Tuesday, February 26, 2002


As reported in the New York Times recently, the state of Virginia is on the verge of making a �quantum leap� in amassing DNA evidence by requiring that everyone arrested on suspicion of a violent crime yield genetic samples for possible matches in unsolved cases.

Virginia already has the largest DNA databank because it currently takes saliva samples from each state convict. If they in fact expand this project to include all those arrested for major felonies it would become the most sweeping use of DNA by any state yet.

Both houses of the state legislature approved measures of this plan, and it is awaiting approval by the Virginia governor.

The major issues to be addressed include how the DNA samples might be expunged if a suspect is later exonerated. As much as this measure has privacy issues of concern to many concerned with �defendants rights issues�, it also is a way to help speed justice for the innocent as much as the guilty.

Virginia officials indicate that their databank, created in 1989, has proven to be one of the most effective at catching criminals. It has over 170,000 samples in their bank, second in size only to that of Great Britain.
Last year the databank produced 308 �cold hits�, or DNA matches between people entering or already in prison and evidence from unsolved felonies. Of course the issue to the criminal defense community rests on how the new tool �would be misused by the police to find an excuse to arrest people just so you can get their biological specimen�.

A Virginia prosecutor, Mr. Joe Carico, is quoted �we fingerprint people at arrest now, DNA evidence is increasingly being turned to for evidence� which makes collecting these samples an obvious alternative. He told of an old homicide unsolved for more than a decade until last year when old evidence � a scrap of toilet paper � was tested for DNA and matched a sample from a convicted burglar. As to the possibility of abuse? �Any tool is prone to abuse, and if that happens we�ll deal with it on a case by case basis�.

(Because it�s my web site and I can!)

This past Tuesday�s DAILY NEWS contained an article on the 40-year weekly low in crime.

It seems that last week was the safest week in the city in more than 40 years as �the murder rate continued to fall�. Major index crimes dropped to 2,597 last week � the first time there were fewer than 2,600 index crimes since stats began being recorded in 1960.

The troubling part of this report, however, has to do with a quote attributed to �one police official�.

�Homicide detectives are beginning to feel like Maytag repairmen, the number of homicides is so low�, is the quote attributed to this official.

Is there anyone who actually works homicides that believes this? Certainly we all know how a �lull�, an otherwise slow period, merely gives us the time to go back and work on those other �cold� or �getting cold� cases; the ones we had to put aside when the �fresh� one comes in. Homicides are not always solved in a week�s time; to attribute a quote that gives that impression is a disservice to the investigators in the field.

Maytag repairmen? I don�t think so!!


Demonstrative Evidence: Consisting of an object or thing, such as a weapon used in a crime, that may aid the jury in understanding the crime. Something other than oral testimony that may help explain the testimony. (Something you can hold up and show them).

Inculpatory: That which tends to incriminate. This is in opposition to�.

Exculpatory: Reefers to evidence and/or statements which tend to clear, justify, or excuse a defendant from fault or guilt.

Vicinage: Neighborhood or vicinity. A particular area where a crime was committed.

Voice Exemplar: A recording of a person�s voice made for the purpose of identification, usually in a criminal investigation.

Friday, February 22, 2002


In an earlier posting I wrote of D.I. (ret.) Carey, the author of the turn of the (last) century text MEMOIRS OF A MURDER MAN, and his desire to �get the picture� � what he referred to as viewing the homicide crime scene in person. He stressed what he felt was the importance of the homicide investigator seeing the scene first hand. It�s interesting to note that in a 1975 book �ON THE TRACK OF MURDER�, written about a Manhattan Homicide �Commando Task Force�, the lead in that book � Sgt. Jerry McQueen � also stresses the importance of viewing the crime scene in person. McQueen mistrusted anyone elses description, however detailed and professional it may have been. He needed �the evidence of his own eyes, to get the picture�. How true this is! We can all recite examples of the validity of viewing the scene in person vs. looking at photos later on. The value of this cannot be overstated. What Carey realized in 1890 is true even today.


One of the recent re-additions to my library (that means I had it, �lost� it to a borrower, and re-acquired it) is a 1975 book titled ON THE TRACK OF MURDER. Written by Barbara Gelb, it is sub-titled �Behind The Scenes With A Homicide Commando Squad�. A �Commando Squad�? What is this?

It seems that in 1973, in an effort to increase the department�s clearance rate of homicides, a new �Task Force� was being pilot tested in Manhattan. Having being tried earlier, and successful, in the Bronx this concept was being expanded to Manhattan.

At the time the city was divided into 16 Detective Districts; each District had a Homicide/Assault Squad, a Burglary Squad, a Robbery Squad. These District Squads �caught� the cases in what was a new concept instituted by Chief Seedman under P.C. Patrick Murphy.

The Manhattan Homicide Task Force was established as an experimental commando unit, that would utilized to assist the local District Homicide Squads on special cases. A mobile task force, mobilized at the desire of the Borough Commander. (This was the precursor to the Borough Homicide Squads now in place).

It was noted that homicides had increased dramatically at that time. In 1962 there were 508 homicides citywide; in 1970 this had risen to 1118, and in 1972 there were 1691 homicides citywide. The rise in homicides had affected the case clearances; traditionally at around 90%, in 1972 the homicide clearance rate had dropped to 57%.

The squad evolved, as was often the case �with more �lan that plan. It had no office of its own, no permanent address or telephone number. Since it was a cautious experiment, no public announcement was made of its formation�. It�s especially interesting to note (how much things evolve, but they never change?) that among the other amenities the Task Force lacked was department cars. �McQueen realized that the Task Force would become operational faster if his men would agree to use their own cars, rather than wait months for a requisition to be filled�. The men also borrowed portable radios from precincts each day as they needed them.

�Homicide detectives were nothing if not resourceful�, McQueen stated. Another statement as true today as the day it was written!


A recent Daily News column by Mike Daly indicated how the release of the 17 terror-suspects, appearing on the cover of many newspapers last week, would have been practically unheard of before September 11. He credits much of this change to testimony given by Eddie Norris in October before Congress.

It seems that Norris appeared before a Congessional hearing in October, meeting on the issue of Homeland Terrorism. Norris � the former Deputy Commissioner of Operations, as well as other commands throughout his 20 year career in NYPD � is the current Police Commissioner in Baltimore. It was Norris� testimony that blasted the FBI for not including local law enforcement in on intelligence. Norris contended that the feds were holding back information from the 650,000 local law enforcement officers in this country. Didn�t it make sense to include them, to ensure the proper listing of suspected terrorists be in every department�s criminal database? Perhaps these steps are slowly being made.


If you recall I reported in an October posting to this site that I was drafting a letter to Gov. Tom Ridge, the newly injstalled Homeland Security Director, urging that if the fight against terrorism was to be a real one than the federal government should look to initiate a �Federal Compstat�. Bringing all agencies together, meeting on a Compstat type forum to discuss current trends and share intelligence, seems like the obvious way to go.

In my letter I indicated that the NYPD has made huge inroads into the fight against crime by initiating this forum. I suggested that people like Eddie Norris, the P.C. in Baltimore and John Timoney, the P.C. (at that time) in Philadelphia, were two people who experienced what COMPSTAT can do, and would be two good people to contact if he so desired.

What response did I get?

This past week I received a letter with the prominent return address of �THE WHITE HOUSE�. Several months later, but owing to the problems with the mail and anthrax scare in Washington, certainly understandable. But the response???

�Thank you for your recommending Edward Norris for a position within the Office of Homeland Security� it started out. �It is essential that your candidate complete the Presidential Personnel Application, which can be accessed at www.whitehouse.gov�.

With all due respect to the Director of Homeland Security, and his Chief of Staff that reads � and answers � his mail: YOU MISSED THE POINT!

My two page letter outlining how COMPSTAT could be applied to fight terrorism was NOT intended as a job recommendation for anyone, certainly not for Eddie Norris who does NOT need me trying to get him a job!!

What I find even more troubling by this response is: what level of reading comprehension are our federal terrorist fighters armed with?

I let Norris know of this response; after all, if I�m going to be his �hook� for a job, I need to let him know! (He got a really good laugh out of this as well).

Anyway, I�ll just have to try drafting a new letter, and try to get the word out. Maybe I should include pictures to illustrate the point this time?


The Secret Service investigates crimes associated with financial institutions. Today, this jurisdiction includes bank fraud, access device fraud involving credit and debit cards, telecommunications and computer crimes, fraudulent identification, fraudulent government and commercial securities, and electronic funds transfer fraud.


Saturday, February 16, 2002


As you may recall, I acquired a copy of a 1930 book written by Retired D.I. Arthur Carey, who retired as the commander of the Homicide Bureau. Carey�s book, titled �MEMOIRS OF A MURDER MAN�, provide an interesting insight into the early Detective Bureau of the New York City Police Department. It also allows Carey to provide his instructions on homicide investigations in general.

In 1906 Theodore Bingham became the Police Commissioner. One of the first things he did was, under approval of the legislature, provide for a fourth Deputy Commissionership. This new Deputy Commissioner would take control of the Detective Bureau. Also at this time, all Detective Sergeants were raised to the rank of Lieutenant (which included Arthur Carey).

Arthur Woods became the Deputy Commissioner in charge of the Detective Bureau. He was the first such person to hold this title.

Woods was a Harvard graduate and a former English instructor from an upper-class prep school. The idea of such a person in charge of detectives was received with various reactions by the members of the force. Woods had previously studied policing systems in Europe, and particularly liked the way that the Metropolitan Police in London operated its famous detective arm � Scotland Yard. He liked the Yard�s system under which detectives were assigned to special investigations according to crime category. He laso liked the Paris system which also deployed detective specialists in squads that were assigned by crime category.

Woods suggested, and then established, a special squad in New York City to handle all homicides. Carey was placed in charge of this squad, as it�s Captain. This was the first such organized homicide squad in the world!

�The idea was to place a mobile force of trained investigators at strategic points where no time would be lost in getting to the scene of murder, and then take up the hunt�.

This special squad was designated �Squad Number One�, and known all over as the Homicide Squad.

In 1909, under a �shake-up�, things changed. The Police Commissioner left, as did his deputies. The Detective Bureau was reorganized (�as usual�, says Carey), and the branch detective system was abolished. Carey was transferred to commander of a precinct, where he spent �four years in the uniform meditating upon the vicissitudes of life in a police department, the largest in the country, where a man would just get settled down to building an effective machine to control homicides and then be transferred to a totally different job�. He settled in to the task of a precinct commander, and was �quite contented � yet I was not engaged in my favorite pursuit � murder inquiry�.

Not for long, however. In April 1914, under a new Mayor, Arthur Woods was once again installed as the Police Commissioner, and Carey was once again placed in command of the Homicide Squad �and started afresh�.


Maybe quite simplistic, but true nonetheless, Carey outlines what he feels are the vital requirements in murder investigations. He breaks them down into two phases:

First: Establishing that murder has been done, then
Second: Hunting the murderer.

These two phases �must be joined, so as to occur concurrently. Establishing the crime in a legal manner, and tracking the slayer, both done concurrently for success to be realized.�

Simplistic as this might be, these certainly still apply as much today as they did in 1914.


Everyone knows Lieutenant Columbo. This fictional LAPD homicide detective first aired in 1968. The television series ran for 7 seasons on NBC, from 1971 to 1978, and after an 11 year hiatus a new series began on ABC, continuing for 4 seasons. After that, several television specials also aired, for a total of 68 episodes of �Columbo�.

As popular as they were while airing for the first time, these shows continue in popularity all around the world as reruns. Columbo, as well as Kojak, continue to be world recognized American police characters.

Does Columbo have a first name? The correct answer is, No. He was never given a first name throughout all of these shows. When asked during one episode what his first name is, he says �Lieutenant�. On another occasion, he is asked if he has a first name and Columbo says, �I do, but my wife is about the only one who uses it�. Columbo enthusiasts have gone so far as to freeze-frame an episode where Columbo presents his shield and ID card; when blown up, his signature can be seen quite clearly. How did he sign his name? �Lt. Columbo� !.

Known for his ability to get the truth out by seeming to be baffled and lost, he created what became a defining moment in an episode early in the second season.

A family attorney is pressing Columbo about his reason for nosing around the victim�s home, when Columbo abruptly changes the subject � in his signature way. Glancing down, he asks: �Sir, do you mind if I ask you a personal question�? �What did you pay for those shoes?� The lawyer is taken aback, but answers him nonetheless, �about sixty or seventy dollars�. Columbo pipes back with, �Do you know where I could get a pair like that for around sixteen or seventeen? I ruined these shoes stepping into some water at a murder scene�. And so, a part of Columbo legend was born.

�What did you pay for your shoes� became a Columbo catch-phrase. Although Columbo said it only once, the line became a standard, epitomizing Columbo: the combination of silliness and impertinence, asking the question that seems both blunt and inane, masking the true purpose of the inquisitor.

Second only to the trademark raincoat, Columbo�s shoes were the next part of his wardrobe that helped to create the character. And what a character he was!


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Thursday, February 14, 2002


A recent article in NEWSDAY outlined how pet DNA was being utilized as a tool in solving murder cases. This was very interesting as it is applicable to a current case being handled in the 75 Squad as well.

A laboratory in Northern California has pioneered this use of animal DNA as evidence in criminal cases. A recent trial in Seattle had animal DNA instrumental in convicting gang members who murdered two people. It was also utilized in testing urine sprayed on a truck tire by an Iowa farm dog to help identify its owner�s assailant.

Genetic testing has been utilized as a law enforcement tool for decades, in the tracking and identification of game poachers and smugglers. It is only within the past several years that animal DNA has been introduced in criminal prosecutions.

Many animal specimens wind up in the university of California, Davis, Veterinary genetics Laboratory or the offices of Joy Halverson. This lab has performed work for Scotland Yard this past year, analyzing dog blood samples collected after a bar homicide.

The first introduction of pet DNA evidence in a criminal case is believed to have occurred in Canada in 1996, when prosecutors used cat hairs found on a bloodied jacket to link a man to the murder of his estranged wife. This DNA match was made at the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.

DNA typing of an animal can be done by most any lab, however, it takes a specialized laboratory to make a proper comparison. �The UC Davis lab has genetically profiled nearly a dozen domesticated species for pedigree work, so when it makes a DNA fingerprint of an individual animal, the lab can say how rare that particular sequence of genetic markers is�.

Knowing that DNA can be extracted from the hair of an animal can be a valuable investigative tool, and will most likely see more frequent usage.

If you feel you have the need to perform a DNA test on animal hair, it is recommended that you contact the Lab for step by step instructions on the proper processing. (Note that, with the proper court order, animal hair can be obtained by a Crime Scene Unit technician for the proper processing).


A non-competitive and non-profit association which provides a neutral ground for the credit card industry, concentrating on training and communications to prevent and suppress financial transaction fraud worldwide.


AUDITNET - Free information site with links, tools and resources developed for the benefit of the audit profession.



The Virtual Trade Show gives you a sneak peek at the vendors who will be exhibiting their anti-fraud products and services at the 13th Annual Fraud Symposium, being held this year in Hollywood, CA. The actual Trade Show will highlight various fraud topics; the virtual site allows you to view products and exhibits that will be featured there.



Worth repeating, and seen before on this site: The Four Steps That Solve Homicides

1. Crime scene: the proper processing for evidence and review by investigator
2. Interviews: talking to people, gathering information, and what you do with it
3. Records: searching available data to put your case together; properly documenting case investigation
4. Surveillance: which also includes �apprehension�, that is the result of the other steps

These steps, outlined by Phil Panzarella and attributed to Lt Dan Kelly (ret.), former commander of Queens Homicide Squad, are true even today. And remember also:

�Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance�


It was recently pointed out to the Minister, while on a uniform detail for the Presidential motorcade, that on the one block of 1st Avenue between 52nd Street and 53rd Street there were actually more establishments to have a cup of coffee or eat meal than in the entire 75 Precinct. That may be so, I remarked, but we don�t work here for the food!
(PS: I did enjoy my meal period that day, though!).

Friday, February 08, 2002


At one point in the police history of NYC all commands, squads and details were given a �Precinct� designation. At the time most of the precinct�s did not have more than 25 to 30 patrolman assigned to them, but all were known as a �Precinct�.

The 25 Precinct was the designation given to the �Detective Force�. (It was not a Detective Bureau at that time).

Some other interesting designations include the 24 Precinct (Harbor Patrol), and the 26 Precinct (Ordinance Squad). The �Ordinance Squad� is not to be confused with an Ordnance Squad (ordinance had to do with enforcing Administrative Code violations; ordnance has to do with bombs!).

There was also a �Steamboat and Railroad Squad�, a �Tenement House Squad� that enforced health code violations, and a �Steam Boiler Squad� which ensured the safety of these heating devices at a time when deaths from steam boilers were common in NYC. As recent as the 1950's there was a Mendicant Squad, to enforce the laws against beggars and panhandlers.

These designations were known to change throughout history, as we all have seen. During the Civil War Draft Riots in 1863 the 25 Precinct was not the Detective Force, but was the �Broadway Squad�. This Broadway Squad was a command composed of the fittest and brightest, most elite police officers who were all over 6 feet tall (similar to the �old� Tactical Patrol Force � TPF). They were normally used only for patrolling Broadway, but were known to �fly� from problem location to problem location as conditions warranted (again, just like TPF).

(My thanks to Mike Bosak, once again, for contributing to this piece of NYPD history!).


Cyber-crime and �identity theft� continues to make the news.

A recent Daily News article commented on the CyberCrime 2002 convention held recently, in which NYPD participated. Detective Mike Fabozzi of the Computer Investigations and Technology Unit was a key speaker at this event. Fabozzi noted at this address how a single man was able to steal the identities of more than 200 people, including Ted Turner and Warren Buffet. It is further noted that the NYPD has recently increased this unit, �more than tripleing in size�, from eight to 30 investigators.

The good news for the investigators �in the field� should be that the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Operations is in the process of preparing a �how-to� guide for detectives investigating these �identity theft� crimes. Not a moment too soon, if I may add!


The US Dept. of Justice�s National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) is accessible on-line.

This Service provides publications and information on a wealth of criminal justice issues. Many of their publications are available free of charge. It is certainly well worth checking out, and bookmarking.


Some of the items of interest in their latest issue include the following:

Democratizing The Police Abroad (free of charge)
Crime,Criminal Justice, and Criminology in Post-Soviet Ukraine (free, and available on line)
The Threat of Russian Organized Crime (also available free of charge)

Alright, so you may not find any of those titles entirely captivating, but check out the site anyway. You won�t be disappointed.

Monday, February 04, 2002


I've recently acquired a new text for my true-crime library: "MEMOIRS OF A MURDER MAN" (what a great title!). Written in 1930, this book recounts the 39-year career in the New York City Police Department of Retired Inspector Arthur A. Carey.

Carey retired in 1928, ending his 39-year career, of which 33 years were spent, almost exclusively, in the investigation of suspicious deaths. For almost a quarter of a century he was chief of the Homicide Bureau, and in his time was known as an innovator in the investigation of murder.

During his tenure Carey was noted as "the world's foremost police expert on murder".

Carey came from a police family. His father was a member of the department, and retired as a Sergeant. Carey joined the force in 1889, retiring in 1928. He notes that two of his sons were also members of the department, one of them a detective at the time.

The early history of the department is best recounted in anecdotal format in a book of this type. It's interesting to note that American police in the early days played a very large part in city government. They also ran the street-cleaning operation, fed and lodged the poor, and conducted elections. "Police pay wasn't high, but it was certain to be forthcoming", notes Carey.

His father's desire to have him become a policeman influenced him early on. He recalls being familiar with the local police station house at an early age, and it was at that age he was bitten by the detective bug or, as he put it, "had the detective bee in his bonnet".

It is also interesting to note that at that time "nearly every policeman wore a beard", which was undoubtedly set in style by Lincoln. Beards lasted until Grant's time, and when John L. Sullivan became popular with his walrus mustache, that became the popular style. "It was possible for even a small boy to judge the status of a policeman by the beard he wore. The rank and file wore long chin whiskers while the higher-ups sported side whiskers".

The very first murder scene he recalls looking upon was not an actuality, but a picture. Old enough to be impressed, it depicted in graphic detail a bedchamber with a dead body on the floor. A veteran precinct detective saw him looking at the picture, and related to Carey that it was the scene of the Nathan case - one of the biggest murder cases in New York at that time. "That's a perfect picture of the scene", the detective stated. "Only one thing wrong with it. You see the uniformed policeman standing at the bedroom door with his nightstick?" Studying the picture, Carey recalls the next words out of the detective's mouth that would influence him from that day on:

"It wasn't a patrolman's job", he said piously. "Murder is a detective's job".


In addition to the book noted above, I also recently purchased two other fine books for my collection.

One of these, which I previously owned but was "borrowed" and never returned, is "MURDER AT THE HARLEM MOSQUE". this book, by Sonny Grosso and John Devaney, recounts the harrowing details around the 1971 death of Ptl. Phil Cardillo of the 28 Precinct, who was shot inside a mosque while responding to a phony 10-13 call.

Cardillo's death, and the surrounding details following this, portrays a very dark time in this city.

Sonny Grosso, at the time, was a detective assigned to the 28 Squad, working with Randy Jurgensen. His French Connection days were over, and he and Egan had been split up. Grosso and Jurgensen became the targets of BLA members who, at that time, were assasinating police officers. A gripping tale which, if you ever the opportunity, is a must-read for every cop.

Sonny Grosso, it has been noted here before, made a name for himself and his partner Eddie Egan during the famous French Connection narcotics case. Even before the French Connection case Sonny had been a well known detective in the department. He had risen from uniform patrolman to first-grade detective in only three years, faster than any other detective in the history of the department.

The other book, "ON THE TRACK OF MURDER", is written by Barbara Gelb. It follows "A Homicide Commando Squad" for over a years time. This "Commando Squad" is the Manhattan North Homicide Squad. Written in the early 1970's, this book is also one previously part of The Minister's collection (but now probably part of some retired MOS's bookcase).

Watch for more info on these fine books in future postings.


Try this link, it has just about any website you can think of related to investigations.


Vin Decoder

Using this webpage, you can have a 17 digit vehicle identification
number (VIN) decoded to tell you all about the vehicle in


Just a note to all, in case you missed it. The Minister of Investigation is always on the look-out for true-crime books, and for past editions of SPRING 3100 magazine, or other historical department titles. If you have any, or know of any, drop me a note at my e-mail address. Whether for sale, or looking to clean out a basement, let me know. I can be contacted at:


Hoping everyone enjoyed the Super Bowl this past weekend, if you had the opportunity to fit it in between the World Economic Forum.

Friday, February 01, 2002

Ridge to Receive More Money for Homeland Fight

President Bush's budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 will include "unprecedented support" for cities to help in the war on terrorism, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said Wednesday. He gave no dollar figure but said the aid would provide money to buy emergency communications equipment, improve public health systems to deal with bioterrorism, establish disaster-response training programs and acquire hazardous materials gear. The package also would include block grants so mayors could decide where best to spend some of the money. "This isn't about what Washington wants. It's about what our cities and states need," Ridge said. For more info, visit SECURITY Magazine�s Web site at: http://www.securitymagazine.com


Federal agencies such as the FBI want to expand their databases and the information available to state and local law enforcement officials but are hamstrung by laws that Congress should amend, an official said Wednesday.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, state and local officials have criticized the lack of federal information on terrorist threats and the timeliness in providing it. Officials like FBI Director Robert Mueller
have said federal agencies are striving to make more information available.

Kathleen McChesney, an executive assistant director for the FBI, told the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Federal-Local Law Enforcement Committee on Wednesday that the agency is lobbying Congress to extend the reach of databases such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). One problem, McChesney said, is that each agency has its own databases, and they often are not interconnected. She said another challenge is that certain state privacy statutes dictate what types of information law enforcement can collect or share.


The Minister will leave you a few questions to ponder over; details to follow in future postings.

What were the first �squad� of detectives in NYC known as?

Who served as the first Chief of Detectives?

What was the �25th Precinct� ?

Keeping you in utter suspense, I�m sure� Watch for future postings that will answer these questions!


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"Goodfellas"). Cigar Aficionado Online has your preview.