Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Handwriting on the Wall

Today's Coeur d'Alene Press ran an article headlined Graffiti crime on rise. It was written by staff writer Brian Walker. The thrust of the article was an almost breathless effort to associate the graffiti with one or more easily identifiable gangs.

Probably a better and more productive approach would be to research the sociology of gangs and then report that. Some Idahoans' understanding of gangs may be based on television portrayals of southern California's ethnic gangs. While the gangs of East Los Angeles, South Central LA, and Compton still exist, some in roughly the stereotypical form, many of the east coast and California gangs have exported their criminal enterprises to other parts of the United States. They exist in prisons as well as in communities. It is a serious error to presume that all gangsters wear colors, throw signs, and tag dumpsters while engaging in their criminal enterprises.

According to the 2005 National Gang Threat Assessment prepared by the National Alliance of Gang Investigator Associations funded by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance:
Once found principally in large cities, violent street gangs affect public safety, community image, and quality of life in communities of all sizes in urban, suburban, and rural areas. No region of the United States is untouched by gangs. Gangs affect society at all levels, causing heightened fears for safety, violence, and economic costs.
This study gives an excellent overview of the breadth of gang activity.

Also see the websites of the National Gang Crime Research Center, the California Gang Investigator's Association, and the East Coast Gang Investigator's Association.

Our objective ought to be to learn more about gang behaviors. By better understanding how to recognize behaviors, citizens can more effectively work with law enforcement, educators, and social services to inhibit gang activity in our communities.

Friday, December 21, 2007

More Interesting CJ Bid Solicitations

As Whitecaps noted in the October 16, 2007, post titled Interesting Bid Solicitations, just about anything is more interesting reading than federal bid solicitations.

However, if you're a criminal justice student, a true or fictional crime writer, or if your occupation is one of the criminal justice fields, the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ) bid solicitations give you some insight into where criminal justice technology and behavioral sciences are going.

As with past solicitations, the interesting material is a few pages into the solicitation, often starting with the heading "Specific Information." However, the "Performance Measures," "Selection Criteria," and "Review Process" headings also reveal not only technical information but also the administrative expectations that CJ professionals would be expected to meet when applying for funding.

With that in mind, here's another list of NIJ bid solicitations.

Social Science Research in Forensic Science

Solving Cold Cases with DNA

Research on Policing

Research on Terrorism

Crime and Justice Research

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Guidelines on Cell Phone Forensics

Did you ever wonder how much information about you and your transactions is stored inside that cell phone you carry on your belt or in your purse? Whether you're a criminal or a cop, a spy or security chief, you should be very concerned about what cell phone transactions reveal about you.

The bad news is the criminals and spies already know. That's why they've begun using prepaid disposable cell telephones or illegally modified phones that conceal true ownership and are nearly impossible (but not quite) to intercept.

The worse news is that the cops and security chiefs often don't know. To help them get a better understanding of cell phone vulnerabilities, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has published the Guideline on Cell Phone Forensics. This 104-page publication:

"...provides basic information on the preservation, acquisition, examination, analysis, and reporting of digital evidence on cell phones, relevant to law enforcement, incident response, and other types of investigations. The guide focuses mainly on the characteristics of cell phones, including smart phones having advanced capabilities. It also covers provisions to be taken into consideration during the course of an incident investigation.
For those true crime writers who read this blog, this publication is a wealth of information about cell phone use in crime.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Real Estate Appraisal Fraud

With the nationwide housing slump, the number of residential foreclosures is increasing. The subprime lending business is transitioning to the subprime lending scandal. So serious are the consequences for not only homebuyers but for everyone else in the housing industry that the President has taken steps to control the damage.

Inevitably, victims ask "why" and "how" could this occur? How could the home they purchased for $250,000 now suddenly be valued at well under $200,000?

One answer is that the home was overpriced to begin with, and the mortgage lender enticed a dishonest appraiser to inflate the home's value to correspond with the seller's asking price or to the price offered by the buyer.

To better understand the consequences of appraisal fraud, read Home Insecurity: How Widespread Appraisal Fraud Puts Homeowners at Risk. The report was prepared by Demos, a New York think tank.

Though the report deals with residential appraisal fraud, the same deceptive and dishonest techniques are slightly modified and used in commercial property appraisal fraud. Since urban renewal agencies like our own Lake City Development Corporation also rely on property appraisals, the agency's community and therefore its taxpayers may become the ultimate victims of commercial appraisal fraud.

For those interested in learning more about mortgage fraud and appraisal fraud, see the FBI's 2006 Mortgage Fraud Report and Rachel Dollar's Mortgage Fraud Blog.