Before we dive headfirst into the real meat of this article, let’s first begin with a bit of background regarding the crimes of burglary and robbery. Otherwise, those of you who use social media sites and/or watching TV news and crime dramas as your main sources of research, well, you may not know that burglary and robbery are not the same. Not even close.

Here’s a great example of how the media often mixes up the two crimes.

The headline:

“British Olympian says medals were stolen from her home in robbery.”

I read the article hoping I’d learn how and why armed and dangerous bad guys forcibly robbed the unfortunate female athlete at gunpoint in her own home. But that’s not what happened. The headline was inaccurate, likely due to an ill-informed writer and/or editor.

The public typically assumes when they read or hear something in the news, it must be fact because, well, it’s the news, and not fiction. When the media passes along bad information, unsuspecting everyday people could believe it to be true and then repeat it in conversation and/or in writings. And this is one way those faux facts make it into books. The best means to prevent using this type of misinformation, of course, is to conduct honest to goodness research.

Back to the news story about the runner’s “home robbed at gunpoint.”

The first line of the first paragraph of the news story immediately contradicted the headline, saying the distance runner received the news that her home had been ransacked while she was away. 

“A British Olympian distance runner said Wednesday thieves ‘ransacked’ her home and stole some of her medals and jewelry.” According to the BBC, she said a family member went to check on her dog and found the home “trashed.”

The runner, Eilish McColgan, later said she was upset and angry when she learned that her home had been the target of a burglary.

She’d not been robbed. She was not at home when the crook broke into her home and took her belongings. Unlike the news reporter, Eilish McColgan knew the difference between burglary and robbery.

The fact that she was not at home is very important detail that affects how the criminal would be charged, if caught.


Burglary is a property crime.

In a property crime, a victim’s property is stolen or destroyed, without the use or threat of force against the victim. Property crimes include burglary and theft as well as vandalism and arson. – National Institute of Justice


Burglary as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary

“The breaking and entering the house of another in the night-time, with intent to commit a felony therein, whether the felony be actually committed or not.”

In Virginia, where I served as law enforcement officer/detective, the law governing burglary states:

§ 18.2-89. Burglary; how punished.

If any person break and enter the dwelling house of another in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony or any larceny therein, he shall be guilty of burglary, punishable as a Class 3 felony; provided, however, that if such person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.
 
§ 18.2-90. Entering dwelling house, etc., with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson; penalty.

If any person in the nighttime enters without breaking or in the daytime breaks and enters or enters and conceals himself in a dwelling house or an adjoining, occupied outhouse or in the nighttime enters without breaking or at any time breaks and enters or enters and conceals himself in any building permanently affixed to realty, or any ship, vessel or river craft or any railroad car, or any automobile, truck or trailer, if such automobile, truck or trailer is used as a dwelling or place of human habitation, with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson in violation of §§ 18.2-77, 18.2-79 or § 18.2-80, he shall be deemed guilty of statutory burglary, which offense shall be a Class 3 felony. However, if such person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

VA Code § 18.2-91

If any person commits any of the acts mentioned in § 18.2-90 with intent to commit larceny, or any felony other than murder, rape, robbery or arson in violation of §§ 18.2-77, 18.2-79 or § 18.2-80, or if any person commits any of the acts mentioned in § 18.2-89 or § 18.2-90 with intent to commit assault and battery, he shall be guilty of statutory burglary, punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than one or more than twenty years or, in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, be confined in jail for a period not exceeding twelve months or fined not more than $2,500, either or both. However, if the person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

§ 18.2-92. Breaking and entering dwelling house with intent to commit other misdemeanor.

If any person break and enter a dwelling house while said dwelling is occupied, either in the day or nighttime, with the intent to commit any misdemeanor except assault and battery or trespass, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. However, if the person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

Clear as mud, right?

Notice that I highlighted a brief portion of a sentence above in red, and three specific words in blue—with intent to commit larceny or any felony other than murder, rape, robbery or arson …” I did so to emphasize that robbery is not a portion of, or related to the basic crime of burglary. It is a completely separate offense.


Burglary and Robbery are not the same!


Okay, still confused when I say that robbery and burglary are not the same crime? You ask, how could this be the case when so many TV and print news reports and fictional television shows time and time again tell us that Ms. or Mr. Crime Victim’s house was robbed?

An inanimate object cannot be robbed

Typically, burglary involves the breaking and entering the house of another, and only a burglar, or burglars, are involved. There’s no force, threat, or intimidation used against a resident during the taking of an item or items from a victim, because the victims are not present. For example, you and your spouse are out for the evening when Joe I. Stealem enters your home through a downstairs window and swipes a carton of orange juice from your refrigerator.

Author Lawrence Block expertly captures the essence of a professional burglar, and he does so quite nicely with his character Bernie Rhodenbarr. Keep in mind, though, that Rhodenbarr is not the average residential burglar encountered on a weekly basis by patrol officers in your town.

Now, on to robbery.


Violent Crimes.

In a violent crime, a victim is harmed by or threatened with violence. Violent crimes include rape and sexual assault, robbery, assault and murder. – National Institute of Justice.


Black’s Law definition of Robbery.

“Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property In the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.”

Traveling back to Virginia, we see that robbery there is defined as:

Virginia Code § 18.2-58. How punished.

Okay, you’ve written your first, or maybe your thirty-first, shoot-’em-up, cut-’em-up cereal serial killer novel. You’re proud of the book and of all your hard work. After all, your sister’s husband’s best friend’s mother’s uncle who used to be a security guard at the mall says the bad guy in your latest book is so realistic that he makes Gacy and Bundy look like Cub Scouts. Now that’s an expert opinion, for sure!

But, did you do your homework? Are you sure you’ve written the character properly? Or, did you get your information from Dexter reruns?

Before you send the manuscript off to your editor, let’s take a moment to have a quick look at our mini serial killer checklist. You know, just to make certain your details are sound.

Number One – All serial killers absolutely LOVE Jodie Foster …

Oops, wrong list.

Hang on a second … it’s here, somewhere. I saw it just a moment ago…

Messy Desk

Ah, yes. Here we go…

Serial Killer Fact Checker

1. For the most part, serial killers are NOT loners. They don’t hang out in dark alleys hoping a potential victim will soon pass by. In fact, serial killers normally live everyday lives, working steady jobs and hanging out with everyday people.

2. Sex is NOT the only motivator behind serial killings. Greed, anger, money, the thrill of the kill, and wanting attention could all be considered as motivation for serial killings.

3. Serial killers are generally NOT wanderers who travel the highways and byways searching for their victims. Instead, they normally choose to stay within a comfortable region that’s relatively close to the center of their world (home, work, etc.).


4. Serial killers are generally NOT the super-smart geniuses we sometimes see on TV and in film. They’re also NOT always insane as defined by law. Sure, they’re usually psychopathic, but not “Elvis-lives-in-my-refrigerator-behind-the-cheesecake” crazy.

5. Serial killers can and often do stop killing. There’s no serial killer handbook rule stating they must find and kill a new victim every day for the rest of their lives.

6. Not all serial killers are white males.

7. Serial killers, as a rule, do NOT want to get caught. Instead, they become complacent and careless, and sometimes cocky, making it easier to be caught by police.

8. Not all serial killers are alike. There is no standard. Each serial killer has his/her own motivation and personality.

9. Serial killers are NOT limited to any specific race, age group, or gender.

10. Serial killers may have multiple motivations.

Finally, to help with your research

 

 

“A serial killer murders at least two people in distinctly separate incidents, with a psychological rest period between, which could be considered a time of predatory preparation. He, she, or they also choose the murder activity, such as stabbing, strangulation, shooting, or bombing, and may move around to different places or lure successive victims to a single locale. They view victims as objects needed for their ultimate goals, and manifest as addictive quality to their behavior, so that choosing murder is a satisfying act rather than merely a reaction or instrumental goal.”  Dr. Katherine Ramsland


*Jodie Foster image by Alan Light (background removed)


Full details coming soon!

 

 

“Hollow point bullets are designed to hit the animal they’re being shot at, let’s say a deer for example, and explode inside that body, correct?” – Prosecutor Thomas Binger, during questioning of defendant Kyle Rittenhouse in a Kenosha County, Wi. courtroom.

Rittenhouse replied, “No, I don’t think so.”

Rittenhouse, on trial for murder, was absolutely correct. Hollow point ammunition does not explode.


Prosecutor Binger’s hollow point blunder is the perfect example of someone who hasn’t done their homework before sharing their lack of knowledge with the world.

Unfortunately, this massively incorrect statement was most likely absorbed into the brains of many folks who’re following the trial, and a number of them will repeat it as fact merely because it was spoken by someone, a prosecutor, who should know better. Then the snowball effect begins, with more and more people repeating the untruth until it eventually makes it way into everyday conversation, the media and, well, crime fiction.

I’m addressing this topic only because I don’t want to see Binder’s error wind up in your books. Of course, the fact that Binder used false information in a real-life murder trial is far more than concerning than to see it appear on page 102 of Sally Sue’s next thriller. Perhaps, though, Binder picked up the morsel of untruth from a novel written by someone who didn’t care to do their homework before settling in to write. You know, the same writers who have their characters smell the odor of cordite when entering a fresh shooting scene. Hmm …


Say NO to cordite! Click here to see why.


Before discussing hollow point rounds, it’s important to understand full metal jacket and hollow point bullets (the actual projectiles).

Jacketed bullets – lead bullets that are encased either partially or completely in copper or a similar alloy. The term “full metal jacket” (FMJ) refers to complete jacketing of a bullet. The entire bullet is encased inside a jacket.

Jacketed bullets

A FMJ round typically punches straight through through soft tissue, a through-and-through wound, and that’s because its hard jacket usually doesn’t allow the bullet to deform and expand. The FMJ bullet typically retains it sleek design as it passes through the body. However, the fired FMJ bullet could become misshapen if hits something hard, such as steel or concrete, and sometimes bone.

Wounds Caused by FMJ Rounds

Soft tissues are elastic and pliable and tend to close around a wound, attempting to retain the tissue’s original form. Therefore, both entrance and exit wounds are much smaller than the explosive and cavernous destruction that TV and film would have us believe. In fact, even 9mm FMJ rounds often leave behind wounds not much larger than those caused by rounds fired from a .22 pistol. Actually, even the more substantial and plumper .45 rounds often leave wounds smaller than the diameter of the bullet, after tissues begin to shrink once the round passes through. The same is so regarding the the wound cavity where the bullet travels through the body on its way to and out the opposite side. Therefore, for a FMJ round to kill or fully incapacitate, well, it usually must strike a vital organ or blood vessel. Thus, a shooter must be accurate with their shots.

Now for the “scoop” on hollow point ammunition.

Hollow Point Ammunition

Hollow points “mushroom” upon impact with tissue or other material/surfaces

Hollow point ammunition is designed to expand, or mushroom, when it strikes soft tissue. Expand, NOT explode.  The void at the tip is the key. Upon impact, it fills with matter, and that action combined with the forward motion of the round causes the lead surrounding the void to peel back and away, sort of like peeling a banana at 1,000 feet per second, or so.

As a result, the expansion of the bullet forces the round to quickly lose velocity while creating a much wider wound channel, thus a greater chance of it remaining inside the body, the opposite effect of an FMJ round. Therefore, hollow point ammunition reduces the risk of accidental collateral damage—a round passing through a body and traveling on to strike other people when firing in self defense or defense of others), or animals, buildings, and other people when hunting.


Hollow point rounds are an excellent ammo choice for law enforcement and for civilian self-defense.


 

 

Like the rounds pictured above, many hollow point bullets are jacketed, which allows for smoother feeding into a semi-automatic and automatic weapons. Jacketing also reduces “lead shaving” and damage to gun barrels. Jacketing hollow point ammunition also aids in penetrating targets, as well as helping the bullet expand in a uniform manner.


Lead shaving – deposits of lead are “shaved” from a bullet as it leaves the chamber and barrel. Deposits are often left in the bore of a firearm which can alter the shape of a bullet and/or the lands and grooves of a barrel. Sometimes the shaving is so egregious that tiny bits of hot lead blows outward onto the face, arms, and hands of the shooter. Occurs mostly with revolvers.

The first firearm I was issued by a sheriff’s office, a Ruger .357, shaved lead horribly. So much so that it peppered my face and hands with tons of hot lead each time I pulled its trigger. In fact, after firing between 40 -60 rounds the lead build-up around the chamber and cylinder was so great that the cylinder could not rotate. The revolver was, at that point, totally useless. It would not fire until it was thoroughly cleaned and the lead deposits scraped away. Needless to say, I plead my case with the boss and was issued a new weapon.


Many jacketed hollow point bullets have factory-cut notches/thin grooves/fault lines cut into the outer copper jacket, around the tips of the bullets. These cuts are purposeful weak points help that ensure that expansion and mushrooming occurs as it should.

 

 

So no, hollow point rounds do not explode.

FYI – Prosecutor Binder’s questions about this type of ammo was a bit puzzling since it had previously been confirmed that the ammunition fired from Rittenhouse’s weapon were full metal jacketed rounds, not hollow points. Just one of many head-scratching moments during a bizarre trial.


*This post is about ammunition only. I merely used an ill-informed prosecutor’s inaccurate question/statement as fodder for an article that could benefit writers of fiction, or fact. I am in no way offering an opinion of Rittenhouse’s guilt, innocence, or any combination thereof. So please, let’s avoid discussion about the case and trial, race, politics, etc.

For the the purpose of this brief peek into the minds of police officers who enter into stressful situations such as a violent riot, or a gun battle with bullets whizzing by their heads, we’ll use Officer Sam as our guinea pig. Joining him in this discussion his partner, Officer Pam.

Sam is a bit of a worrier and, thanks to his parents, his name is coincidentally an acronym for three distinct reasons why officers, as well as other people, perhaps sees things differently when the weight of world seemingly comes crashing down around them. More about the acronym a bit later.

Pam, on the other hand, is a seasoned veteran who’s “been there, done that” a thousand times. She sincerely believes she’s impervious to stress.

Let’s dive right in by first setting the stage. Sam and Pam have been called to the scene of a bank robbery where the masked bandit has decided to not be taken alive. Therefore he begins lobbing .45 caliber rounds at the two responding officers who immediately take cover and immediately return fire.

The intense shootout lasts two minutes before both Pam and Sam fill the desperado full of government-purchased lead. He dies as a result of the aerating of his torso by a baker’s dozen of neat, round puncture wounds delivered by the officers’ sidearms.

The shift commander assigns a pair of internal affairs investigators to take the statements of the two heroes who saved the bank employees from what could have ended up as a mass funeral for the seven cashiers and an elderly security guard named Rufus.

The two IA detectives separate Pam and Sam and then take their statements. Later, the “suits” compare notes and, unbelievably, the officers’ stories vary … a lot. In fact, it’s almost as if Pam and Sam told tales that took place at two different locations and they’d practically described two entirely different events. Yes, they were that far apart.

So how could this happen, you ask? Well, let’s closely examine Sam’s name to see if we can arrive as some sort of answer that makes sense out of the discrepancies/distorted realty.

SAM

“S”, in my own little and limited warped mind, stands for “Secure.”

To start the ball rolling, the brain first must “SECURE” information. However, the human mind can receive only so much at once, so it decides what is important and then discards all of what it deems as unnecessary details.

This is where repetitive training plays a vital role, because repeating the same action over and over again (draw, point, shoot, draw, point, shoot, for example) helps the officer to react instinctively rather than having to rely on a brain that immediately discards some details, such as “the guy has a gun!”


During a stressful event the human mind does strange things


Human brains do not have a far-reaching ability to observe, meaning we see either a forest or we see a group of individual trees, or a lovely meadow versus individual grasses. A crowd of people, or individual humans. But not both at the same time (not both forest AND trees, etc.). The brain focuses on one or the other, making it difficult to process many details. And, when two humans are observing the same grouping of objects, one’s focus may be on the guy with the gun while the other’s is trained on the woman holding a baby.

“A” = “ABSORB,” meaning the retention of what the brain decides is important. Unfortunately, our minds operate on a selective basis and we absolutely have no control over this weird phenomena. It is the brain that picks and chooses what it wants to absorb, and often those human computers focus on one non-essential thing while totally disregarding another more important detail. Again, the woman holding a baby instead of the far more important and dangerous guy with the gun. This is the reason why Sam may see one thing while Pam’s mind secures and absorbs something entirely different.


The proper terminology for what to pay attention to and what to disregard is “selective attention.” For more on selective attention, click here.


“M,” the final letter of Sam’s name and it refers to “MEMORY.”

Memory, simply put, is the brain instantly filing away all of the details about the stressful event that it deemed as unimportant. But not all that’s experienced is retained. What’s left after the brain picks and choices what wants or doesn’t want are the elements that did stand out as “need to know NOW.” These are the bits that, due to selective attention, seem vividly specific. However, even those details may be perceived or skewed differently than  what actually took place, and that’s because not all surrounding information was retained by the brain.

Selective attention can and often does distort reality. For example, situations where officers mistakenly recognize a cellphone in a fleeing suspect’s hand and instead honestly perceive it as a firearm. The same is true in reverse, when the officer mistakenly believes an object is a cellphone when in reality it’s clearly a pistol. These false negatives are caused by a human mind rejecting something that should have received and accepted for what it is/was. In the case of officers involved in deadly force scenarios, these mistakes could and often do result in life-ending occurrences for both officers and citizens.

Repetitive training helps the brain in its decision-making process by allowing it do its thing while the officer simply reacts without having to take the time to first SECURE, ABSORB, and then pull the needed information from their MEMORY. Instead, they need only to draw, point, and shoot. It’s how they’re trained while at the academy, which is quite similar to training a dog to sit.

How many times have we all said to little Rover …

“Sit, boy. Sit.” “Sit, boy. Sit.” “Sit, boy. Sit.” “Sit, boy. Sit.”

Well, that’s how cops are trained and it’s by design. Repetitive training helps to keep them alive.

 

It’s the year 2021. Since last year we’ve all endured COVID, working from home, quarantine, wildfires, flooding, more COVID, lockdowns, shutdowns, layoffs, tornados, earthquakes, masks, vaccines, the loss of loved ones, riots, a mess overseas and, well, you know. Pick a disaster and at least some of us have been there. Some lost jobs and others found new employment. It’s been a stressful time for all of us. Even Denene, my wife, has a new job having recently accepted a position as Director of Microbiology and Immunology at college of medicine. Perfect timing, I know.

Anyway, to get to the point, while reading current novels and blogs and news articles, I’ve once again run across the misuse of various cop-type terms and information. As a result, I decided to compile and post a bit of information to help set things straight.

I hope this helps somewhat in your quest to avoid a writing disaster, and to …

Write Believable Make-Believe

 

Defendant: Someone who’s been accused of a crime and is involved in a court proceeding.

Defense Attorney: A lawyer who represents a defendant throughout their criminal proceedings.

Departure: A sentence that’s outside the typical guideline range. Departures can be above or below the standard range; however, the most common departure is a downward departure, a sentence reduction solely based on the defendant’s substantial assistance to the government. For example, a defendant who spills the beans to law enforcement about the criminal activity of someone else for the sole purpose of obtaining a lesser sentence. In jailhouse/layman’s terms, “a snitch.”

Diminished Capacity: A defendant is eligible for a downward departure (reduction of sentence) if they can successfully prove they suffer from a significantly reduced mental capacity, a condition that contributed substantially to the commission of the offense of which they’re charged with committing. Merely having been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense is typically not considered grounds for diminished capacity.

* This applies to the defendant only, not the defendant’s attorney, judges, or police officers. Their sometimes reduction in mental capacities is fodder for another article.

Duress: The federal sentencing guidelines allow for a downward departure if the defendant committed the offense because of serious threats, coercion, or pressure. An example is the person who’s been forced to commit a bank robbery by crooks who’re holding his family hostage until/unless he carries out the crime. The courts could/would show leniency by granting a downward departure (or complete dismissal) based upon the fact he was under severe duress at the time of the robbery.

Extreme Conduct: Here, an upward departure from the guidelines range may be appropriate if the defendant’s conduct during the commission of a crime was unusually heinous, cruel, and/or brutal. Even degrading the victim of the crime in some way may apply and earn the defendant a longer sentence that’s typically called for within the sentencing guidelines.

Brutally maiming and murdering federal agents simply because they dared to ask questions (revenge), well, that may be a crime that warrants an upward departure from the typical sentence.

Felony: An offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of one year or longer.

Felony Murder: A killing that takes place during the commission of another dangerous felony, such as robbery.

To get everyone’s attention, a bank robber fires his weapon at the ceiling. A stray bullet hits a customer and she dies as a result of her injury. The robber has committed felony murder, a killing, however unintentional, that occurred during the commission of a felony. The shooter’s accomplices could also be charged with the murder even if they were not in possession of a weapon or took no part in the death of the victim.

Hate Crime Motivation: An increase of sentence if the court determines that the defendant intentionally targeted a victim because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability or even due to their sexual orientation.

Heat of Passion/Crime of Passion: When the accused was in an uncontrollable rage at the time they committed the murder.  The intense passion often precludes the suspect/defendant of having premeditation or being fully mentally capable of knowing what he/she was doing at the time the crime was committed.

Indictment: An indictment is the formal, written accusation of a crime. They’re issued by a grand jury and are presented to a court with the intention of prosecution of the individual named in the indictment.

Misdemeanor: A crime that’s punishable by one year of imprisonment, or less.

Obstruction of Justice: Obstruction of Justice is a very broad term that simply boils down to charging an individual for knowingly lying to law enforcement in order to change to course/outcome of a case, or lying to protect another person. The charge may also be brought against the person who destroys, hides, or alters evidence.

For more about obstruction, see When Lying Becomes A Crime: Obstruction Of Justice

Offense Level: The severity level of an offense as determined by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that determine how much or how little prison time a federal judge may impose on a defendant who has been found guilty of committing a federal crime.

To learn more about these guidelines, go here … So, You’ve Committed a Federal Offense: How Much Time Will You Serve?

Parole: The early and conditional release from prison. Should the parolee violate those conditions, he/she could be returned to prison to complete the remainder of their sentence. Parole, however, was abolished in the federal prison system in 1984. In lieu of parole, federal inmates earn good time credits based on their behavior during incarceration. Federal inmates may earn a sentence reduction of up to 54 days per year. Good time credits are often reduced when prisoners break the rules, especially when the rules broken are serious offenses—fighting, stealing, possession of contraband such as drugs, weapons, or other prohibited material.

Federal prisoners who play nice during their time behind bars typically see a substantial accumulation of good time credit and will subsequently hit the streets much sooner than those who repeatedly act like idiots.

Due to earned good time credit, federal prisoners who follow the rules are typically released after serving approximately 85% of their sentence.

Writers, please remember, there is no parole in the federal system. People incarcerated in federal prison after 1984 are not eligible for parole because is does not exist. I see this all the time in works of fiction.

By the way, this regularly occurring faux pas (incorrect use of parole in novels) brings to mind the dreaded “C” word … cordite. I still see this used in current books. Your characters, unless in works of historical fiction, cannot smell the odor of cordite at crime scenes because the stuff is no longer manufactured. In fact, production of cordite ended at the end of WWII (1945).

After all, you wouldn’t write that the only means of entertainment in a modern home is listening to old-time radio shows, or that today’s foods are kept cool in iceboxes chilled by a 25 lb. block of frozen water. Why wouldn’t we incorporate those things as standards in modern fiction? Because it wouldn’t be believable. After WWII, radios were soon replaced by television. Likewise, iceboxes and the icemen who delivered the ice to individual homes were forced out of service by electric refrigerators.

So why in the world would a modern writer so freely accept newfangled refrigerators and television, but remain stuck in 1945, or so, when cordite use in ammunition became a thing of the past? It’s over. Done. NO CORDITE in modern ammo. It’s not sexy to write something so horribly inaccurate.

Please, please, please, step into 2021 and stop using “stinky information” in your books.

Please read this:

Once Again – Cordite: Putting This Garbage In The Grave!

 

Cop, crook

The world of cops and robbers is an entity all its own. It’s a culture that lives and breathes in every neighborhood of every city. And, within each individual subgroup comes a separate set of traditions, rules, regulations, and even their own language(s).

To survive in these various social orders, members and visitors must walk the walk and talk the talk that’s associated with each group. For example, to you the word cop might conjure up images of a burly police officer. However, to many criminals cop means to take plea agreement offered by the DA. “I’m not going to take a chance with a jury trial. I’m going to cop a plea.”

Let’s take a peek at a few more of the slang terms used by cops and robbers.

1. Sagging/Jailing (jailin”) – Wearing pants with the waistband so low that the underwear/boxer shorts are exposed. This style actually began in prisons and jails because inmates are often issued ill-fitting clothing. Their jail-issued pants are sometimes much too big which causes them to ride low on the hips.

Some say inmates who wear their pants “low” (saggers) are advertising that they’re available for sex.

2. Chicken head – Someone who gives oral sex in exchange for drugs.

3. Shorty – a nickname for girls/women. “Shorty sure looked fine last night.”

4. Bullet – A one year prison sentence.

5. Ink – Tattoo

6. Pruno – Alcohol made in jail or prison by inmates. Also known as hooch.

7. Five-O – The police. AKA: Po-Po, Barney, Bacon, Bear, Laws, Pig.

8. Lot Lizard – Prostitute who works the parking lots at truck stops.

9.. Catch a ride – Share someone’s drugs. “Hey, Dude. Can I catch a ride?”

10. Lampin’ – Hanging out under a street light. Those who do consider that spot as their turf.

Now, what are some of your favorite slang terms?


WELCOME TO MURDERCON

It’s a killer event that features renowned experts who train top homicide investigators from around the world.

Writers, please take advantage of this opportunity to learn from those who are the best in the business of crime scene investigation. I say this because this incredible event may not come your way again.

Sign up today while there’s still time.

*2021 Guest of Honor – Andrew Grant

Register here.

Click the play button below to view the video.


2021 MurderCon Video Teaser

Scientists at the U.S. Army’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Caltech, and ETH Zürich fabricated a revolutionary new material that’s stronger, more durable, and far lighter than Kevlar.

To begin the process, researchers decided to first test nanoarchitected materials during high-velocity impacts. To do so, they used a high-powered laser to harden microscopic structures within a light-sensitive resin. Then, those patterns were repeated (a tetrakaidecahedron) which constructed a lattice-like structure made up of microscopic struts (sort of like the crisscrossed steel structure of the base of the Eiffel Tower, but in miniature).

Knowing that a similar geometric pattern of the tiny “latticework” already regularly appears in energy-mitigating foams, these clever scientists replicated the pattern and combined it with typically brittle carbon. The result was a rubbery, flexible structure. Then the scientists removed all leftover resin and placed the substance in a high-temperature vacuum furnace to transform the polymer into a super-light nanoarchitected carbon material.

This nanoarchitectured material that’s thinner than the width of a human hair, is made of the aforementioned nanometer-scale carbon struts, and has been successfully tested by blasting it with microparticles at supersonic speeds (anything above 340 meters per second, or so—the speed of sound in air at sea level). When tested, the material successfully stopped penetration of projectiles.

Since the newly-discovered material is better-equipped to stop projectiles than currently available products, and that it weighs substantially less than its counterparts, well, this is big news for law enforcement officers and soldiers.

Yes, someday soon police and the military may have the opportunity to wear bullet-stopping armor that doesn’t weigh a ton, and is comprised of a heat-retaining clay-like density that bakes their torsos like loaves of bread in a hot oven.


HUURY! Only a few days remain to sign up for MURDERCON.

It’s a KILLER event!

 

Featuring renowned experts who train top homicide investigators from around the world.

Writers, please take advantage of this opportunity to learn from those who are the best in the business of crime scene investigation. I say this because this incredible event may not come your way again.

Sign up today while there’s still time.

*2021 Guest of Honor – Andrew Grant

Register here.

Click the play button below to view the video.


2021 MurderCon Video Teaser

Are you searching for ways to prevent the hero of your tales from becoming the bumbling, inept investigators seen on many television shows? Well, look no further. Here are a dozen tips that’ll turn any fictional schmuck into a perceptive Sherlock.

1. Use a new, clean fingerprint brush for each crime scene to prevent cross contamination of DNA.

2. Never place items containing DNA evidence into plastic bags. Plastic retains moisture, which can degrade or damage DNA.

3. When collecting potential DNA evidence (blood, urine, saliva, semen, etc.) from an object—walls, baseboards, bed posts, car windows, steering wheels, light switch covers, refrigerator door handles, etc.—use a clean, fresh swab. First, though, moisten the swab with sterile distilled water. Once the sample is collected onto the swab, place it inside a cardboard or paper container for air drying. ALWAYS use a fresh cardboard and/or paper container to prevent cross contamination.

4. Use adhesive side powder for lifting prints from the sticky side of tapes, packing labels, etc. Mix the side powder with water and dispersing agent until it reaches the consistency of thin paint, then apply it to the surface. Wait 10-15 seconds and then rinse with clean water. Presto! The print(s) appear instantly.

Sirchie’s kit “contains all the components necessary to develop latent prints on the adhesive surface of tapes, labels and similar surfaces. Adhesive-side powder yields excellent results on duct tape, plastic tapes (clear, frosted and opaque), paper labels and tapes (except those with water-activated adhesives), vinyl packing labels and paper-backed adhesive labels. Poor to excellent results are possible on cloth surgical tape (excellent fidelity but low contrast). The TRA20 adhesive tape release agent allows tangled tape to be released without damage to latent prints which may be present.” 2021 MurderCon (virtual) features a brilliant class on lifting prints from difficult surfaces, such as tapes and wet objects.

ASP150 Adhesive-Side Powder Kit includes:

1 – ASP50D Dark Adhesive-Side Powder, 50g

1 – ASP50L Light Adhesive Side Powder, 50g

1 – ASP10 EZFLO Super Concentrate, 6 oz

1 – TRA20 Adhesive Tape Releae Agent, 1 oz

1 – KCP300 LPDE Bottle with Cap, 6 oz

2 – 118L Regular Powder Brushes

2 – KCP139 Plastic Tweezers

1 – KCP301 Rinse Basin

2 – KCP302 Mixing Bowl with Lid

1 – KCP303 Measuring Spoon, 1 tsp

1 – Instructions for TRA20

1 – ASP501 Texturized, Molded, Plastic carrying Case

*Images and text above – Sirchie. Sirchie, “the global leader in crime scene investigation and forensic science solutions,” is the official host of “MurderCon,” a Writers’ Police Academy event

5. Polyethylene tape is great for lifting prints from curved surfaces. The material easily conforms to the shape of non-flat surfaces, such as a doorknob.

6. To prevent contamination, do not talk, yawn, cough, sneeze, etc. over potential DNA evidence.

7. When seizing computers as evidence – If the device is on, do not use it. Photograph the image on the monitor and then unplug the power cord from the machine (remove the battery from a laptop). If the computer is not on, do not power it up. Deliver the devices to the crime lab for examination by computer experts.

8. Use SPR or Wet Print to ift prints from wet surfaces. By the way, both products are water-based, which means they cannot be used when temperatures are below freezing.

“Small Particle Reagent (SPR) is a suspension of fine molybdenum disulfide particles in a surface-active solution for light-colored surfaces and a white suspension for dark-colored surfaces. It adheres to the fatty constituents of latent fingerprints to form a gray or white deposit—depending on the reagent, and is a quick and simple latent print development process (recommended by the U.K. Home Office, Scientific Research and Development Branch). Each kit includes complete instructions.” – Sirchie

9. Do not store or transport potential DNA evidence in direct sunlight, or in areas exposed to excessive heat (vehicle dashboard, trunk, etc.).

10. Typically, embalmed bodies are not suitable for DNA testing. However, it is possible to obtain DNA from bone and hair, even on a body that has been embalmed.

11. A “how-to” kit is available to law enforcement that details (step-by-step) the process of collecting insect evidence. The kit also contains a list of entomologists who’ll help identify the bugs and their stages of life.

12. Every single item found at a crime scene should be considered as evidence until it’s ruled as having no evidential value. For example, broken window glass should be recovered as evidence. It may be possible to match the glass to particles discovered embedded in the soles of a suspect’s shoe. Likewise, hairs, fibers, soil, and other trace evidence may be found on a suspect’s clothing and shoes.

I once collected a soil/plant/seed mixture found on the brake pedal of a suspect’s car and it was later matched to an area where the combination of the items was specific to a very small region—the precise place where the victim was killed.

By the way, forensic botany is a fascinating aspect of crime-solving that could certainly add a touch of pizzazz to works of fiction. To help with this underused aspect of criminal investigations, we’ve added Forensic Botany to the MurderCon’s 2021 lineup. The class is amazing.


RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY!

Are you searching for the proper details and the perfect words to describe a scene or character? Well, here’s the solution to your troubles. Sign up today to learn from some of the best in the business!!

 

 

www.writerspoliceacademy.online

 

 

 

 Writers’ Police Academy Online is Pleased to Present:

 

“Search Dogs, Search Warrants, a Search for Words, and Lies”

 

When: February 27, 2021

 

This daylong live and interactive seminar features three renowned professionals who will share intimate knowledge of K-9 search and rescues and the recovery of human remains; laws and procedures governing search warrants, pursuits, and police use of force; how detectives use the words of suspects and witnesses—nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words—to detect deception or hidden information.

At the end of day international bestselling author Heather Graham presents a dynamic workshop on the craft of writing titled “It’s All in the Words.”

Instructors include Carrie Stuart Parks, Sheri Lewis Wohl, Wisconsin Judge Kevin Rathburn, and the fabulous Heather Graham Pozzessere!

Registration is officially open. Reserve your seat today!

https://writerspoliceacademy.online


Seminar Schedule

Schedule (Times are EST)

10:30 – Login and Test
10:45 – Welcome

11:00 – 12:20

Search Warrants, Pursuits, and Police Use of Force

This course will describe the general legal standards for the use of force by police such as warrants, including anticipatory, knock, and No Knock, warrants and pursuits. Instructor, Kevin Rathburn

12:20 – 12:50

Break

12:50 – 2:10

More than the Nose: K9 Search Teams in the 21st Century

K9 Search Teams in the 21st Century is a journey into the world of canine search teams. What does it take to be field ready? What makes a good search dog? Learn the difference between what it looks like on TV and what it’s really like out in the field. Learn how and why it’s changing from search and rescue volunteers to unpaid professionals. Instructor Sheri Wohl

2:20 – 3:40

Don’t LIE to Me!

Law enforcement uses numerous tools to identify deception in witnesses and suspects, depending on their background and training. Learn one of the more unique skill sets in recognizing deception through language–by reviewing the written statements. Understand how the very nouns, pronouns, extra words, missing words, and other clues alert detectives to deception or hidden information. Add richness and depth to your writing by utilizing and weaving content statement analysis into your manuscripts. Instructor, Carrie Stuart Parks

3:50 – 5:10

“It’s all in the Words”

A dynamic workshop on the craft of writing taught by one of the all-time great authors of suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, and Christmas family fare. Instructor, Heather Graham

5:10

Final words


Instructor Bios:

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist. She travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals including the FBI, Secret Service, and RCMP, and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her best-selling novels in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre have garnered numerous awards including several Carols, Inspys, the Christy, Golden Scroll, Maxwell, and Wright. As a professional fine artist, she has written and illustrated best-selling art books for North Light Publishers.

 


Sheri Lewis Wohl is a 30-year veteran of the federal judiciary, a search and rescue K9 handler, and the author of more than fifteen novels, several of which feature search dogs. She is a field ready member of search and rescue in Eastern Washington and for the last nine years, has been a human remains detection K9 handler deployed on missions throughout Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Sheri has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Communications from Eastern Washington University and a Master’s degree in Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

 

 

 


 

Kevin Rathburn became a full-time faculty member at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in 2000 after serving as an adjunct instructor for nine years. Prior to that, Mr. Rathburn served for ten years as an Assistant District Attorney for Brown County in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In 2004, Mr. Rathburn became Municipal Judge for the Village of Suamico. Mr. Rathburn holds BAs in political science and economics from St. Norbert College (1987) and a JD from Marquette University Law School (1990).

While in Law school, Mr. Rathburn served as a law clerk to several Milwaukee Circuit Court Judges handling civil and criminal matters and the appeal of cases from local boards and municipal court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He also completed an internship in public sector labor law with the law firm of Mulcahy and Wherry and an internship with Blue Cross & Blue Shield Insurance Company.

Mr. Rathburn is a State Certified Instructor for the Wisconsin Technical College System. He is also certified by the Department of Justice, Training and Standards Board in the areas of Child Maltreatment, Constitutional Law, Corrections Law, Courts and Jurisdiction, Criminal Law, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminology, Domestic Violence, Ethics in Criminal Justice, Interviews and Interrogation, Juvenile Law, Report Writing, Sexual Assault and Sensitive Crimes. Mr. Rathburn recently helped create Constitutional Law and Juvenile Law Manuals and update the Criminal Law Manual for the WI. Dept. of Justice, Training and Standards Bureau.

Mr. Rathburn has been a member of the Department of Justice Legal Context Advisory Committee since 2005. He has also served as a Commissioner on the Governor’s Commission on School Violence and the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Commission. He is a past member of the Brown County Youth Aids Committee, Brown County Council on Child Sexual Abuse, Brown County Subcommittee on Underage Drinking, Brown County Consortium on Dysfunctional Families and St. Vincent Hospital’s Child Health Team.

Since 1991 Mr. Rathburn has made presentations on a wide variety of legal topics at numerous conferences including the Wisconsin Jail Association, Wisconsin Juvenile Officers and Juvenile Intake Workers, the State of Wisconsin DARE Officers Association, the Wisconsin LETAO, the Wisconsin Criminal Justice Instructors, the Wisconsin Arson Investigators and the Wisconsin Criminal Investigator’s Association. Mr. Rathburn frequently provides legal updates for law enforcement and correction agencies. He has also provided in-service training for Unified Tactical instructors, administrators, corrections officers, dispatchers and casino security staff.

Since 2007, Mr. Rathburn has been a frequent speaker for the State Supreme Court in its training of Municipal Judges and Court Clerks. Since 2012 Mr. Rathburn has provided Basic Intake Training for Juvenile Intake Workers throughout Wisconsin. He is a trainer for the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development system. Since 2016 Mr. Rathburn has been a featured presenter at the annual Writer’s Police Academy. He recently completed work with James Patterson and Maxine Paetro on a crime novel (The 17th Suspect). He has also presented to officers from England and the Caribbean Islands on multiple occasions in recent years.

In 1994, Mr. Rathburn received the Optimist Law Award for his contribution to the legal field. He also received an Outstanding Teacher Award in 2004, 2005, & 2006 from Who’s Who Among Teachers in American Universities & Colleges and from Who’s Who in Collegiate Faculty in 2007 and 2008. In 2017-18 he was included in Who’s Who in Technical College Faculty. In 2019, Mr. Rathburn received the Excellence in Teaching Award from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Mr. Rathburn says his family is the most important part of his life. He spends as much time as possible with his wife, Beth, and their three sons, Sam, Jack, and Ben. He enjoys landscaping, gardening and walks with Beth and their dog Sophie. He spends many of his late evening hours reading and writing on legal topics. He also likes reading espionage or mystery novels and watching movies; especially westerns. He is an avid Packers fan and enjoys following the Badgers, Brewers, and Bucks


 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Heather Graham, majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, sci-fi, young adult, and Christmas family fare.

She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print. Heather has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, and she is the proud to be a recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and was awarded the prestigious Thriller Master Award in 2016. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA. Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.

Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts a Vampire Ball and Dinner theater raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf Region. She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile

Players,” presenting something that’s “almost like entertainment” for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.


 

www.writerspoliceacademy.online

 

The “Dark Triad” refers to a group of three of negative personality traits—Psychopathy, Narcissism, and Machiavellianism. People with these traits are often cold-bloodied and insensitive, devious and manipulative. Their actions are often “knee jerk” and impulsive, and those activities are sometimes criminal in nature.

  • Narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus. Narcissus, in Greek mythology, was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was known for his beauty. A blind “seer” told Narcissus’s mother that her son would enjoy a long life, provided he never saw his reflection. However, as one version of the tale goes, Narcissus did indeed see his reflection in the waters of a spring and he loved his image so much that he killed himself. Another version is that Narcissus fell in love with his reflection when gazing into the spring water while thinking of the death of his sister.

Narcissistic people can be selfish, arrogant, lacking in empathy, and they’re not at all fond of criticism. They love to brag.

  • Machiavellianism: the word comes from Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th century Italian politician and diplomat. Machiavelli’s book, “The Prince,” was thought of as an endorsement and approval of the dark arts of cunning and deceit. Traits associated with Machiavellianism include hypocriciy and deceit, manipulation and control, self-interest, and a lack of emotion and principle.
  • Psychopathy: According to Psychiatric Times, psychopathy is “a personality disorder characterized by lack of empathy, grandiosity, shallow affect, deceitfulness, impulsivity, irresponsibility, and disregard for the well-being or rights of others.”

In the U.S., psychopaths are approximately 1% of the population. Of that 1% males exhibit psychopathic traits more often than females—90% of all psychopaths are male. Not all psychopaths are criminals.

Psychopaths make up 15-18% of prison population. Of the overall prison population, psychopaths are three times more likely to reoffend and four times more likely to use violence when committing those new offenses.

The majority of psychopaths are not serial killers. Some are, but most are not. Instead, psychopaths are our neighbors who also happen to be crooks, con artists, rapists, spouse and child abusers, white collar criminals, gang members, and crooked lawyers, doctors, cops, and business people, to name a few.

Psychopaths are Master Manipulators

Psychopaths  use people to get what they want and they often do so by developing relationship based on lies. They often portray themselves in a grandiose manner. They tell embellished stories and tall tales about anything and everything and, those fictional accountings that are so creative and entertaining, people believe what they hear and instinctively trust the storytelling liar.

If the teller of wild tales, the psychopath, is caught in a lie they simply tell another fib to explains the “facts” and cover their tracks. They’re typically quick on their feet.

How to Tell if Someone is a Psychopath

In the 1970s, internationally renowned researcher Robert Hare (co-author of “Criminal Psychopathy: An Introduction for Police”) developed a checklist for use by mental health experts when assessing and diagnosing psychopathy. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist is based on a three-point rating scale of certain characteristics:

  • 0 = does not apply
  • 1 = applies to a certain extent
  • 2 – the characteristic fully applies

The line between clinical psychopathy is a total score of 30 or more. Ted Bundy, for example, scored 39.

 Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist

So, for fun, it’s time to use your calculator to tally up your own scores. Good luck! (Please do not post your scores!).

Remember:

  • 0 = does not apply
  • 1 = applies to a certain extent
  • 2 – the characteristic fully applies

The Test

Use the scores from above to rate your response to each point below. For example, if you are longwinded, verbose, gabby, and absolutely full of hot air, well, you should give yourself a score of 2 for “Glibness/superficial charm.”

You May Now Begin

  • Glibness/superficial charm

  • Grandiose sense of self-worth

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom

  • Pathological lying

  • Conning/manipulative

  • Lack of remorse or guilt

  • Shallow affect (i.e., reduced emotional responses)

  • Callous/lack of empathy

  • Parasitic lifestyle

  • Poor behavioral controls

  • Promiscuous sexual behavior

  • Early behavioral problems

  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals

  • Impulsivity

  • Irresponsibility

  • Failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions

  • Many short-term marital relationships

  • Juvenile delinquency

  • Revocation of conditional release (from prison)

  • Criminal versatility (i.e., commits diverse types of crimes)

The Hare Test must be administered by professionals. In fact, for accuracy, two different professionals should administer identical tests, independently. The average of the two test scores is the final result.

*Some experts such as Gendreau, Goggin, and Smith (Paula Smith, M.A. Claire Goggin, M.A. Paul Gendreau, Ph.D. Department of Psychology and Centre for Criminal Justice Studies University of New Brunswick, Saint John) offer that a different test, “Level of Service Inventory-Revised”(LSI-R) is overall superior to Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised for the prediction of recidivism and violence.

Hare contends, though, that both instruments are beneficial, “but for different reasons. The Level of Service Inventory-Revised is a specialized tool, whereas the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised and its derivatives measure one of the most explanatory and generalizable risk factors identified to date.”

LSI–R scores

LCI-R scores are primarily used to help predict the success of parole, correctional halfway houses, prison and jail misconduct, and the revolving door of recidivism.

The LSI–R assessment is used by an assortment of professionals—counselors, doctors, psychologists, probation officers, and youth and social workers. Professionals who utilize the assessment should have advanced training in psychological assessment. They are responsible for properly interpreting and relaying the results.

The LSI–R test contains the following scales, with the number of items in each listed in parentheses.

  • Criminal History (10)
  • Education/Employment (10)
  • Financial (2)
  • Family/Marital (4)
  • Accommodation (3)
  • Leisure/Recreation (2)
  • Companions (5)
  • Alcohol/Drug Problems (9)
  • Emotional/Personal (5)
  • Attitudes/Orientation (4)

Like the Hare Test, the item responses are tallied which results in an overall score for the person tested.


Now that you’ve had a go at the test, it’s a perfect time to make note of the characteristics you found to be most interesting. To make certain fictional characters are realistic, assign to them a few of these traits to add flavor, style, and personality.


Resources – Sage Journal, Psychiatric Times, Public Safety Canada, Assessments.com – LSI-RLevel of Service Inventory-Revised, Multi-Health Systems Inc. (MHS) – Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R) Profile and Associated Costs, Robert D. Hare and Matthew H. Logan, Criminal Psychopathy: An Introduction for Police.


“Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us”

by

Robert D. Hare, PhD.