215 “Fraud Squad: Save Grandma from Bankruptcy”


In “Grandma Bought a Half-Price Whatsit” we pointed out a few phone scams that sadly, have worked on many Senior citizens. How can we keep our Seniors safe from fraudsters? One solution is to cut down on the possible interactions with the bad guys. Here are a few easy lifestyle changes for Seniors and their honest caregivers.


  1. Be aware that you are at risk from everyone – family members challenged by money problems may take advantage of a Senior’s vulnerability. Choose the person to help with your money who doesn’t need it, because unfortunately, over 90% of all reported elder fraud is committed by the Senior’s own family members – including their adult children and grandchildren! There are many reports of emptied joint checking accounts, and outright theft.


  1. Stay involved!

Some Senior citizens withdraw from the larger community, but then have nobody to share their concerns with. Sheila’s mom did volunteer work at a local church and made great friends there. Four of them organized a daily check-in system. They made phone calls to chat and make sure each was okay.


  1. Tell people on the phone: “I never give money over the phone to a telemarketer. Send me something in writing.” Always wait until you receive that written material. Don’t donate to anyone who will only take credit cards.


  1. Don’t open the door to people you don’t know.

Get a peephole installed so that you can see who’s standing on the doorstep. If you don’t recognize the person out there, ignore the knocking. They’ll go away. If they don’t, call the police and DON’T open the door except to the Police Officer.


  1. Shred all receipts with your credit card number

Buy—and use—a paper shredder. Check your bank and credit card statements every month and never give out personal information over the phone unless you had called them first.


  1. Sign up for the “Do Not Call” list and take yourself off mailing lists.

Do not let mail sit in your mailbox for more than one day. When sending out bill payments, drop the envelopes off at the post office or consider setting up automatic bank withdrawal for the predictable monthly utility bills. If you are going out of town for a few days, have the Post Office hold your mail until you get back.


  1. Use direct deposit for benefit checks.

Using direct deposit allows checks to go right into your accounts, protecting them from thieves who steal right from the mailboxes or from your home if the checks are left lying around for nosy visitors to see. Never leave cash lying around.


  1. Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone unless you are the one that called them first.

Misuse of Medicare is one of the largest scams involving seniors. One ploy is to sell unneeded equipment to the clients at nursing homes. Sheila’s Mom did a stint in an Assisted Living place for a few weeks after she broke a hip. One day, we walked in and saw a brand-new, $1,000. wheelchair sitting in her room. A chair that she did not need, and had not been authorized by Sheila or anyone at the place. The salesman had come directly to her room, told Mom that she was entitled to it because of her injury, and that Medicare would pay for it. Since the guy had come to her room, Mom thought the whole thing had been cleared by all of her lovely people. Not needing the chair in the first place, she was confused, but thought the doctor had suggested the chair. Nope.


Review your Medicare statements and report suspicious activities to 1-800-MEDICARE. We did, and they investigated. The residence made some changes in how the sales people contacted the residents. The wheelchair company was in big trouble.


  1. Be an informed consumer. Take the time to shop around before buying big ticket items.

Read all contracts and understand all your rights to cancel and get a refund if needed. Don’t let yourself be pressured into buying anything. Get an endorsement from somebody you know for any repair work needed around the house. Don’t hire anyone that just shows up on your doorstep without having been called by you first.


If you are a Senior Citizen and you think your credit cards or bank accounts have been compromised,

  • Call your bank and/or credit card company.
  • Cancel any debit or credit cards linked to the stolen account.
  • Reset your personal identification number(s).


Every state operates an Adult Protective Services (APS) program. Anyone who suspects elder exploitation should make a report. Call them at 1-800-677-1116 weekdays. Additionally, the National Council on Aging is an excellent source of information in the USA for Senior Citizen programs.


*The Kerrians are a fictional family, but the wheelchair incident actually happened. Medicare fraud is a really big deal and reporting abuses to the system helps everyone.


*The savvy Senior in the photo is happily cared for by her loving, kind family.




Be Sociable, Share!