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Shooting at Ward Parkway: How the media unbalances crime

The wife and I came home this evening from our weekend with my parents in good old St. Louis. After getting settled in, unpacking and checking email, we find that Juri’s brother from Japan sent a concerned note about a Kansas City shooting. Immediately, I’m surprised that he would know about something like that. Shootings are common here. Shooting homicides are also too common. Probably 50 a year in the KC metro area. I’ll have to fact check that statistic though, it fluctuates. Why does he hear about this one though? Apparently, the echoes of another random act of violence in middle America was heard in Japan and China and likely other places. Thanks to the media, everyone in the world can be made to believe that random shootings are the world’s greatest threat.

Ward Parkway shooting CNN

Juri and I frequent this mall. We probably walk the same path as the shooter did once every two weeks. Starbucks, Target, and several shops in between. We might have been there today if it wasn’t for the trip to see my parents. But I’m not dwelling on that. I’ll be back at that mall in a matter of days. I’ll see Spiderman 3 or stock up on some cotton swabs. I don’t let my perception get too skewed by things like these. Why? Because reality is, there is more to be concerned about in my neighborhood in regards to smaller crime than there is with something random like this. When I went on a ride with the Kansas City Metro Patrol last year, the officers told me that they wouldn’t want to take their family to the plaza because it’s a dangerous place. Crime happens all the time there, in the garages around corners. They said “You know why you don’t hear about it right? Because the city wants you to keep shopping there, so the stories get buried or killed.”

That’s comforting!

Actually, our mall has done an excellent job over the past 24 months. We’ve lost our bookstore there, but we’ve gained several cosmetic upgrades, Old Navy, a big shoe store, several parking lot beatifications and the mall-goers have always been pretty pleasant. Security is also quick on the job there. While shopping on afternoon, I watched a man, having some sort of mental episode, shove a clerk at a kiosk onto the floor. It took about twenty seconds for two guards to show up and check on the guy and the clerk.


I met with some public officials in Kurashiki, Japan this past week. We are preparing for a large exchange of close to 500 Japanese later in the summer. We talked about security and ensuring safety of the younger folks going on the trip. They immediately brought up the only scary Kansas City story they had heard about, the Ward Parkway shooting. They wanted to know how far the shopping mall was from the dormitories they are staying in. I assured them that they were safe as long as they didn’t watch the news.

April 30, 2007 at 12:49 am | guns, media, police, politics | 1 comment

Whorls, loops and arches

Tonight in the citizen’s police academy, we got a visit from the crime scene investigators and the fingerprinting experts. They will use Photoshop to enhance the image so they can recover a print. Some were asking that since there is a comparison database available, is the job of the fingerprint identifier in jeopardy.  Not likely, you still need to be an expert in imaging to make the finger print ready to be put into the database.  Often they will have to knock out the backgrounds and up the levels to bring out the print.

These people have an eye for comparing they have developed. According to the presenter, it takes three years of training before you can become a latent print examiner. Read more about fingerprints here.

April 18, 2006 at 7:17 pm | graphics, police | No comment

Terror in the heartland

Thank goodness. Kansas City has a Anti-terrorism organization in place to help protect us. They are called the Terrorism Early Warning Group. At their site, you can get references as pointless as recognizing suspicious packages.

I suppose we are going to be safer now that this group will be first with the information on terrorist attacks. Hmm, let’s keep reading.
The TEW is not currently equipped to take direct reports about suspicious activity. In an emergency, please call 9-1-1.

So basically “terrorism” will be handled as it always has been.

Why is everything that used to be a disturbance, prank, playing music too loud, is now called a terrorist act? War on terror?  I encourage anyone who believes this garbage to read Blowback by Chalmers Johnson.  Man, back in the day, my friends and I used to blow off soda bottle bombs with a little of The Works and tin foil.  I wonder if I was 15 today and doing those sort of things, if I might be on some watch list. We all need to calm down.
Speaking of calm, let’s take it down to the soothing blue color in the Terror Threat Advisory. It means Guarded: General Risk of Terror Attacks. Are we at significant risk here? We’re guarded, things are pretty much handled.  By the way, here’s a clue that we are going to be yellow for a long time.  If you look on the websites that post this Threat Advisory graphic, they aren’t displaying the Advisory based on live real time data or anything. This is a static .gif file.  It ain’t goin nowhere. The country could explode and we’d still be at yellow.

April 10, 2006 at 10:55 am | police, politics, rants | No comment


This 10 week Citizen Police academy is going to be over way too quick.

Police school rules!

April 5, 2006 at 12:40 pm | police | No comment

Forensics Books

One of my libraries, Johnson County Library in Kansas created this “killer” book list of forensics titles at the library. Kudos to who put it together. I’m going to paste the list here because I don’t know how long they rotate out their pages. It might be gone tomorrow.

More in non-fiction recommended reading
More lists in fiction

Traces of Evidence
Do Bones Lie?

Baden, Michael Dead Reckoning: the New Science of Catching Killers
(363.2595 Baden) – In Dead Reckoning, the authors take readers into the laboratory, to the autopsy table, onto the witness stand and out in the field to show how advances in forensic science can solve the crucial questions in a criminal case.
Bahn, Paul G. Written in Bones: How Human Remains Unlock the Secrets of the Dead
(930.1 Written) – Readers learn how experts use modern scientific techniques to piece together the stories behind the bones.
Bass, William M. Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead do Tell Tales
(614.1 Bass) – As one of the world’s leading forensic anthropologists, Dr. Bass, a master scientist and engaging storyteller, shares his most intriguing cases.
Benecke, Mark Murderous Methods: Using Forensic Science to Solve Lethal Crimes
(363.25 Benecke) – German forensic scientist Benecke (The Dream of Eternal Life: Biomedicine, Aging, and Immortality) has compiled a history of the use of forensic science in famous murders of the 20th century.
Blanche, Tony Death in Paradise: an Illustrated History of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner
(614.1 Blanche) – Illustrated profusely with photographs, this book traces the history of the Los Angeles Coroner’s office, and gives details of the famous cases that the office has dealt with over the years.
Craig, Emily Teasing Secrets from the Dead
(363.25 Craig) – Despite occasional gratuitous gross-out details concerning maggots, Craig does a good job of explaining her science to the layperson and portraying the nitty-gritty everyday realities of her job.
Di Maio, Vincent J. M. Gunshot Wounds: Practical Aspects of Firearms, Ballistics, and Forensic Techniques
(614.1 Di Maio) – This work provides critical information on gunshot wounds and the weapons and ammunition used to inflict them and laboratory analysis relating to weapons and gunshot evidence.
Doyle, James M. True Witness: Cops, Courts, Science and the Battle Against Misidentification
(345.066 Doyle) – True Witness describes the latest battles in a one-hundred-year war between scientists studying the shortcomings of human memory and a legal system that relies on eyewitness testimony as a central tool of identifying and convicting suspects – too often wrongly.
Edds, Margaret Expendable Man: the Near-execution of Earl Washington, Jr.
(364.66 Edds) – In 1983, Earl Washington, an impoverished, mentally retarded black farmhand, spent 18 years in prison-nine of them on death row-with the sanction of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Evans, Colin Murder Two: The Second Casebook of Forensic Detection
(363.25 Evans) – This comprehensive casebook of forensic detection presents nearly one hundred classic, high-profile cases in which police detectives and crime labs worked together to solve baffling crimes through the shrewd, painstaking use of science.
Goff, M. Lee A Fly for the Prosecution: How Insect Evidence Helps Solve Crimes
(614.1 Goff 2000) – Investigator Goff shows how knowledge of insects and their habits allows forensic entomologists to furnish investigators with crucial evidence about crimes.
Jackson, Steve No Stone Unturned: the True Story of NecroSearch International, the World’s Premier Forensic Investigators
(363.25 Jackson) – In No Stone Unturned, Steve Jackson chronicles how NecroSearch, “The Pig People, ” came into being, how it developed, and why it is now being called into murder cases all across America and in a half-dozen foreign countries.
Junkin, Tim Bloodsworth: the True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA
(364.44 Junkin) – After nine years in one of the harshest prisons in America, Kirk Bloodsworth was vindicated by DNA evidence. Bloodsworth reads like a thriller, with an ending no fiction writer could imagine.
King, Michael R. Who Killed King Tut? Using Modern Forensics to Solve a 3,300-Year-Old Mystery
(932.014 King) – When King and Cooper reveal their prime suspect, their findings challenge long-held beliefs about the famous pharaoh.
Lee, Henry C. Blood Evidence: How DNA is Revolutionizing the Way We Solve Crimes
(614.1 Lee) – Written specifically for a lay audience, Blood Evidence is the first trade book to explore the complexities of DNA testing and the effect it has had on justice systems worldwide.
Lee, Henry C. Cracking More Cases: the Forensic Science of Solving Crimes
(363.25 Lee) – In this solid sequel to 2002’s Cracking Cases, legendary forensics expert Lee focuses on the brutal slayings of six-year-old Jon Benet Ramsey and teenager Martha Moxley.
Lyle, D. P. Forensics for Dummies
(363.25 Lyle 2004) – A guide for those of us who do not understand the details that forensics science is concerned with—fingerprints, DNA, indications of the type of death, and documentation, as well as covering ten famous cases, ten ways Hollywood gets it wrong, and ten great forensic science careers.
Lyle, D. P. Murder and Mayhem: a Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers
(808.3872 Lyle) – The best of Lyle’s columns for the Mystery Writers of America newsletter, in which the doctor provides detailed and informative answers to questions regarding various aspects of medicine and forensics.
Platt, Richard Crime Scene: the Ultimate Guide to Forensic Science
(363.25 Platt) – Revealing the very latest high-tech techniques of forensic detection, “Crime Scene” uses case studies and digital imagery to show how science uncovers the truth about how crimes were committed and who carried them out.
Sachs, Jessica Snyder Corpse, Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death
(614.1 Sachs) – Corpse explores how the hot new science of forensic ecology is cracking some of the world’s toughest criminal cases.
Starrs, James A Voice for the Dead: a Forensic Investigator’s Pursuit of the Truth in the Grave
(363.25 Starrs) – Law school professor and forensic sciences expert Starrs writes about his jump mid-career into the politically fraught, physically arduous business of exhuming bodies to solve the coldest of cases with the help of the forensic science he has taught for years.
Ubelaker, Douglas H. and Scammel, Henry Bones: a Forensics Detective’s Casebook
(614.1 Ubelaker) – Fascinating, educational, and highly readable, “Bones” takes readers into the dark world of forensic science.
Wecht, Cyril H. Grave Secrets: a Leading Forensic Expert Reveals the Truth about O. J. Simpson
(614.1 Wecht) – A common theme in the book is the misdiagnosis or injustice caused by forensic incompetence, overzealousness, or corruption.
Weinberg, Samantha Pointing from the Grave: a True Story of Murder and DNA
(363.25 Weinberg) – This tells the true story of a murderer and his victim–unsolved for over a decade. Combining the history of DNA with human drama, Weinberg focuses on two lives made and destroyed by a tiny molecule.

April 4, 2006 at 1:35 am | forensics, police | No comment

Police Play

I’m in my first class I’ve attended as a student in quite some time. I saw a newspaper article a while back about a group attending the citizen’s police academy. This ten week course gives you all kinds of insights on how the police work. I wanted to be the first to sign up for the following session.

Tonight was the kickoff night, so for three hours I heard about history of the Kansas City police department, learned a little (that I could retain) about the departmental structure from the top down. I didn’t know this, but both Kansas City and St. Louis are the only police departments in the country that report to a police commission rather than being run by the state.

Another thing I learned was that in Kansas City and I’m sure other places, the 911 emergency number was instituted in 1983. What the heck? That fact didn’t sound right, so I searched and found the following website: 911 Dispatch and it states that 1980 was the year St. Louis implemented 911 as for a testing period. That coincides pretty well for me.

The first class ended with us recieving our first police issue 9mm Glock and “The Proper Applications of Police Brutality” instructional VHS video. I don’t have a VCR anymore, so I’ll buy the DVD version.

March 7, 2006 at 10:45 pm | humor, police | No comment