Category Archives: technology

NamUs not being used by law enforcement:

MINNEAPOLIS – A new online database promises to crack some of the nation’s 100,000 missing persons cases and provide answers to desperate families, but only a fraction of law enforcement agencies are using it.

The clearinghouse, dubbed NamUs (Name Us), offers a quick way to check whether a missing loved one might be among the 40,000 sets of unidentified remains that languish at any given time with medical examiners across the country. NamUs is free, yet many law enforcement agencies still aren’t aware of it, and others aren’t convinced they should use their limited staff resources to participate.

Janice Smolinski hopes that changes — and soon. Her son, Billy, was 31 when he vanished five years ago. The Cheshire, Conn., woman fears he was murdered, his body hidden away.

She’s now championing a bill in Congress, named “Billy’s Law” after her son, that would set aside more funding and make other changes to encourage wider use of NamUs. Only about 1,100 of the nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide are registered to use the system, even though it already has been hailed for solving 16 cases since it became fully operational last year.

“As these cases become more well known, as people learn about the successes of NamUs, more and more agencies are going to want to be part of it,” said Kristina Rose, acting director of the National Institute of Justice at the Justice Department.

Before NamUs, families and investigators had to go through the slow process of checking with medical examiner’s offices one by one. As the Smolinski family searched for clues to Billy’s fate, they met a maze of federal, state and nonprofit missing person databases that weren’t completely public and didn’t share information well with each other.

NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, allows one-stop sleuthing for amateurs, families and police. Anyone can enter all the data they have on a missing person, including descriptions, photos, fingerprints, dental records and DNA. Medical examiners can enter the same data on unidentified bodies, and anyone can search the database for potential matches that warrant further investigation.

So far, about 6,200 sets of remains and nearly 2,800 missing people have been entered, said Kevin Lothridge, CEO of the National Forensic Science Technology Center in Largo, Fla., which runs NamUs for the Justice Department.

Detective Jim Shields of the Omaha, Neb., Police Department hadn’t heard about NamUs until he saw a presentation at a conference in 2008. He then had a local volunteer associated with NamUs input his data on several missing people.

Among them was Luis Fernandez, who had been missing for nearly a year before his family went to police in 2008. Shields didn’t have a lot on Fernandez, a known gang member who’d been in and out of jail — only gender, race, height, weight, age and some data on his tattoos.

It proved to be enough. Just a few weeks later, similarities were spotted with the unidentified remains of a homicide victim found in a farm field in Iowa in 2007. In January, a lab informed Shields it had a DNA match — and that he could break the news to Fernandez’ family.

“I could say fairly certainly that this would never have been solved if not for NamUs,” Shields said.

Some other recent successes:

• Paula Beverly Davis, of the Kansas City, Mo., area, had been missing for 22 years until a relative saw a public service announcement on TV in October for NamUs and told her sister, who gave it a try. Among the 10 matches her sister found were a body dumped in Ohio in 1987 that had the same rose and unicorn tattoos as her sister. DNA tests confirmed the body was Davis.

• Sonia Lente disappeared in 2002. Last June, an amateur cybersleuth with the Doe Network, a nationwide volunteer group that helps law enforcement solve cold cases, noticed similarities between Lente’s description in NamUs and an unidentified body found near Albuquerque, N.M., in 2004. Dental records later established it was Lente.

Detective Stuart Somershoe of the Phoenix Police Department said his agency, which has over 500 open missing persons cases, just finished entering 100 cases into NamUs. He’s hopeful his department can make a match.

“It’s kind of time-consuming but I think it’s a worthwhile program,” Somershoe said.

NamUs grew out of a Justice Department task force working on the challenge of solving missing persons cases. One need that the task force identified was to give people who could help solve cases better access to database information.

“Billy’s Law” sailed through the House late last month and is pending in the Senate, where supporters are confident it will easily pass.

The bill would authorize $10 million in grants annually that police, sheriffs, medical examiners and coroners could use to train people to use NamUs and to help cover the costs of entering data into the system. It would also authorize another $2.4 million a year to run the system and ensure permanent funding.

The bill would also link NamUs with a major FBI crime database that’s now available only to law enforcement, partly because it contains sensitive information about ongoing investigations. That confidential data would be withheld from NamUs when necessary.

Billy Smolinski, of Waterbury, Conn., was last seen Aug. 24, 2004, when he asked a neighbor to look after his dog. His pickup truck was later found outside his home, though not where he usually parked it. His wallet and other belongings were still inside.

The Smolinski family first struggled to get police to take a missing adult case seriously. It took a long time for investigators to finally conclude Billy had been killed, perhaps as a result of a love triangle gone sour. The family put up reward posters, searched places where they thought his body might have been hidden and kept pressure on police.

Smolinski said she came to see how police were often overwhelmed, but to her NamUs is a “no-brainer.”

“If they find remains I’m hopeful they’ll identify him through NamUs,” Smolinski said.

On the Net:

National Missing and Unidentified Persons System:


Well looky here: The NYPD’s crime data is in question:

Why am I not surprised. Bratton and Giuliani were crooks. I never believed in “broken-windows” theory, despite the fawnings it received in faux-social theory best sellers. Compstat was a pop fad, and the validity of the uniform crime index is a joke. Crime ebbs and flows, and law enforcement can do little to influence or deter it. But that never stopped Bloomberg or his predecessors from taken credit for its decline:

More than a hundred retired New York Police Department captains and higher-ranking officers said in a survey that the intense pressure to produce annual crime reductions led some supervisors and precinct commanders to manipulate crime statistics, according to two criminologists studying the department.

James Estrin/The New York Times

The retired members of the force reported that they were aware over the years of instances of “ethically inappropriate” changes to complaints of crimes in the seven categories measured by the department’s signature CompStat program, according to a summary of the results of the survey and interviews with the researchers who conducted it.

The totals for those seven so-called major index crimes are provided to the F.B.I., whose reports on crime trends have been used by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to favorably compare New York to other cities and to portray it as a profoundly safer place, an assessment that the summary does not contradict.

In interviews with the criminologists, other retired senior officers cited examples of what the researchers believe was a periodic practice among some precinct commanders and supervisors: checking eBay, other Web sites, catalogs or other sources to find prices for items that had been reported stolen that were lower than the value provided by the crime victim. They would then use the lower values to reduce reported grand larcenies — felony thefts valued at more than $1,000, which are recorded as index crimes under CompStat — to misdemeanors, which are not, the researchers said.

Others also said that precinct commanders or aides they dispatched sometimes went to crime scenes to persuade victims not to file complaints or to urge them to change their accounts in ways that could result in the downgrading of offenses to lesser crimes, the researchers said.

“Those people in the CompStat era felt enormous pressure to downgrade index crime, which determines the crime rate, and at the same time they felt less pressure to maintain the integrity of the crime statistics,” said John A. Eterno, one of the researchers and a retired New York City police captain.

His colleague, Eli B. Silverman, added, “As one person said, the system provides an incentive for pushing the envelope.”

The Police Department disputed the survey’s findings, questioned its methodology and pointed to other reviews of the CompStat process that it said supported its position.

The survey, which involved an anonymous questionnaire, was done in coordination with the union representing most of the senior officers in the department. The questionnaires were sent to 1,200 retired captains and more-senior officers; 491 responded, including 323 who retired from the department after 1995, the first full year that the agency, then under William J. Bratton, used CompStat. It is based on the scrupulous tracking of crime complaints and a mix of mapping crime trends, identifying trouble spots and holding precinct commanders directly responsible for attacking those problems.

The survey has its limitations. It is unclear exactly when the retired senior officers left the department, making it impossible to say whether any alleged manipulations came early on or had developed over years and across more than one mayoral administration. The CompStat approach has been widely replicated across the country and has been credited with improving police work in many cities.

Also, the questionnaires did not set out to measure the frequency of any manipulation. None of the respondents were asked to identify specific acts of misconduct, and none admitted to having done it themselves. In addition, it was unclear whether the officials who said they were aware of unethical conduct had firsthand knowledge.

But the survey asked provocative questions and clearly elicited disturbing answers. The retired members of the force were asked whether they were aware of changes to crime reports. Of the 160 who indicated that they were, more than three-quarters said the changes were unethical.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, who was provided a copy of the survey’s summary Thursday, said that two other significant, independent and more comprehensive studies had been done in recent years analyzing the integrity of the city’s crime statistics — one in 2006 by a New York University professor and another by the state comptroller’s office — and that he had found them to be reliable and sound.

The report by the N.Y.U. professor, Dennis C. Smith, contained this assessment: “We conclude, as did the state comptroller five years ago, that the city and department officials, and the public can be reasonably assured that the N.Y.P.D. data are accurate, complete and reliable.”

The researchers in the new survey emphasized that the responses — the questionnaires were mailed in September 2008 and returned in early 2009 — showed that most of the senior officers believed that CompStat had been a valuable management innovation. And even few department critics would seriously dispute that the city is much safer than it was in the early 1990s, with murders cut by nearly 80 percent and with neighborhoods, from the notoriously violent to the largely affluent, transformed.

The CompStat system was put in place by Mr. Bratton, Mr. Giuliani’s first of three police commissioners. Versions of the system have been franchised to hundreds of police departments. It was adopted, and in some cases modified, by Mr. Bratton’s successors under Mr. Giuliani, Howard Safir and Bernard B. Kerik, and by Mr. Bloomberg’s commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly.

But as the city annually reported reductions in crime, skepticism emerged in certain quarters — several police unions other than the one that assisted with this survey, elected officials, residents in some neighborhoods — about whether the department’s books were being “cooked.”

Concerns over crime statistics are not unique to New York. Police departments have faced accusations of tampering in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, New Orleans and Washington.

Mr. Kelly, for his part, has said that he instituted a rigorous auditing system to maintain the integrity of the crime reporting operation. And Mr. Browne said Friday that every precinct’s books were audited twice a year, “and where errors are discovered, they are corrected and reflected in revised crime statistics.” He added, “In cases where it is determined that the errors were the result of intentional manipulation, the personnel responsible are disciplined.”

Mr. Browne said that Mr. Kelly had meted out discipline in 11 cases, 4 involving precinct commanders. One of them, he said, was demoted and three others lost their commands. Last week the department confirmed in an article in The Daily News that it was investigating whether the commanding officer in the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn downgraded crimes or refused to take complaints from complainants to artificially reduce serious-crime statistics.

Mr. Browne criticized numerous aspects of the survey, suggesting, for instance, that many of the respondents might simply have been repeating what they had heard or learned from news reports about the “relatively rare instances that gained notoriety.”

“The survey’s biggest flaw is that a hundred respondents may be recalling the same lone incident everyone was talking about when they said they knew of instances when crime reports were manipulated,” he said. “Further, anonymously supplied answers are problematic because it’s hard to assess whether they originate from retirees who felt they were unfairly denied promotion or have some other ax to grind.”

Mr. Browne said that only 37 of the 323 retired senior officers surveyed had served as precinct commanders, arguing that only they would have firsthand CompStat experience. But the researchers said the survey included responses from aides to precinct commanders and higher-ranking officers who oversaw the work of the commanders.

Professor Eterno said the suggestion that 100 former officials might be talking about the same incident was “ludicrous,” and Professor Silverman said the department’s criticism of the use of an anonymous survey indicated a limited understanding of social science methodology.

The seven-page summary of the survey certainly indicates that many of the retired officers believe the system has gone significantly wrong.

Indeed, the researchers said the responses supported longstanding concerns voiced by some critics about the potential problems inherent in CompStat. The former officers indicate that it was the intense pressure brought to bear on the commanders of the city’s 76 precincts in twice-weekly CompStat meetings — where they are grilled, and sometimes humiliated, before their peers and subordinates, and where careers and promotions can be made or lost — that drove some to make “unethical” and “highly unethical” alterations to crime reports.

Mr. Browne said that when Mr. Kelly took over the department in 2002, he barred spectators from CompStat meetings in light of complaints from some commanders that they had been ridiculed in the forum in front of outsiders. He said Mr. Kelly believed that the presence of outsiders “demeaned the process and was unprofessional.”

The two researchers are writing a book scheduled for publication this summer based in part on the survey; it is tentatively titled “Unveiling CompStat: The Naked Truth.” They provided a copy of the summary and the survey questions to The New York Times. They declined, however, to provide a full report until the head of the union with which they worked had shared it with the Police Department.

When Professor Eterno retired as a captain from the Police Department in 2004, he was working in its crime analysis and program planning section. He is now the director of graduate criminal justice studies at Molloy College on Long Island, which financed the study. Professor Silverman wrote a book about CompStat in 1999 before retiring from theJohn Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2003.

Roy T. Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association, which represents the retired officials, said the challenges that his retired members had faced — and his active members still face — were significant, as crime continues to decline and precinct commanders must continue to beat their previous year’s performance despite a force with thousands fewer officers.

He called the survey results “troubling,” and said that while CompStat can be an effective tool, to the extent that it is “used as a sword to subject a commander to humiliation before his peers, I don’t think it’s an effective management tool.”

More than a year before Professor Smith of N.Y.U. published his study praising CompStat in 2006, a city commission created to monitor the Police Department’s effort to fight corruption sought to examine the integrity of the department’s statistics. But while the department cooperated with the professor, it refused to comply with the commission.

And despite the efforts of its chairman, Mark F. Pomerantz, a respected former federal prosecutor, the commission could not win subpoena power, and it was not able to examine allegations that crime complaints were downgraded.

The department had argued that those allegations did not fall under the panel’s mandate because the matters did not constitute corruption.


Theresa Allore now on Wikipedia

Theresa now has a Wiki page that I’m building. Check it out:

I did it mostly because folks were complaining they had a hard time finding basic information about Theresa’s case. I sympathize. The website has evolved and taken on a life of its own, dealing with more current justice issues.  I’m no Wikipedia expert, but if anyone would like help starting a page please let me know.  I learned it by copying the efforts of Helena Murray who, I believe constructed Maura Murray’s Wikipedia page.


FBI’s Virtual Case File System tops list of IT Turkey Awards


The FBI’s Virtual Case File System is headlining a list of IT Turkey Awards in this week’s Government Computer News. The Feds have spent over 1/2 billion on what is essentially an information database since 2001 and still the project is delayed (pushed back now to 2010).  What is VCF? Basically it’s a computer case file system; a way of keeping all FBI cases in an automated database so that information can be easily shared between agencies. You’d think the reputed number one law enforcement agency in the world could get this right, but no… the current system they have is a nightmare of conflicting information systems that don’t talk to each other. Think of it as all the little bits of paper about your family history peppered around your grandpa’s house and you’ll have the proper metaphor for the FBI: a brain-addled alzheimers patient: that’s your modern police force.

I’ve written about VCF a number of times on this site, but I can’t be bothered to go fetch the links. Google it if you want more info:

IT turkeys: 7 government projects worthy of a roast

By Kevin McCaney
Nov 20, 2009

Every year before Thanksgiving, the president of the United States is presented with a turkey, which he then pardons in a good-humored show public of magnanimity (and then eats some other turkey on Thanksgiving Day, but that’s politics). The ceremony reminds us that, over the years, the American public has been gifted with its share of computer-based turkeys — information technology projects gone wrong, often at spectacular expense.

Some of these projects have been unmitigated disasters, abandoned before the pop-up thermometer ever popped up, after years of work and millions, or even billions, of dollars. Others scuffled along for years — frustrating department heads, Congress and regular users while keeping inspectors general and the Government Accountability Office fully employed – before coughing up some results.

We don’t claim that this is a comprehensive list of failures; nor do we say that all, or even most, government IT projects deserve a public roasting. After all, government IT efforts have produced significant achievements, such as a little thing named the Internet, and the Global Positioning System, which has given birth to countless weather and mapping systems while creating a world in which Real Men never have to ask for directions again. Every year, in fact, IT teams at government agencies deliver projects that are deservedly praised for their excellence. Those and many others are projects we can give thanks for.

Below, however, are seven projects that, in the spirit of the presidential Thanksgiving tradition, could use a little forgiveness.

FBI Virtual Case File (VCF) System

Started in June 2001 as a 36-month project to develop a system for tracking criminal cases, the FBI spent about $170 million over four years before concluding that VCF wasn’t going to work. Prime contractor SAIC blamed the bureau for hundreds of requirements changes during development. In 2005, VCF was replaced with Sentinel, a $451 million project to accomplish the same goal. According to a report this month from the Justice Department’s inspector general, completion of Sentinel, originally scheduled for December, has been pushed back to September 2010.


Garrido’s GPS monitor failed

Uuh Quebec? Are you sure you still want those monitor bracelets?

SAN FRANCISCO – In California, a Global Position System (GPS) device is strapped to every registered sex offender on parole. The system is supposed to keep the public safe – and make it easier for parole agents to track dangerous felons. But that system is broken, and giving the public “a false sense of security,” according to a new report.

California Inspector General David Shaw issued a 40-page indictment Wednesday of the state’s parole system for its failure to keep track of parolee Phillip Garrido, the convicted sex offender arrested in August for the 1991 kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard.

The report offers some of the most detailed information released to date on events leading up to Mr. Garrido’s arrest and is filled with any number of disturbing elements. The inspector general found that parole agents originally failed to classify Garrido, convicted of a brutal rape in the 1970s, as a high-risk parolee, missed opportunities to discover Ms. Dugard and her two children, and didn’t act to investigate numerous possible parole violations.

“Despite numerous clues and opportunities, the [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation], as well as federal and local law enforcement, failed to detect Garrido’s criminal conduct, resulting in the continued confinement and victimization of Jaycee and her two daughters,” the report stated.

Ms. Dugard was discovered in August after parole officers were tipped off by campus police from the University of California, Berkeley who became suspicious after an encounter with Garrido.

Most of the report focuses on Garrido’s interaction with parole officers, but it also raises concerns about the use of GPS to monitor sex offenders.

In 2006, Californians voted to monitor all felony sex offenders through a GPS device. The state’s department of correction took the ballot initiative a step farther by attaching GPS units to even those sex offenders convicted prior to the 2006 measure.

As of June, about 7,000 California sex offenders were being tracked on GPS, according the inspector’s report. Of those, 2,200 are classified as active (high-risk parolees whose movements received the most scrutiny) and 4,800 are passive (those who receive much less scrutiny).

Despite his violent past, Garrido was placed in April 2008 on the department’s passive GPS monitoring program so his movements were not as closely monitored as high-risk parolees.

What’s more, parole agents ignored 276 reports of a loss of signal from Garrido’s monitoring system, according to the report. “Parole agents should have investigated the cause of this abnormality and documented their findings in the parole file,” the report says.

Additionally, parole agents failed to act when GPS showed Garrido made regular trips that took him more than 25 miles from his home in violation of his parole.

In Garrido’s case, GPS monitoring appeared to be largely a formality – a finding that led the inspector general to conclude that “the current passive GPS monitoring program appears to provide little, if any, value to proactive parole supervision.”

The use of GPS to track sex offenders – theoretically to prevent them from committing other crimes – has been questioned before.

“GPS monitoring – embraced as a simple technological solution for tracking the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders – is proving to be something less than a silver bullet for state and local public safety agencies,” wrote Jim McKay in a February article in Government Technology . “Though public safety officials typically agree that GPS is a valuable tool, they say it’s not a replacement for personal contact with the subject, his co-workers, family and friends that keeps the offender honest.”

The issue was also raised recently in Vancouver, Wash., after a convicted sex offender wearing GPS allegedly killed a 13-year-old girl.

In California, the inspector general recommends that all sex offenders be placed on active GPS monitoring and that agents should more fully utilize the GPS technology. For its part, the California department of corrections said that it will “ensure that parole agents periodically review all GPS tracks … and will continue to strive to exceed local and national GPS standards.”

Cournoyer / Larouche: Nouvelle carte du crime

Voici une carte actualisée des points de contact dans l’enquête de Natasha Cournoyer avec:

1. Où le corps de Cournoyer a été trouvé.

2.  Où Cournoyer funérailles ont eu lieu (mai ou mai ne pas être pertinentes).

3.  Où Cournoyer disparu.

4. Où Claude Larouche a habite.

5. Ou le carte identification de Cournoyer  a été trouvée.

Cliquez sur la carte:



Natasha Cournoyer / Claude Larouche: New Crime Map

Here is an updated map of the points of contact in the Natasha Cournoyer murder investigation with:

1.  Where Cournoyer’s body was found.

2.  Where Cournoyer’s funeral took place (may or may not be relevant).

3. Where Cournoyer disappeared.

4. Where Claude Larouche lived.

5. Where Cournoyer’s identification card was found.

Click on the map:

Picture 1


Criminal Investigative Failures – Kim Rossmo



Pour diffusion immédiate 
22 septembre 2008 

Un nouveau livre, Criminal Investigative Failures chroniques Theresa Allore enquête

Erreurs Un nouveau livre documentant réalisés dans les enquêtes criminelles comportera un chapitre sur la mort de Theresa Allore. Criminal Investigative Failures, à publier Novembre 10th, 2008 comporte un chapitre rédigé par John Allore et Patricia Pearson qui explore pleinement l’enquête de 1978, et les tentatives faite 30 ans plus tard que l’affaire soit rouverte. Il dispose encore jamais vu des photos du crime à partir de cette époque. 


Le livre est édité par le Dr Kim Rossmo, un pionnier en matière de profilage géographique pénale, et un professeur-chercheur au Département Texas State University of Criminal Justice. Criminal Investigative Failures définit et explique les problèmes qui sont communs aux enquêtes échoué. Exploring biais cognitifs, des erreurs de probabilité, et les pièges de l’organisation. 


Advanced éloges pour le chapitre a été élevé. Dr. Rossmo appelle la pierre angulaire de tout le livre. Editors pour Taylor & Francis écrire,

“… Ne pouvait pas arrêter de lire jusqu’à ce que je l’avais fini. Je ne peux imaginer ce que M. Allore et sa famille ont dû traverser au cours des 30 dernières années. Tout à fait décourageant de voir les trous évidente dans l’enquête policière. J’étais stupéfait de points de lecture au sujet de leur mauvaise gestion de l’affaire. Un chapitre magnétique. “

Criminal Investigative Failures peuvent être commandés sur

For Immediate Release
September 22th, 2008

New book, Criminal Investigative Failures chronicles Theresa Allore Investigation

A new book documenting mistakes made in criminal investigations will feature a chapter on the death of Theresa Allore. Criminal Investigative Failures, to be published November 10th, 2008 features a chapter written by John Allore and Patricia Pearson that fully explores the 1978 investigation, and attempts made 30 years later to have the case reopened. It features never before seen photographs of the crime from that era.


The book is edited by Dr. Kim Rossmo, a pioneer in criminal geographic profiling, and a research professor at Texas State University’s Department of Criminal Justice. Criminal Investigative Failures defines and discusses the problems that are common to failed investigations. Exploring cognitive bias, errors in probability, and organizational traps.


Advanced praise for the chapter has been high. Dr. Rossmo calls it the cornerstone of the entire book. Editors for Taylor & Francis write,

“… could not stop reading until I had finished it. I cannot imagine what Mr. Allore and his family have had to go through for the past 30 years. Absolutely disheartening to see the obvious holes in the police investigation. I was just dumbfounded at points reading about their mis-management of the case. A magnetic chapter.”

Criminal Investigative Failures can be ordered through


Theresa Allore YouTube Video

CTV’s W-5 émission de télévision, Who Killed Theresa?

Bien avant Dateline et CNN Presents, le Canada avait son propre programme d’investigation nouvelles télévisées, W-5. En 2004, les producteurs de l’émission de télévision CTV a rencontré avec moi pour faire un documentaire télévisé sur les histoires de nouvelles original publié dans le quotidien The National Post. Le programme d’une heure diffusée Mars 14th, 2005. Ici, vous mai vue que le programme (décrites ci-après en cinq parties). En plus vous mai, grâce à toutes les nouvelles de télévision couvrant enquête Thérèse en allant sur mon profil Youtube (cliquez ici):


CTV’s W-5 television program, Who Killed Theresa?

Long before Dateline and CNN Presents, Canada had its own investigative television news program, W-5.  In 2004 producers of the CTV television program met with me to do a television documentary about the original news stories published in The National Post newspaper. The one hour program aired March 14th, 2005. Here you may view that program (laid out below in five parts). As well you may link to all television news items covering Theresa’s investigation by going to my Youtube profile (click here):


Part I



Part II



Part III



Part IV



Part V