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Property crimes take up a huge portion of a patrol officer’s day. First, there’s the initial response, making sure the suspect isn’t still on the scene (or arresting the dummy if he is).

Then comes the report, questioning the witnesses, and sometimes having to stand there while people belittle the officer with snide remarks, often made quite loudly and rudely, even before they’ve had the time to remove the ink pen from their shirt pocket to begin note-taking. Starting with the standard—“I pay your salary.”

Next comes a crowd favorite that seemly plays on an endless loop.

  1. “Where were you while my house was being robbed?” 

Houses aren’t robbed, by the way. Only people can be robbed. So please do make note of the following.

  • A burglary is normally defined as the breaking and entering into a building, (usually during the nighttime) for the purpose of committing a crime, such as larceny. A robbery is the taking of property from one person by another, by violence, force, and/or intimidation, such as being held up at gunpoint.

ROBBERIES REQUIRE A FACE-TO-FACE TAKING OF PROPERTY FROM ONE PERSON BY ANOTHER, BY FORCE, THREAT, OR INTIMIDATION.

And on it goes. On and on. Those lovely little comments that are often shouted while you’re trying to help the victims property crimes, and others.

2. “If you’d spend more time on the street instead eating doughnuts all day then this wouldn’t have happened.”

3. “Aren’t you going to take fingerprints? They take them on CSI shows. I seen ’em do it.”

Okay, first, the doughnut thing is really, really old and tired, folks. Most present day officers eat well, exercise, and enjoy fruit or other healthy snacks. Many departments conduct regular health assessments and require physical fitness testing. So it’s probably a good idea to move on to something more modern or risk having your material appear dated.

Next, where is it that officers should “take fingerprints? Home, back to the office, on a date? Fingerprints are lifted, processed, developed, etc., and then those pieces of evidence are “taken” back to the department where they’re then sent to the experts for comparison.

4. “Why don’t you do your job instead of sitting in your car waiting for speeders. Can’t you find real criminals?”

FYI – Speeders are indeed law-breakers since driving above the posted speed limit is illegal. Many departments assign a group of officers to work traffic details, such as speed limit enforcement(running radar). This means that other officers are assigned to duties such as responding to criminal complaint cases.

5. “I’ll have your badge for this.”

6. “I play golf with the chief, you know. And he’s going to hear about this.”

7. “Find some DNA.”

8. “There ain’t no Mickey Mouse crap like this on CSI. No, sir. Not on COPS, neither”

And that, my friends, is what police officers all across country experience every day, day-in and day-out. But wait, it gets better.

Next comes the actual evidence collection. Now, keep in mind that this is a residence where people come and go all the time. And they touch things. In fact, they touch EVERYTHING. So what does that mean? Yep, there are fingerprints on nearly every single item in the house.

Contrary to the top-notch experts on fictional TV shows, officers cannot tell which of those prints belong to a bad guy merely by looking at them. No one can. In fact, chances are, the burglar’s (not robber’s) prints are not on file anyway.

Please keep in mind that in order to locate a suspect using fingerprints found at a crime scene, a copy of the suspect’s fingerprints must be stored within a database used by police, such as a department’s database or the national database maintained by the FBI.

Officers know deep down in their hearts that in spite of taking the time, sometime for several hours, to process, develop, and collect a bunch loops and whorls taped to evidence cards, well, they’ll soon learn that the fingerprints they’ve spent the better part of a morning or afternoon to collect are probably of absolutely no value whatsoever. But they do it anyway … time and time again. Over and over and over. Why? Because residents demand it. Sometimes, though, you do get lucky and get a match.

So, if fingerprints aren’t the number one way to catch a burglar, what is? Well, there’s no one answer to the question. Actually, solving a property crime, such as B&E, involves a lot of steps. And the sum of those steps equals “good police work.”

Solving Property Crimes

So what are some of the things officers should do to solve property crimes?

  • Responding officers should always document the scene as they found it, not after everyone has walked through and fumbled with each item they pass.
  • Question all witnesses.
  • Check for points of entry and exit. Are there toolmarks? Are those tools still on the scene?
  • Is there broken glass? Blood on the glass (DNA?).
  • Footprints outside? (or, in the carpet or on the tile flooring)
  • Lights on or off? (suspect may have touched the switches)
  • Glasses on the kitchen counter? (suspects sometimes help themselves to food and drink)
  • Check the wall behind the toilet for fingerprints. Sometimes male criminals use the restroom at the scene and while doing so they place a hand on the hall.
  • Likewise, the underside of a toilet seat is another likely spot to find prints. Unless, of course, the burglar is totally uncouth and doesn’t lift the seat.
  • Look for the “evidence trail.” Offenders sometimes drop things during their exit. It’s not unusual to follow a trail of dropped evidence and then find the suspect sitting at the other end (not like a trail of breadcrumbs, but close).
  • Were there serial numbers on the missing items, and were they recorded?

ALWAYS recored the serial numbers of your valuable items. This is handy for insurance claims. Even when using a moving company to relate, it’s a must to record serial numbers in the event they, and they do, lose items.

  • Who would benefit from this crime? A real thief (drug addict, perhaps), or someone who desperately needs to collect some insurance money?
  • Have similar crimes occurred? If so, where and how close to this scene? Talk to other officers. Compare notes.
  • Talk to informants and street people. They know a lot and they often enjoy spilling the beans, especially if telling what they know earns them a few dollars.
  • Check all pawn shops and drug dealers who’re known to take property in exchange for “goods.” Sometimes they’ll hand over stolen property to get the cops off their backs. After all, it’s bad for business to have police officers hanging around their turf.

In some areas, pawn shops are required to submit a daily list (to the police) of each item purchased.

  • When officers finally do make an arrest, and they usually do, they should always ask the offender about other crimes in the area. Sometimes, officers solve several cases by merely asking a simple question or two.

And then there’s the number one tactic … common sense. Using it goes a long way toward solving a case. It’s also a great tool to use when writing cops.

So, if you’re writing a scene where your cop protagonist does something that doesn’t exactly seem right, or, if your common sense tells you it’s wrong, then I’d suggest doing this …


MurderCon registration is still open. Please do yourself and your readers a huge favor by attending this fantastic and rare opportunity. There’s never been anything like and there may never be again.

 

https://www.writerspoliceacademy.com

When we decided to develop the MurderCon event, we knew we’d have to bring writers inside the often very private world of homicide investigations, to a place where only law enforcement professionals are permitted to enter. It’s a place beyond the crime scene tape and beneath the lenses of microscopes. It’s human tissue, special lighting devices, sensitive tools and equipment that you’ve most likely not encountered, or, for that matter, never heard of. MurderCon is where writers will absorb material that will amaze both you and your readers.

MurderCon is all about the factual side of solving homicides. It’s insects and soil and fire and blood. It’s buried bodies, autopsies, the interrogation of killers. It’s about the destruction of human life by chemicals and deadly things that are too small to see with the naked eye.

The focus of MurderCon is narrowly defined. It’s all about murder and is designed to transform writers into homicide investigators. Yes, MurderCon attendees will receive the exact same instruction that’s offered to, and attended by, top homicide investigators from around the world.

To deliver such an exceptional program we knew we had to expose attendees to no less than stellar instructors, the experts who train the professionals who teach the experts. Yes, MurderCon attendees will attend sessions taught by the best in the business. Believe me, this is exciting and I’m am beyond thrilled that you have this chance to be a part of something that’s so incredibly special.

An event of this scale has not been attempted in the past and it is my guess that the 2019 MurderCon is such a unique alignment of the stars that, well, it may not happen again.

And, speaking of stars, please allow me to introduce you to two of the outstanding MurderCon presenters/instructors, Karmen Harris and Heather Hanna.

More to follow in the coming days.


Karmen Harris

Karmen is the Sexual Assault & Outreach Coordinator for Friend to Friend in Carthage, NC. She has worked for Friend to Friend since September of 2017.

Karmen is a Registered Nurse board-certified as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for adult and adolescent populations. Karmen received specialized training as a Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiner while working as a civilian nurse at Womack Army Medical Center. Karmen’s nursing experience includes working with patients with psychiatric and behavioral health needs that include substance abuse.

Karmen’s educational background includes graduating from East Carolina University in 2009 where she studied Anthropology and Forensic Science before becoming an RN in 2014 after completing nursing school at Carteret Community College.

At MurderCon 2019, Hanna will present …

Sexual Assault – Perspectives and Differences, State to State

Karmen Harris, Board Certified SANE examiner, the workshop instructor, explains the wide variation currently in sexual assault investigation, as well as the stigma involved in these highly-sensitive cases. The class will explore the perspectives of the victim, the investigator, law enforcement, and the lab. Karmen will discuss the wide-array and differences between “rape” kits and how various jurisdictions collect and/or package different evidence based on the jurisdiction that they serve.


Heather Hanna

Heather Hanna is a forensic geologist specializing in the analysis of rock fragments and mineral grains in soils as trace evidence. Since 2009, she has been involved in multiple forensic investigations and has testified as an expert witness in first degree murder trials, the first of which set a legal precedent in Wake County, N.C. for using geochemical analysis of mineral grains as part of courtroom testimony. 
 
As a result of her forensic work, she has been an invited speaker at many law enforcement conferences and continuing education programs including the Conference of District Attorneys, the North Carolina Criminal Information Exchange Network, the North Carolina Homicide Investigators Association, and the North Carolina International Association for Identification. She has also presented her forensic work at national and sectional Geological Society of America meetings and as an invited speaker for the Soils Science Society of North Carolina.

At MurderCon 2019, Heather will present …

Trail Magic: Geology Solves the Case

Learn how perpetrators, victims, and crime scenes can be linked through the characteristics of various soils and minerals found throughout the United States. Real case examples provide details as to where soil traces became key evidence in identifying where the crime took place, and linking the victim and perpetrator to the scene.


MurderCon 2019 is brought to you by …

 

*The all new MurderCon website will be online very soon. Registration is scheduled to open in mid February. You may reserve your hotel rooms now, and I encourage you to do so since we’ve already had to increase the room block, twice! Due to the unique nature of this event and the excitement it has generated, we anticipate the registration and the hotel blocks will sell out quickly.

The official hotel for the Writers’ Police Academy’s Murdercon is:

Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley

4500 Marriott Drive
Raleigh, North Carolina 27612

We encourage you to make your hotel reservations by using the online reservation link (below).

WritersPoliceAcademyHotelReservations

Individuals may also make their reservations by phone by calling Hotel’s toll free Reservation Line, 1- 800-MARRIOT.
To receive the established Group rate, you must identify yourself as a member of the Writers’ Police Academy 2019 event when making the reservation. All reservations must be received by the group’s Cutoff Date of on or before July 10, 2019. Reservations made after the Cutoff Date will be subject to availability and the most available rate.

MurderCon

LOCATION AND DATES:

 

August 1-4, 2019

 

Training Location:

SIRCHIE

100 Hunter Place, Youngsville, North Carolina 27615

 

Hotel Location / Training Location:

Marriott Crabtree Valley

4500 Marriott Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina 27612

Each year, the Writers’ Police Academy reaches for the stars to offer writers the opportunity to learn and to train as law enforcement officers. The event is unique in that sessions involve hands-on training classes.

We’ve seated authors behind the steering wheels of patrol cars during pursuits. We’ve placed rifles and pistols in their hands and we’ve taught how to properly and accurately shoot them. We’ve set off C-4 charges and we’ve set things ablaze. Writers have learned to stop bleeding from gaping and blood-gushing gunshot wounds, and they’ve used battering rams to gain entry into buildings where armed bad guys were hiding.

Attendees have seen first-hand what it’s like to be involved in heart-pounding hostage and active shooter situations. They’ve seen mounted patrol officers and their horses and they’ve been on the receiving end of bites by an actual police canine (while wearing a bite sleeve, of course).

We’ve exposed writers to practically every aspect of police training. However, what we haven’t done in the past is to narrow the focus of the Writers’ Police Academy to a single, fine point, the subject matter that brings readers back to your books, time and time again—the solving of a murder.

Sure, readers love your characters and they love a well-described setting. And they love you, the writer, and your story-telling abilities. But what many readers and fans truly desire is to solve the case before your protagonists wrap up their investigations. To do so, readers need details. Many details. They need and want to see, hear, feel, taste, and touch (in their minds) every aspect of a crime scene. They want and need to experience the tales you’ve concocted and set to page, not to simply read strings of words.

In addition, your fans want to believe what it is you’ve offering as a means to take them deep into your fictional world. Therefore, the descriptions you provide must be accurate because, for goodness sake, nearly every breathing human on the planet has watched some sort of crime TV show and the cops on those programs use all of the latest tools, gadgets, and gizmos.

With this in mind, we’ve developed the most unique, spectacular, and exciting program ever offered to writers. This year, during our special event—MurderCon—we’re taking you to the source of crime-solving and crime-solving-tools and equipment—Sirchie.

Yes, we’re taking you on a tour of a large, one-of-a-kind manufacturing facility where all types fingerprint powders are made. It’s where drug testing kits are developed and assembled, and where fuming chambers are manufactured. It’s the place where, well, it’s where ideas for the latest crime-solving gadgets are conceived, manufactured, and then distributed to law enforcement agencies worldwide, whose investigators solve crimes ranging from the smallest to the most complex, high-profile murder cases.

Sirchie’s staff of esteemed instructors also train top investigators from all around the world. Sirchie instructors are the best in the business, and detectives, officers, and agents from a variety of local, state and federal agencies attend high-level sessions at the Sirchie Compound in N.C. These instructors also educate and advise investigators from state prison systems, airport security, FBI agents whose focus is on counter terrorism, and Treasury and Secret Service agents. International students come from countries ranging from Italy to Mexico and Argentina to Qatar.

Again, Sirchie is second to none when it comes to crime-solving products and training. We are fortunate to have them as our partner in this extremely special event for writers.

I’m beyond thrilled that you have this opportunity to train in a place that’s never been made available to the public. I’m also over the moon excited that you’ll attend the same training classes attended by some of the best homicide investigators in the world.

MurderCon attendees will see how crime solving products are made. Then, you’ll learn how to use those cool tools. And, finally, you’ll use the equipment in live-action settings, such as outdoors at a clandestine grave.

Anyway, we’ll release details very soon. Our website guru is working behind the scenes on a brand new website which we plan to launch on or very near to February 4, 2019. Registration for the Writers’ Police Academy’s MurderCon event opens in mid to late February.

Event Hotel

The official hotel for the Writers’ Police Academy’s Murdercon is:

Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley

4500 Marriott Drive
Raleigh, North Carolina 27612

We encourage you to make your hotel reservations by using the online reservation link (below).

WritersPoliceAcademyHotelReservations

Individuals may also make their reservations by phone by calling Hotel’s toll free Reservation Line, 1- 800-MARRIOT.
To receive the established Group rate, you must identify yourself as a member of the Writers’ Police Academy 2019 event when making the reservation. All reservations must be received by the group’s Cutoff Date of on or before July 10, 2019. Reservations made after the Cutoff Date will be subject to availability and the most available rate.
*You’ll definitely want to reserve your hotel rooms well in advance for this unique event! We expect the room block to fill quickly. The same for spots at MurderCon. So please, please, please be ready to sign up when registration goes live. We’ll announce the date and time very soon.

Here’s a sample of what you can expect to see and do at MurderCon 2019:

 

  • Learn proper methods to locate, identify, and collect physiological fluid stains, including the use of alternate light sources, and chemicals such as luminol and Bluestar. WPA attendees will learn how to presumptively identify the type of stain using chemical reagents. Collection and preservation methods will be reviewed based on the latest best practices for DNA.
  • Develop latent prints on porous surfaces, including paper and cardboard, utilizing iodine fuming, ninhydrin, and silver nitrate. WPA attendees will learn the proper process sequencing for the maximum retrieval of latent prints and review the chemical principles of how they work. Cyanoacrylate (“superglue”) techniques for non-porous surfaces.
  • Attendees will learn the fundamentals of fire science, recognition of fire behavior including burn patterns and aftermath, and how fire is utilized by perpetrators during the commission of violent crimes and murder by fire. This is an outdoor session with “live” burns to highlight the effects of burning various pieces of evidence.
  • Search and recovery of remains from clandestine graves.

  • Determining race, sex, and other biological factors from found skeletonized remains.
  • Differences between civilian law enforcement and military L.E. investigations, procedures, and nuances.
  • How a forensic geologist uses previously mapped data, as well as, newly sampled evidence to show the uniqueness of soil to a given geographical location, and ultimately to a suspect and victim. The usefulness of soil in linking a subject to a victim, and/or crime scene. Session taught by one of the top forensic geologists in the world.
  • Footwear and Latent Foot Impressions – hands-on exercises to search for, document, and collect various forms of footprint and shoe evidence.

And, well, there are many more super-exciting sessions and workshops, but we’ll save those for later. In the meantime, yes, these are the same classes taught to law enforcement professionals and experts worldwide!!

Instructors include a wide array of renowned experts that include a founding member of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team, FBI Special Agents, a former Army JAG Corp attorney, forensic botanists, medical examiners, toxicologist, forensic geologist, forensic anthropologist, LAPD and NYPD detectives, Bioterrorism expert, SANE nurse, Certified Fire Investigator with both the ATF and The International Association of Arson Investigators, certified footwear expert, Deputy Director of the City County Bureau of Identification (CCBI), Wake County/Raleigh, NC., forensic pathologists, one of the country’s top interview and interrogation experts, and many more.

Special Guest Speaker!

Now for the icing on the cake.

I’m pleased and honored to announce that the 2019 MurderCon’s Special Guest Speaker is Graham Hetrick, the star and host of Investigation Discovery (ID) channel’s hit television series, THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD.

Graham Hetrick

Graham Hetrick is a subject matter expert on drug abuse, child death and child abuse, organ tissue donation, violent crimes, medical legal death investigation, forensic methodology, and the grieving process. He has advanced training in blood pattern analysis, crime scene management, forensic sculpting, and shallow grave recovery.

Graham advises the news media and consults attorneys on the investigative process for cases facing litigation. He lectures widely on forensic autopsy, crime scene management, and critical thinking within the investigative process. He is an adjunct professor of forensics and human anatomy at Harrisburg University School of Science and Technology.

Graham is also a motivational speaker for students and troubled youth who are trying to get control of their lives through a speech entitled “Doors.” Over the last 35 years he has written and lectured on grief and loss recovery to the medical community, hospice groups and loss recovery organizations. Graham’s upcoming book explores improving the relationship between forensic evidence collection and organ tissue donation. His case studies are featured on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel in THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD.

*Bio Source – GrahamHetrick.com

Keynote Speaker

The WPA and I are absolutely thrilled and honored that superstar author Heather Graham is joining us in 2019 as our Guest of Honor/Keynote speaker. Heather will attend many of the sessions throughout the weekend and then she’ll address the entire group at the Saturday night banquet.

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.


August 1-4, 2019

Raleigh, N.C.

Sirchie Compound and the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley

*Please make your calendars for this unique opportunity. In the past, the WPA event has sometimes sold out within the first hour after registration opens. Due to the nature of MurderCon’s unique training sessions and high level of behind the scenes type of instruction that’s typically for law enforcement eyes only, we anticipate spots filling quickly. The same for the event hotel. I strongly urge you to make your reservations as soon as possible.