Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crowdsourcing in the Criminal World, AKA Crimesourcing

We've all seen them, ads looking for workers to complete odd tasks that we can't imagine why anyone would want them done. Or ads we know they want desperate workers for because no one in their right mind would do all that work. Here is one example:
This job is SUPER EASY - all you have to do is post on youtube and pass the captcha, i will supply words to copy paste. Because of this, i can offer .25 per hour -- 25 cents per hour Almost anyone can do this but i expect you to work for the hour and post the whole time. Write back YOUTUBE in the subject line so i know you have read this.
When we read ads like that, we notice so many things wrong. A first thought may be to question why someone would need a bunch of YouTube captcha's passed. The second would be the astonishingly low rate being offered. With the federal minimum wage in the U.S. being $7.25 an hour, it stands to reason this ad is not targeting U.S. citizen workers. That same .25 cents translates into some fairly good wages in many other countries and all the worker has to do is read and type.

Looking at this job ad from a criminal justice perspective tells us even more. They are seeking international workers to avoid breaking laws. International laws are vastly different in many countries and some don't even have laws related to the internet or illegal use of it yet. The second thought is that passing captcha is a requirement that is meant to ensure the poster is a real human being and not an automated system. To bypass it, someone must type it and the poster of this job has something else taking up his time and he wants these passed quickly. Something obviously is not legal or right.

Ads like this are a major part of what has now been coined crimesourcing. The principle is the same as crowd sourcing where jobs are divided up into small parts enabling the employer to contract more highly specialized services with less overall cost and complete the project faster in most cases. Each person working on a small task submits their work and the final project is completed by project managers. Crowdsourcing is a progression on older concepts such as home envelope stuffing, hiring freelancers and the like. As a modern concept, all of these avenues are exploited to avoid paying health care, benefits and more to staffed workers.

With crimesourcing this means that the small tasks, such as purchasing chemicals to make methamphetamines, may be purchased by some contractor looking to pick up some extra cash. The chemicals are not illegal, the contractor is already making a run to the store and picking up a few more vats of the chemical could net him an easy paycheck without any extra work. The chemicals are picked up, the contract has went well and no laws have been broken. For the criminal, the purchase of the chemicals cannot be tracked back to them or their address, so it lessens any suspicion that may come their way.

As for the captcha's mentioned above, the worker isn't breaking any laws that they know of. However, the captchas being bypassed allow the criminal access to user accounts and provide them an opportunity to gather information using software programs. These ads are frequently used by hackers or organized crime rings to keep the suspicion from coming back to them. Sites like YouTube track IP addresses when captcha is entered so they will not have a record of the actual criminal typing in these captcha codes.

Previously, criminals would not trust someone they don't know. However, in these cases, they don't need to trust the worker very much at all. They never meet the worker and the worker has no idea who they are. In addition to that, the worker doesn't know what the work is being used for and in most cases does not care or there are no legal worries because there are no international laws that will prosecute them. This all leaves law enforcement with a long electronic paper trail that leads them in too many different directions to follow.

The same concept works with recent flash mobs where workers are hired to show up at a set location wearing a specific outfit. Have you seen crimesourcing jobs posted online? Have you applied for any of them? What are some ways you think law enforcement can handle these situations?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Illinois Minors and Alcohol Laws

The State of Illinois strictly prohibits the possession, use and consumption of alcoholic beverages by individuals under the age of 21. Included in the possession law are provisions for individuals who obtain or possess illegal or invalid identification cards. The offender does not need to be driving or in public view to be found guilty under the possession laws.

Possession and Consumption

The state explicitly states that purchasing; accepting, distributing, delivering and consuming alcohol are considered possession under the current state code. The law also states it is prohibited to provide alcohol to minors, even under the supervision of a parent or guardian, under any circumstances or for any occasion. Further prohibited is defacing, altering, transferring or providing false information to obtain a state issued identification card. There are no provisions for medicinal alcohol use or private establishments.
235 Illinois Compiled Statute 5/6-20


Infractions under the Illinois possession law are considered class A misdemeanors. Class A misdemeanors carry the potential for several forms of punishment and the judge will determine the best course of action based on the individual case. When multiple infractions of the law are involved, the judge can sentence the offender to concurrent or consecutive sentences. Types of punishment include:
  • Incarceration - The juvenile can be sentenced to up to one year in a juvenile facility if under the age of 18 and in an adult incarceration facility if between the ages of 18 and 21.
  • Impact Incarceration - This boot camp style program aims at reshaping the offenders' behavior and providing them with the necessary discipline to avoid future incarceration. The offender must be found eligible for the program before sentencing.
  • Probation - The judge may order up to two years of probation for the offender along with conditions for the probation and discharge of the sentence.
  • Fines - The offender can be ordered to pay a fine up to $2500 in addition to the punishments listed above.
  • Restitution - Restitution includes returning property, including stolen alcohol, or paying for the goods taken, damages done to property as a result of the alcohol use and paying for the repairs that must be completed to personal property
  • Drug Court - If the judge determines that the offender has a problem with alcohol he may order a course of treatment through drug court. Treatment programs are tailored to the individual and include rehabilitation facilities, medical treatment and mandatory reporting and testing for further alcohol use.
  • Electronic Home Detention - Electronic monitoring restricts the offender from leaving their home residence. A monitoring unit is placed on the offenders' body and a monitoring unit is connected to the utilities in the home. If the monitoring device leaves the area an alarm will sound and police will be dispatched.
235 Illinois Compiled Statute 5/5-4.5-55 and 730 Illinois Compiled Statute 5; 166/20

Shortening the Sentence

In some instances, the offenders' sentence can be shortened by the following:
  • Home Detention - The offender may be eligible to receive credit for time spent in home detention before and during the trial
  • Good Conduct - The offender can receive one day of good behavior allowance for days served before the trial, during the trial and after sentencing if no violent offenses were committed along with the possession of alcohol or while serving the time.
235 Illinois Compiled Statute 5/5-4.5-55 and 730 Illinois Compiled Statute 5/5-4.5-100; 130

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Commercial Vacuum Products for Forensic Use

Commercial grade vacuum products can be used to simplify forensic tasks like collection of evidence and processing of evidence. Some vacuums are used in the field while others are used in the laboratory. There are a wide variety of vacuum products available for forensic use to suit the needs of any laboratory or collection need.
3M Trace Evidence Vacuum
The 3M Trace Evidence Vacuum is a toolbox style particle vacuum capable of suctioning evidence as small as 0.1 micron. Each filter nozzle is individually wrapped and cleanroom sealed and has its own collection bag. Each filter bag is only used once which also helps eliminate any chance of cross contamination.

VACUU-LAN Networked Vacuum
The VACCU-LAN is an integrated networked vacuum system allowing connection of multiple smaller diaphragm vacuums and easier relocation. The system operates like a central vacuum with multiple ports and is quieter and more cost efficient than having multiple machines. Using multiple ports can allow for collection of multiple sites of evidence at the same time, for example all areas of a vehicle could be vacuumed simultaneously.

PC3012 VARIO Self Adjusting Vacuum System
The PC3012 is a low noise, solvent vapor resistant diaphragm pump used for extracting evidence. The vacuum can evaporate up to 30% faster without fluctuations in vacuum strength. This system continually adapts pumping speed based on application conditions and has integrated solvent recovery as well as evaporation control for maximum efficiency.

TED Collection System
The TED vacuum collection system is designed for collecting trace evidence, DNA evidence, physical evidence and more. The system comes with attachments designed specifically for each type of evidence to be collected and evidence is deposited directly into vials for easier processing at the lab.

To learn more about Forencis practice protocols, check out this great resource!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Criminal Justice in America: Is it Time for Change?

Much like the separation of powers created by the Constitution among our three branches of government, our current criminal justice system consists of three separate branches, law enforcement, the court system and corrections. This is designed to prohibit any one branch from having too much power over the other two. When offenders are processed through the system they are first entered into the system by law enforcement, then they are judged by the courts and if necessary they are then sentenced and enter into the corrections system (Criminal-Justice-Careers.com, 2009). Each of the three branches has a specific role in the pursuit of criminal justice though all three work together to form one complete system. The three branches work together to maintain accountability to each other as well as to the public.

The role of law enforcement officers (LEO) is to ultimately protect the citizens in the community they serve and uphold the laws of that community (SafeRoutesInfo.org, n.d.). When a person chooses to break a law in their community then they could be arrested by a LEO whether they be from a local, state or federal agency (Criminal-Justice-Careers.com, 2009). The LEO informs the offender of their Miranda rights, fingerprints the offender, photographs and questions them (American Bar Association, n.d.a).

Before an offender is arrested a judge or magistrate must authorize an arrest warrant (American Bar Association, n.d.a). Once an offender is arrested and the law enforcement agency feels they have a strong case against the offender then they will take the case to trial. During this trial the offender may be judged by a jury of his/her peers or may have the law interpreted by a judge and a judge will ensure that attorneys for both sides follow the laws of our criminal justice system (Criminal-Justice-Careers.com, 2009). During the trial the offender has the chance to defend themselves against the charges and attempt to prove their innocence. The courts are designed to be an impartial system and not to be swayed by current political views, personal hunches, or any other type of bias that could inhibit the application of current laws to any case (American Bar Association, n.d.b). The court system is further divided into two separate systems, federal and state, and then again divided into different levels such as appellate, supreme, and trail courts with trial courts being the first court a case is tried in (American Bar Association, n.d.b).

After an offender has been found guilty at trial the judge will sentence them to some form of punishment which is carried out by the corrections branch (Criminal-Justice-Careers.com, 2009). Jail, prison, probation and parole are all examples of punishment a judge could sentence an offender to and all of these are managed by the corrections branch (Criminal-Justice-Careers.com, 2009). It is the duty of the corrections branch to supervise inmates, probationers and parolees as well as offenders who have not yet been sentenced (Manitoba Justice, n.d.). In some cases it is also the responsibility of the corrections branch to notify victims when an offender escapes, is released, or has completed their sentence (Manitoba Justice, n.d.).

Merging all three branches of the criminal justice system together could improve efficiency if the right processes and procedures were also implemented. In the beginning the costs of the merge may be substantial however in the long run it could decrease overall costs. If criminals were completely managed from arrest through the completion of their sentence by one agency there would be less potential for offenders to slip through any cracks. There would also be an increased potential for abuse of power. If the same agency was responsible for arrests and issuing warrants there would be too much potential to violate citizens' rights. There would also be increased potential to keep offenders in jail longer than they deserve because it would be easier to manipulate papers and documents and get a sentence extended. Many citizens already have difficulty trusting police officers because they feel that there is too much secrecy and that they have too much power to abuse or manipulate the laws they should be upholding (The Trauma Foundation, n.d.). If the courts and the corrections branch were also managed by the law enforcement agencies there would be even less public trust.

Developing and maintaining public trust in our criminal justice system is essential. By keeping the three branches of the criminal justice system separate, it helps to maintain a system of checks and balances between them. While there may never be complete trust in the criminal justice system, having the branches remain separate does help keep the public trust level higher. The police are held accountable by the court system which limits their ability to abuse their power. The court system helps ensure that the corrections system does not abuse its powers as well by setting limits on the length of punishment of offenders. While somewhat inefficient, separation of the branches is much more effective overall.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Forms of Punishment in the Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system is responsible for punishing offenders in a method effective enough to deter them from wanting to engage in further criminal activities. The severity of the crime and number of times the offender has been convicted of crimes generally dictate the form of punishment that the judge will sentence the convicted to. In some instances multiple types of punishment may be combined and handed down as part of one sentence.

Alternative Punishments
Alternative forms of punishments are tailored to the specific case and involve holding signs detailing the crime while standing in a conspicuous location, completing community service or participating in programs aimed at helping the convicted realize how their crime hurts themselves and society. These punishments are typically handed down to offenders committing misdemeanors and work as a deterrent to the community. Some individuals would argue these punishments focus more on humiliation of the criminal rather than punishment.

Intensive Supervision
Probation, parole, electronic monitoring and house arrest are restrictive forms of punishment typically handed out to criminals whose crimes were not severe, first time offenders, or in conjunction with incarceration to ensure the criminal does not continue to commit crimes. Probation and parole include restrictions on travel, work requirements and the offender must submit to routine check in and drug and alcohol testing. The convicted is monitored by the corrections system and if the offender commits any subsequent crimes they are incarcerated. Probationers and parolees are held accountable for their actions through restitution, fines and community service.

Incarceration includes jail for convicted criminals serving less than one year and prison systems for individuals serving more than one year consecutively for adults. The corrections system manages adult inmates for the duration of their stay for federal and state owned facilities. Some facilities are maintained by privatized corporations and contracts are obtained for prisoner upkeep. Incarceration severely limits interaction the inmate has with family and the community while seeking to promote rehabilitation to qualifying inmates. Rehabilitation while incarcerated includes education and learning programs and work training programs to enable the inmate to learn skills he can use once released to be a productive member of society.

For youth offenders incarceration includes boot camp programs and youth living facilities, often referred to as group homes. These facilities aim to retrain the youth and intervene so that continued criminal activity is deterred. Youth offenders are provided state structured education, taught valuable skills and given the opportunity to earn privileges. Youth are provided with structure and training that is often not provided in their home environments and rehabilitative efforts are made to provide the youth with life skills that will enable them to lead law abiding adult lives.

Rehabilitation is designed to help the prisoner gain a better understanding of how to function as a law abiding citizen while treating the underlying factor the caused the individual to commit the crime. Rehabilitation options include participation in alcohol and drug rehab programs or medical treatment programs. More states are creating special drug and alcohol courts specifically for the purpose of stringent rehabilitation of offenders rather than incarceration. These courts have been shown to reduce recidivism and fees associated with criminal punishment while benefiting the community and the offender.

Restitution & Fines
Restitution includes paying fines, repairing damaged property or donating time to the community or victims that have been damaged as a result of the crime. These punishments are typically afforded to criminals whose crime did not have a specific victim but rather damaged items that affect the community, business property or caused a financial loss to the victim without them incurring bodily or psychological harm. These types of crime are called victimless crimes. One example would be spray painting an overpass in which the criminal was ordered to pay for the clean up expenses. Restitution and fines are meant to be a method of reestablishing the criminals' rights as a member of the community.

Capital Punishment
The laws of the federal government and thirty-four states include provisions for capital punishment, also known as the death penalty. Capital punishment is reserved for offenders the justice system does not feel could be rehabilitated nor punished effectively for their crimes and safeguards such as required appeals are included to eliminate unnecessary use of execution methods. The safeguards also ensure that the convicted is afforded every opportunity to avoid the execution and that the judge does not unduly deliver the sentence.