PostHeaderIcon Crime Data: A Roll of the Dice


We’ve all seen, heard, or read about crime stats and their comparisons to previous years, such as the number of homicides committed in 2012 as opposed to those committed in 2011.

These are the numbers used by elected officials, and others, when they tell concerned citizens not to worry about the latest killings and robberies in their areas because violent crime is down by, say…15%, for example. Yet, Sally Sue is too frightened to go to the store because the medical examiner visits her neighborhood nearly as often as the post office letter carrier. So why and how is it that a city’s crime rate can be down by so many percentage points, yet crime is still as rampant as ever in some areas of town?

Before we address Sally Sue’s woes, let’s first examine the reporting system used by law enforcement.

In the 1920’s, the International Association of Chiefs of Police started a system of crime data collection called Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR).  The program was implemented in 1930, or so, and participation was voluntary. The National Sheriffs’ Association also signed on to the program and encouraged all sheriffs across the country to participate. UCR reporting by law enforcement agencies was voluntary back when it started and it still isn’t mandatory today.

UCR reporting is not rocket science. Data is gathered from police reports and subsequently submitted to the FBI for compiling. However, not all crime data is reported. Instead, it is the most “popular” and violent offenses (Part I Offenses) that receive the most attention—murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. These are the stats we most often see listed in our local papers and in travel guides—Sugarcoatville is Now the Safest City in America: Violent Crime Down by 87%.

Part II Offenses are also reported for inclusion in UCR data, and they include simple assault, curfew offenses and loitering, embezzlement, forgery and counterfeiting, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, drug offenses, fraud, gambling, liquor offenses, offenses against the family, prostitution, public drunkenness, runaways, sex offenses, stolen property, vandalism, vagrancy, and weapons offenses.

Now, let’s go back to where the data originates, and we’ll start with the crime. There’s a rash of B&E’s in town and the police haven’t had any luck catching the suspects. A bad guy, feeling confident he won’t be caught, decides to break into a home to steal whatever he can find that’ll bring a few dollars at the local pawn shop. So he pulls out a window air conditioning unit (this, by the way, is like providing bad guys with a personal key to your home) and slips inside. Fortunately, a vigilant neighbor, Sally Sue, saw the incident this time and called the police, who showed up in time to catch the thug in the act. Thanks to the quick-thinking neighbor the crook wasn’t able to steal anything, but he still committed a burglary, a UCR Part I offense.

But…the town has a chief who’s been in the hot seat with her mayor due to a number of unsolved crimes and angry residents who want to see a stop to the rampant crime. After all, the front pages of local papers are filled with stories of the local high crime rate. So, the chief decides to make her numbers look a little better before the next council meeting, and all it took was to record a few of the B&E’s (Part I crimes) as trespassing, a non-UCR crime and, abracadabra, hocus-pocus, the crime rate just went down.

Hmm…she thinks. Why not switch a few aggravated assaults to simple assaults, and what about changing a couple of larcenies to possession of stolen property? Remarkably, all it took was a few strokes of an ink pen to magically reduce the city’s violent crime rate by a few percentage points. No harm, no foul right? After all, checking a few boxes doesn’t seem too bad. There’s nothing to write. No narratives. No explanations. So it doesn’t seem like lying. Just a checkmark in a box.

The papers are now reporting a lower rate of violent crime. Citizens feel safer. The mayor is happy. Birds are chirping. Children are back playing in the parks. The sun is shining. Rainbows color the sky with happy colors. More importantly, to the chief, she keeps her job. In the meantime, thugs are are still stealing, robbing, and assaulting. And Sally Sue and her neighbors must still step across chalk outlines of dead bodies on their way to the nearby Piggly Wiggly. But the numbers are down… Hallelujah, the numbers are down!

Of course, falsifying these numbers is a rarity, not the norm.

Another way low UCR data/crime rates offer the public a false sense of security is because the figures we see blanket an entire city. In other words, crime could be seriously out of control in certain sections while nonexistent in others. But, the data is compiled and averaged over the entire municipality. If the ” low crime” areas saw a reduction in crimes committed (a bunch of bad guys moved out and were replaced by honest folks) while the high crime area numbers remained stagnant, the city would show a decrease in its overall crime rate. And this is while the residents of the high crime neighborhoods are still living in fear.

Those who don’t live in or visit the dangerous areas never see the troubles; therefore, they believe all is okey-dokey in the La-La-Lands created by a bunch of not-quite-so-accurate and slightly misleading numbers—numbers politicians often love to toss out as bones to voters (“On my watch, the city saw a 17% decrease in violent crime.”).

Remember, too, that UCR reporting is voluntary. Law enforcement agencies are not required to participate. I’m not sure of the exact number of departments who do not send in data, but whatever the number, it could be enough to skew the data one way or another. Add that to administrators who don’t mind “fudging” the numbers a bit, especially during election years, and, well…

But all is okay because there’s a new data system in the works, the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

NIBRS differs from UCR in that details of each crime reported are expected—where the crime occurred, how it occurred, who was involved, characteristics of the perpetrators, time of day, gang involvement, drugs involved, or not, victim data, was the crime an attempt or a completed offense, etc.

The new data will definitely help the public “see” a better picture of the crime in their cities. However, this system, like UCR reporting, is voluntary.

As for the accuracy of the crime stat numbers in your area…well, it’s a roll of the dice.

*Update – Sally Sue recently bought a can of pepper spray and a handgun, and she’s currently enrolled in classes where she’ll learn gun safety and gun laws. I also heard a rumor that she’s planning to sign up for the Writers’ Police Academy where she’ll fine-tune her shooting skills on the firing range in sessions taught by qualified instructors. 

Writers’ Police Academy registration opens at noon EST on February 21, 2016. Oh, Sally Sue wanted me to remind you that slots fill extremely fast, so be ready to sign up at noon. She also wanted me to tell you that the 2016 WPA is THE event of the year! She hopes to see each of you there.

PostHeaderIcon Castle: Tone Death – A Good Cop/Bad Cop Review


“Based on lividity and body temp, blah, blah, She bled out, blah, blah, and blah…,” Voodoo Doctor/M.E. Lanie

New Picture (10)

Melanie Atkins

Many Castle fans are raving about this week’s episode, the first of 2016 after an unbelievably long winter hiatus. Mainly because Rick and Kate are back together in private. Hallelujah! Even with that lovely development, however, I’m not so enthused. Sure, I loved the tiny glimpses they gave us of them when they were alone, when they acted like the in-love couple we’ve come to know and adore. The rest of the show, however? With them fake-fighting at the precinct and pretending to date the fictional Svetlana and Dr. Livingstone? No. Just… NO.

Ryan and Esposito (who are detectives, I might add) must be complete morons to not have already caught on. I mean, please. The names Rick and Kate chose for their “new flames” should be enough to tip off the boys, but if not, the couple’s silly over-acting should give away their whole crazy scheme. The writers should be lined up and shot for continuing this charade, and I learned yesterday it will go on until episode 16. Holy moly! Even this loyal Castle fan isn’t sure she can stomach this stupidity for that long.

The case had promise and I did enjoy some of the a capella singing, but IMHO it went on much too long. This is a crime drama, not a musical. And when Espo broke into song to question one of the singers, I almost got up and left the room. Sure, Jon Huertes (Espo) sings in real life, has an album out, and has even joined with Seamus Deaver (Ryan) to form a duo, but this show is not the right venue to promote this venture.

Please, Castle writers and showrunners: Put us out of our misery and give us back the show we know and love, with Rick and Kate together solving cases without all the silly pretense and stupid, contrived storylines.

Next week, we get two episodes. One on Sunday night, and one on Monday. I’m hoping they’ll be much better than this one. I love this show and am ready for it to shine again.

Lee Lofland

I’ll begin my portion of what will be a very brief review of the police procedure, forensics, evidence, interview and interrogations, etc., by saying this episode was horrible. From beginning to end, it was rotten to its snoozefest core. The writing. The cheesy acting. And the dumb case. All horrible. I don’t understand why the powers to be let it happen to what was once a really fun show.

The actors are great. They, when allowed to, play the parts of police officers/investigators as well as any actors around (with the exception of the former cast of Southland). But, for some unholy reason—

Wait a minute! Maybe… Just maybe…  Could it be this simple? The cure? Yes, I’m convinced of it. The show needs a good, old-fashioned head-spinning, pea-soup-puking, exorcism to rid itself of the demons who’ve possessed it for so long.


An exorcism to purge itself of boilerplate scripts, goofy scenes where detectives investigating murders engage in singing battles with homicide suspects, a husband and wife cannot live as husband and wife out of fear of some sort gloom and doom death plot, yet they sleep together, work together, hang out together…everything but say, “we’re married.” Speaking of boilerplate scripts, who didn’t know the ID of killer the moment we saw him on the screen, sitting there with that flashing red neon “I’m the Killer” sign hanging above his head.

So, Castle, a non-cop, is forbidden to work cases and to be at the precinct. However, he continues to lead investigations, interrogate suspects, search property, engage with murder suspects, tromp around inside crime scenes, and, well, it’s just dumb. The original premise of this show, the reason everyone fell for it, was that Castle, a writer (remember when he was a writer?) tagged along with Beckett for fodder for his fiction. You know, much like each of you who attend the Writers’ Police Academy, which, by the way, is over the top FANTASTIC this year (Registration opens at noon EST on February 21st. Slots go extremely fast so be at your computer and ready to sign up the moment the clock strikes 12).

Sorry, I was distracted there for a moment, thinking about the absolutely thrilling Writers’ Police Academy. But back to the show…

So, Castle and Alexis head over to an abandoned mall to do a bit of super-snooping. The place is spooky and definitely empty. So empty, in fact, that even the viewers at home heard the echoes of tiny rat toenails clicking and ticking against the concrete as the hairy, flea- and plague-infested rodents scurried about the place. It was so silent and still that (here comes a blast of sarcasm, so duck) Castle and Alexis couldn’t hear a few dozen kids singing their lungs out in the next section that was mere feet away from them. A section that, by the way, was separated from them by only a thin curtain. And, apparently that magically soundproof curtain also blocked the smell and smoke that poured into the air from two very large bonfires. Yeah, DUMB.

One last point before I try to erase this particular episode from my mind. Castle, when assisting the NYPD with cases, is acting as their agent. Therefore, he cannot do things on his own, for the benefit if the police, such as search homes and businesses and hack into the internet accounts of criminal suspects. It’s illegal, and anything he discovered while doing those things would not be allowed as evidence. Fruit of a Poisonous Tree is what that’s called—evidence obtained during a violation of the 4th Amendment.

And, after watching this show, that’s exactly how I feel…violated. My trees have been poisoned.

PostHeaderIcon It’s Video Training Day!

It’s video training day!
1. Fingerprint ridge builder and cleaner – a liquid or lotion-type product applied to fingertips. The substance temporarily puffs up ridges enabling the officer to obtain a much clearer print from the elderly or people with damaged ridge structure, such a brick layers or others who work with their hands.

2. Evidence weapons boxes are used to safely store and transport weapons recovered from crime scenes and from criminal suspects.

3. Crime Scene Evidence Collection Vehicle – What’s inside of those CSI vehicles? Well…

4. Miranda and Interview and Interrogation. Here’s a video by 2016 WPA instructor Mike Knetzger.

*It’s almost here! Writers’ Police Academy registration opens February 21st at noon EST! Be ready because slots fill QUICKLY!

PostHeaderIcon 2016 Writers’ Police Academy: You Deserve to be Pampered!


After a long day of shooting guns, explosions, murder scenes, helicopters landing right in front of you, touring a maximum security prison, driving police cars while in pursuit of bad guys, seeing police K-9’s playing “fetch” with fleeing crooks, kicking in doors to search for armed robbers, collecting crime scene evidence, testifying in court, investigating an arson, and all of the other cool and thrilling events in store for you at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy, well, we know you’ll want to relax in style. And we, knowing writers as we do, have the perfect place to do just that…our wonderful event hotel, the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, Green Bay.


Yes, once the day’s activities wind down you’ll want to have a nice meal and a glass or two of wine, or a drink. Enjoy the company of your friends while sitting around the fireplace or in either of the several lounge areas.



Perhaps you prefer to sip a few drinks at one of several bars and lounges.



Or, maybe you’ll want to head down the beautifully decorated hallway to the casino where you can finish the day playing your favorite games or sample the fare at one of the several restaurants and/or bars located there.




By the way, the Noodle Bar and Lombardi’s Legendary Sports Bar & Grill located inside the Oneida Casino both receive rave reviews.


Maybe you and your friends and/or family prefer to enjoy the indoor swimming pool and spa.


Or, you may simply want to head to your well-appointed room for some quiet time watching TV, reading, or writing. Guest rooms, by the way, are located in Towers One and Two, well away from the pool, lounges, restaurants, and casino.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.00.58 PM


Of course, when it comes to our popular banquet and reception, well, the food and setting are both superb.


We negotiated an excellent room rate for the 2016 WPA ($123) per night. Your room reservation also includes free breakfasts each day of the event, free WiFi, and shuttle service to and from the Green Bay airport, which, by the way, is a mere ten minute drive from the hotel.

So, as you see, we believe you should be pampered. And all of this on TOP of a thrilling, heart-pounding four days of action and excitement!

Yes, the is indeed THE event of the year!

 *Update – 2-5-16 at 2:42 EST. 

 I just got off the phone with our happy and excited hotel sales rep and she said our block is already filling fast, and we haven’t opened registration yet! My advice is to reserve your rooms right away before they’re gone! Yes, the WPA is that popular!

PostHeaderIcon WPA Sponsorship Drive Underway!

Rifle range

Each year, the Writers’ Police Academy offers and presents a program that’s designed especially for writers. In fact, we build the WPA around you, your needs as a writer, and to answer your questions and help with your works-in-progress.

We don’t use the WPA to promote ourselves or our work. There are no classes about writing or panels of agents and editors. There is no pressure to pitch your books, or to impress agents, editors, or fellow writers. No author panels or…well, you get the idea. The WPA is not a typical writers conference.

Firearms Training

Instead, the Writers’ Police Academy is all about you interacting one-on-one with cops, firefighters, EMS personnel, forensics experts, and shooting guns, driving police cars while chasing bad guys, investigating homicides, helicopters, dogs, arson, ballistics (this is typically a “for law enforcement eyes only” workshop, so it’s super cool that you have an inside track), touring a maximum security prison (you’re going in the section where others do not dare!), an insider session about the Steven Avery case, and much, much more!


Simply put, the Writers’ Police Academy delivers what other events simply cannot.


The WPA is now in its 8th year of providing stellar workshops and only the best of the best instructors and experts. The event is thrilling and packed with heart-pounding action, but we also make certain that our attendees are pampered, as you should be. You guys work hard at your craft and the fruits of your labor are extremely obvious by the numbers of great books published each year.

Actually, we’re taking the pampering thing to another level this year. Our event hotel is extremely nice and well-appointed, and it features several restaurants and bars. AND, the fabulous Oneida Casino is inside the hotel!


By the way, the WPA’s low registration fee of only $395 includes all workshops, the Friday night reception, lunches at the academy, transportation to the academy and back to the hotel each day, and transportation to off-site workshops and session. Your hotel reservation also includes free WiFi, shuttle service to and from the airport, and breakfast each morning during the event. It’s a fantastic deal! And, Sisters in Crime is offering a huge discount to their members attending the WPA for the first time.

And, Tami Hoag is our 2016 Guest of Honor!

Hoag_credit Jan Cobb

The Agatha nominees were released this week and the Edgar nominees not long before, and each of those lists of stars included the names of numerous WPA alumni. In my heart I know the WPA probably played at least a small role in the development of those stories.

Actually, Lisa Gardner, yes that Lisa Gardner, just released a story she set at the Writers’ Police Academy.


Her inspiration for an earlier bestseller came to her while attending a Writers’ Police Academy.

Each time I hear one of these tales of how the WPA helped someone better themselves as a writer, and it is often, believe me, I feel like a proud parent who watched his child receive an award, or graduate from high school or college.

So yes, you are why we continue to push our boundaries to even higher limits, and this year, well, we’ve gone over the moon crazy. The 2016 WPA is the biggest and best we’ve ever produced, and that’s saying a lot.


We are grateful for your continued support. Without you and our loyal sponsors we couldn’t do what we do. So, it’s that’s time of the year again when I reach out to ask for your help. We rely on the generosity of writers, businesses, and individuals for support. Therefore, we humbly request that you sign on as a WPA sponsor at one of the levels listed below. Once you’ve selected your desired level please visit the Writers’ Police Academy’s Become a Sponsor page to complete the transaction.

We deeply appreciate your support! And, of course, a special thanks to each of you who’ve supported us in the past and continue to do so today.

Click here to Become a Sponsor of the Writers’ Police Academy!


Levels of Sponsorship

WPA Hero – $20,000 and above

Contact us for details

Gold Shield – $15,000

Contact us for details

Silver Star – $10,000

Contact us for details

Medal of Valor– $5,000

– Sponsor our guest of honor, Tami Hoag! Sponsor receives one-year WPA website ad that includes a link to your website and your author photo, a six-month book cover ad on The Graveyard Shift blog, an author table at the hotel during registration/check-in, free registration and a guaranteed spot at the WPA that includes a free banquet ticket and WPA t-shirt. Includes a feature article about you and your latest book on the Graveyard Shift blog. Your name will be listed on the WPA website and in the program guide naming you as sponsoring Tami Hoag.

Commissioner – $1,000

– Sponsor a workshop or presenter! Receives one-year WPA website ad, link to your website, and author photo, six-month book cover ad on The Graveyard Shift blog, and a guaranteed spot at the WPA that includes a free banquet ticket. And, your name will be listed in the event program guide beside the name of the instructor or session you elected to sponsor!

Chief of Detectives – $500

– Sponsor a presenter! Receives WPA website ad, link to your website, author photo, and a six-month book cover ad on The Graveyard Shift blog (worldwide audience). And, your name will be listed in the event program guide beside the name of the instructor you elected to sponsor!

Major – $250

Buy the ammo! Funds generated at this level of sponsorship go toward WPA supplies and materials, such as ammunition used on the firing ranges. Sponsors receive WPA website ad, link to your website, author photo, and your name (sponsored by) listed in the event program guide beside one of the live fire courses.

Captain – $100

– Sponsorship receives thumbnail book cover and link on WPA website.

Friends of the WPA – $50 and below

– your name listed on the sponsor page.

Again, we thank you for your support!

PostHeaderIcon Do You Feel Safer…Now?


President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, a move that merged several agencies under a single umbrella—Coast Guard, National Guard, FEMA, Customs and Border Patrol, TSA, Secret Service, and a gaggle of other three-letter agencies, with the exceptions of the FBI and CIA.

This move was supposed to create a safer America—“a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur,” according to the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

Well, here’s a bit of Homeland Security news that just might give you reason to scratch your head and wonder…

1. During the past 31 months, over 1,300 Homeland Security badges and official credentials have been lost or stolen. These were not items kept in a warehouse, though. Instead, they were the ID’s and badges issued to active-duty agents. 165 department firearms are also missing (lost or stolen). Antonio Ramos, a muralist, was killed in Oakland last November. The weapon used to commit the murder was stolen a couple of months earlier from an ICE officer in San Francisco.

2. The BioWatch program is an initiative of Homeland Security. Its purpose is to detect the release of pathogens into the air as part of a terrorist attack on major American cities. Now, I’m slightly familiar with this program, and Denene is extremely familiar with it. The concept is great. The program works, and it works well.

What? You didn’t know there are “sniffers” in position all across the U.S., especially in cities that are particularly attractive targets for terrorists? Well, they’re out there and there are plenty of them, you just don’t recognize them because they’re mingled in with all of the other hardware attached to every piece of vacant space on telephone poles and other such city or utility real estate.

Since terrorists seem to set their sites on gatherings of large crowds, such as the Super Bowl, Homeland Security decided to place a few portable sniffer boxes in and around downtown San Francisco in advance of the big game next Sunday. I know, the game will be played in Santa Clara, not San Francisco. Santa Clara, by the way, is actually 40 miles away from San Francisco, a distance that can sometimes take a couple of hours to travel if the freeway traffic is in full bloom.

Anyway, Homeland Security officials placed portable sniffers throughout downtown San Francisco, and they chained the boxes to light poles. To power the units they ran the electrical cords to the power poles and tapped into city current.


KPIX/CNN photo

Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I believe anyone who can figure out how to plug-in and unplug a basic toaster could surmise that cutting the cord or pulling the plug on this high-tech toxin detector would be all that’s needed to set an evil plan into motion. And we mustn’t forget that the game, and the crowd associated with it, will be some 40 miles away. Therefore, I’m thinking the only “sniffs” these boxes will detect will be those of wino urine and pot smoke (those of you who’ve visited San Francisco will understand). And that’s if the boxes are still plugged in on the day of the game. Hmm…a pair of bolt cutters for the cables and officials may find a couple of these diamond-plate boxes for sale in local pawn shops or in the back of a contractor’s truck being used as a toolbox.

Hey, I know.  A crook could steal two or three and use them to store all those missing badges and guns.

A final thought…do you suppose the boxes are nothing more than decoys, mere empty shells used to fool potential terrorists. Nah…those cowards wouldn’t care if the boxes were there or not. Besides, by the time the sniffers detected a harmful toxin in the area, the people around it would already be toast (notice how I used “toast” to tie in with the earlier reference to “toaster?”). However, an alert from these mini tool boxes would provide ample time to save the politicians who will probably not set foot anywhere near these things.

So, do you feel safer now?


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