Future Crimes & Rogue Justice

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In 2002 Tom Cruise starred in the movie Minority Report, a Stephen Spielberg directed film.

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Minority Report is a futuristic tale based on a Phillip Dick story with the same title. The plot is about crime fighting in the year 2052. More specifically,  fighting crime in 2052 seeks to prevent crimes before they happen. Cruise’s character is the head of the Precrime Unit and is himself accused of a future crime. The Precrime Unit is connected to “precogs” who have psychic ability and are a component of the actual computer system.  Crime details are reported and the Precrime Unit goes to arrest the accused, thereby preventing the crime. This movie raises important ethical questions such as: Is a person guilty of a crime they haven’t yet committed? If the future is known but can be changed, where does a person’s freewill  fit into a predetermined outcome?

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In Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman the author explains everyone’s vulnerability through all of our interconnected devices. Many (though not all) of these future crimes deal with Identity Theft. Goodman discusses crimes such as murder that can be committed remotely. For instance, sending a lethal jolt of electricity through a pacemaker could kill. More and more our reliance on technology and the way those technologies rely on each other makes all of us vulnerable to new and appalling crimes.

Criminals have proven time and again that they are early adopters of technology. This proves to be challenging for law enforcement agencies who tend not to be first adopters. Criminals have created a significant gap between themselves and law enforcement officials. Only in recent years have the “good guys” realized that they need to narrow the gap, but at what cost? Is privacy a thing of the past? Technology is a two edged sword.

If you think that a world similar to the 2052 Precrime Unit is only fiction and will never happen, think again. It’s already here.  Though the details and technology may be somewhat different than the movie depictions of these events, predicting crimes before they happen is happening today in China. Predict Crimes Before They Happen. People are tracked by surveillance and more or less assigned points based on their activities. The higher one’s points the more suspicious one is considered. For instance if you shop for kitchen utensils (such as knives) and later shop for tools (Such as a hammer or an axe) you might be considered suspicious. Similarly patterns of behavior are tracked to determine if one is a thief or other type of criminal. Needless to say this raises all sorts of ethical questions about everything from privacy to when law enforcement should intervene. Is this sort of surveillance profiling even legal or moral? The questions are endless.

This type of Precrime activity has been in the US since at least 2010. In Indiana when you get your driver’s license picture taken, you have to pose for a facial recognition photo. You are not allowed to smile, there can be no bangs on your forehead, and you must remove your glasses. These are just some of the facial recognition points that are used by facial recognition software.

Facial Net

The next image is information released by Homeland Security.

FAST Vision

Those “non-intrusive sensors” and “prototype system” could look like this:

FB Facial Recognition

Crowd Face Nets

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You are on camera almost everywhere you go. Any time you are in public (and sometimes even when you aren’t such as when you are on the internet at home) information is being gathered about you. Your shopping habits, work habits, daily schedule, etc. is all being tracked. This kind of technology can be used for very good purposes or for very bad purposes.

 

Rogue Justice

In Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State,  Karen Greenberg talks about how our  American liberties have been compromised and our laws weakened in the aftermath of 9/11 and the War on Terror. Spying on American citizens by our own government has become commonplace. Situations such as illegal and indefinite detentions have become the norm in certain situations and the use of torture by some government entities is either condoned or completely ignored all in the name of national security. Greenberg, who is a top expert on Guantanomo, torture, and terrorism makes the point that justice suffers when our reported beliefs about liberty clash with matters of national security. This is a book that will make the reader think and question some of our currently accepted protocols.

Where you aware that facial recognition is already being used to track you and your movements? Do you see other parallels between the Precrime Unit in 2052 and our current world?

 

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Pirates

Psychopaths and Priates

When the majority of us think about pirates, we are likely to think about men with a patch over one eye, strange clothes, a hook in place of one hand, and a sword in the other hand. Sometimes pirates are portrayed with a wooden leg or a crutch and with a parrot on one shoulder. Classic Pirate

Most of us will never encounter a real pirate (thankfully). Our pirate run ins are likely to be at costume parties and all in good fun.

Hollywood has included and glamorized pirates in movies such as Pirates of the Carribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,

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Treasure Island: Pirates’ Plunder, 

Treasure Island

and Peter Pan just to mention a few movies involving pirates.

Peter Pan

A few myths about pirates are:

They buried treasure to find later. While this may have happened on rare occasions, the majority of pirates weren’t future planners. They were in a very dangerous profession and many didn’t expect to live long enough to have to worry about the future.

They made their victims “walk the plank.” There is no evidence of this ever happening. If a pirate was going to execute a prisoner, they would likely just stab the victim. There is some evidence that pirates tied their victims with ropes and dragged them behind their ships. If the ship was moving quickly, the victims were caught up in debris which might cause serious wounds (and thus attract sharks). If the ship moved slowly, the victims would likely drown eventually.

Pirates said “Arrr.” This sound is more of a Hollywood invention.

A few pirate jokes (Answers at the end of the post):

What is a pirate’s favorite restraunt?

What is a pirate’s favorite store?

Why do pirates wear ear rings?

The truth of the matter is that pirating is serious and often violent crime even in our time. The act of piracy is seizing items that belong to others, usually by force. Both men and women have been known to be pirates, although it’s a male dominated crime.

Modern day pirates look like this:

Nigerian Pirates

Lithuanian Pirates

(The above images are from Somalia and Lithuania although pirating happens all over the world.)

Pirates on the sea today make use of technology and modern day weapons. The weapon of choice is an AK-47. Computer systems and radar as well as two way radios are often part of a pirate’s arsenal. Pirates may use small fishing vessels to try to appear inconspicuous. Often there will be a “mother ship” hiding just out of sight. Small vessels are equipped with weapons, technology, and boarding ladders.

The World Atlas of Pirates: Treasures and Treachery on the Seven Seas – in Maps, Tall Tales, and Pictures by Angus Konstam is a very interesting and informative book.

The World Atlas of Pirates

Although this book deals with piracy all over the world, for purposes of this post I will mostly discuss American piracy.  In order to understand American pirating, though, we need a bit of background about pirating in general.

High seas pirating has probably existed ever since there were ships. However, the hey day of pirating was in the 18th century when many wars were fought at sea.  At that point in time it was sometimes even legal.  If a pirate’s country was at war, it was actually encouraged to attack and plunder enemy ships. Governments couldn’t call this activity “pirating” so they called it “privateering.” To become a privateer all a person needed was a ship and a government permission letter called a “letter of marque.” As long as a ship’s captain had a letter of marque, all attacks on enemy vessels (which loosely translated was any vessel not belonging to the captain’s country or any vessel that fired upon your ship) were perfectly legal. If, however, a ship’s captain was captured and failed to produce a letter of marque, he could be tried and hung as a pirate.

Britain and France used privateers against each other. When American colonists rebelled against the British, the Americans turned Britain’s tactics against them. British ships blockaded the coastline along the colonies and the Americans responded by having purpose built privateering ships built, obtaining letters of marque and then turning these ships against the British.

American privateers had become a serious menace to British ships in American waters by 1775, capturing around 30 ships by the winter of 1776 just off the Boston coast line. However this conflict between the British and the Americans was happening from the New England colonies all the way south to Charleston. By 1777 American privateers had captured over 3,000 British merchant ships. Privately owned American privateering ships had grown to an impressive fleet of 449 vessels by 1781.

A privateer / pirate named John Paul Jones is generally credited with being the founder of the US Navy.  John’s surname was Paul. John  was born in Scottland and at the age of 13 apprenticed aboard the Friendship.  After the Friendship he served on several British merchant ships. He became a captain in 1770 at the age of 23. During a dispute in 1770  John Paul killed a crew member.  At this point in time he fled to America and added the name “Jones” to his full name. When the Americans began to rebel against the British in 1775, John Paul Jones offered his services and was commissioned as an officer into the fledgling US Navy. Jones first served as the second in command on an improvised warship the Alfred which cruised the Delaware River. In 1777 he was put in command of the USS Ranger, an 18 gun brig. The USS Ranger set sail from Portsmith, New Hampshire on the way to France. After just a month at sea the USS Ranger arrived in Quiberon Bay having captured two British ships on the way. In Quiberon Bay, the French gave the first official salute to a ship bearing the brand new American flag. Because of his service, John Paul Jones was considered a hero by the Americans and a pirate by the British.

If a privateer captain could capture a particularly good enemy ship with rich cargo (often called a prize), then his own ship could be paid for with one prize and also enable him to pay his crew. As wars dragged on and more prizes were captured, the privateer captain was able to buy more ships and increase his fleet. Governments were paid 10 percent of a prize and were able to use privateers as cheap and effective resources which generated money for the various governments. During this time period a good yearly salary was around $50. Capturing one good prize might generate $500 for a single privateer for doing just one job. When wars ended, privateers sometimes were tempted to turn to piracy rather than return to lesser paying respectable professions.

Piracy Today: Fighting Villainy on the High Seas by John C. Payne discuses ways in which modern day piracy is being fought. Just like modern day pirates who use modern technology, so too do governments use modern technology to fight piracy.

Piracy Today

One of the most interesting things that I read in this book was that the United States is using drones to effectively bring pirates to justice. Drones can fly over the seas looking for and taking images of suspicious crafts and crews. Of course drones can be spotted so pirates sometimes try to use camouflage or try to outsmart the drones. Some pirates have attempted to move under the cover of darkness in order to avoid being spotted by drones. In one example a drone flew over a pirate ship, taking pictures of the crew and equipment aboard the vessel. Images and radio messages are relayed to US ships in the area. Officials are already on the way to the spotted vessel by the time the pirates realize they are being watched. One pirate crew threw a boarding ladder and other things overboard trying to avoid detection but because the drone had captured images of the crew and cargo, those pirates were picked up and arrested. Moving under cover of darkness does no good since the drones are equipped with night vision.

Did you know the US Navy was started by a pirate? Have you heard about drones being used to fight pirates?

Answers to jokes:

Arrrby’s!

Big Arrrr

Because they are a buck an ear

Psychopaths (& Sociopaths)

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Some criminals among us are like chameleons. They are experts at appearing normal at least at first glance. They can be charming, witty, highly intelligent, and attractive. They can be male or female. Most of us have heard of these types of criminals that we categorize as sociopaths and psychopaths. The psychopaths tend to be the more physically violent, but sociopaths can be very psychologically violent. Not all sociopaths and psychopaths end up in jail. Many remain at large in the general population affecting everyone they come in contact with. It is important to be aware of the warning signs.

First, let’s learn who the psychopaths and sociopaths are and how to spot them.

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How to Spot a Sociopath

How to Spot a Psychopath

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Some of the most heinous crimes are committed by psychopaths. We have touched on this category before in my posts on PredatorsBad Guys, and True Crime.

Next, let’s look at an example of a known psychopath.

I have mentioned Ed Gein before in the Bad Guys post. Ed Gein was a psychopath who lived in Plainfield, Wisconsin. He was truly the orignal “psycho.” I’ve mentioned the connection between Gein’s crimes and Hollywood movies. Now my library read through has brought me to Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original “Psycho” by Harold Schechter.

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Ed Gein was the child of an alcoholic father and a domineering, self righteous mother.  Ed had one sibling, a brother, who died under questionable circumstances. At the time of his brother’s death, Ed acted strangely. He claimed that he thought his brother was killed from a fire they were trying to put out. Ed claimed he didn’t know where his brother was and rounded up a search party. However, as soon as the search party started to look for the missing brother, Ed led them straight to the body. His brother’s body had mysterious bruising about the head area. There were no burn marks or singeing of his body or clothing. Foul play was briefly suspected. It was known that Ed had been upset when his brother implied a slight criticism of their mother, but even law enforcement could not believe that Ed would harm his brother. The death was ruled accidental. Since Ed’s father had died four years previously Ed now had his mother all to himself.

Ed seemed inappropriately connected to his mother. She was his life and his inspiration. His mother’s approval was all that ever mattered to him. Ed’s mother had isolated her family in the country to avoid having to interact with the town’s people of Plainfield, who she believed were all evil. No one was good enough and she encouraged both of her sons to never marry or even interact with anyone unless absolutely necessary. Trips to town were only made when absolutely necessary. When Ed was old enough to drive, his mother would send him to town for the occasional necessities. However, she would constantly warn him about individual people in the town. Anyone Ed may have happened to mention would be an evil person whose sins were known and recited by his mother. Ed never questioned his mother’s omniscience. To Ed, his mother was at least equal to God. Ed’s faith in his mother was slightly shaken when she said she was so ill that he would have to take her to the hospital. Ed had a hard time believing that his mother needed help from anyone. After she suffered a stroke, Ed kept vigil at his mother’s hospital bedside. After her release from the hospital, Ed had to carry his mother into their house and then he nursed her back to health. When she was back on her feet, Ed was elated though somewhat disgruntled because his mother never once thanked him for taking care of her even though she was completely reliant upon him. When Ed’s mother had a second stroke and then died, Ed was very distraught.

From all outside appearances, Ed Gein appeared to be a quiet middle aged man. He helped his neighbors with anything he could and would sometimes hire on for odd jobs. Ed also became a somewhat popular babysitter. He was considered a very good and reliable worker. However, because Ed was different he was the brunt of pranks and often bullied and teased. He retreated inside himself holding in a lot of resentments towards his neighbors who he believed mistreated him and cheated him out of his pay.

Ed’s mostly pornographic reading material was focused on such things as tortures in Nazi prison camps, grave robbing, head shrinking, cannibalism, and various ways that the human body could be used to make household items and even musical instruments.

Eddie Gein killed two women, both of whom reminded him of his mother. Other victims are suspected but it was never proven that he killed more than two people. It was also never proven that Gein never killed men. (He was suspected in a least two murders of men.) It was proven that he dug up the remains of some of his victims from local cemeteries and perpetrated atrocities on the corpses.

The remainder of the book goes on to explain Eddie’s journey through the court system and mental health hospitals, as well as how the town’s people of Plainfield, Wisconsin dealt with the aftermath of Eddie’s crimes. Since I don’t want to spoil the book for those who may want to read it, I won’t say anything about the findings of the courts or the mental health system.

I would recommend this book to those interested in this true crime story. The author does a fantastic job of following Eddie through his life from his birth to his death. Harold Schechter keeps his tone conversational while clearly explaining what drove Eddie to commit the heinous crimes he committed. He also does a great job of following up the aftermath of Eddie’s crime spree. The reader will come away with a deep understanding of exactly what happened and why. The book itself is not scary, but it does have some rather gross descriptions in it that are definitely not for the squeamish! To me, the story is more sad than scary.

Due to the length of this post, I won’t comment in depth about the next book I came to, which is also by Harold Schechter. Psycho U S A: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of is a book which seeks to document psychopathic crime from almost the birth of the US.

Psycho U S A

Schechter identifies time periods from 1782 through 1961 when such crimes were not so widely publicized. Time frames and categories covered in this interesting book are:

  1. Fiends of the Early Republic 1782-1826
  2. Antebellum Maniacs 1840-1860
  3. Post Civil War Monsters 1866-1880
  4. Turn of the Century Psychos 1892-1896
  5. A Year of Horror 1927
  6. Demons of the Depression (Exact dates not given. Approximate dates 1928-1940)
  7. Soldier, Sailor, Serial Killer 1941-1961

There are very interesting articles in this book describing how certain stories have entered into American folklore. This book is worth the reader’s time.

Have you seen any of the movies based on Eddie Gein? Have you ever met someone with a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder?

 

Famous Historical Crimes

Famous Crimes

Some crimes are historically famous. Here are a few examples all from the 1930’s.

Famous Criminals

Although the above examples are all from the 1930’s, every decade seems to have its notorious criminals. I have perused books in the Fulton County Public Library about all of the criminals mentioned above – and many, many more.

Since time and one blog post will not allow me to comment on all notorious criminals, I’ve decided to comment on just one very famous case; Jack the Ripper. Although the Ripper’s crimes were committed in London, this case has world wide recognition and following. Many Americans have shown great interest in the case since the 1880’s when the crimes occurred. Jack the Ripper has been the subject of fiction and nonfiction books, movies, radio and television shows, stage plays, newspapers, magazines, photographs, and works of art. The Ripper’s story is on the world wide web and in the files of many police officers and detectives. There are even tours to learn about the Ripper’s crime spree (Scroll down the linked page to the second video to watch a 2 minute video about a very popular tour). This crime is retold in every medium imaginable.

One of the reasons I chose to write about this case is because it covers most of the areas of Criminology I’ve already written about. It is an obvious True Crime story. There have been many people accused of this heinous crime spree as well as many false confessions, making it a Falsie. The case was an Unsolved Crime for approximately 130 years which made it a famous historical crime.

JTR Ghastly Murder

The Ripper was active in the “East-End” of London in an area known as Whitechapel. He would strike at night. His targets were always female prostitutes who roamed the poverty stricken areas of London’s east side. The Ripper usually cut the throats of his victims and then performed horrid mutilations of his victims. Some of the victims had organs removed.  This is how the killer got his nickname. There are actual photographs but they are much too graphic to be shown in this post.  Because of the mutilations and a knowledge of anatomy, many believed that Jack the Ripper had medical training.

George Lusk, who was part of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, received a letter containing part of a preserved human kidney. The letter has become known as the “From Hell” letter. The image below is of a photograph taken of the letter before evidence went missing. The letter was postmarked “15 October 1888.”

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The letter reads:

“From hell

Mr Lusk
Sor
I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother pirce I fried and ate it was very nise I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer.

signed Catch me when

you Can

Mishter Lusk.”

Jack the Ripper had 5 known victims, but some believe these were not his only victims and that the true number may have been 11 or higher. The 5 known victims are now referred to as the “Canonical Five.”

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Later, Johnny Depp  and Heather Graham would star in the movie From Hell which took it’s title from the Ripper’s letter. From Hell is, of course, the story of Jack the Ripper and his five known victims.

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Here are some of the books I checked out:

JTR Uncensored Facts
The Complete JTR A to ZJTR Secret Confession

Naming Jack the Ripper

In Naming Jack the Ripper Russell Edwards claims to have discovered the identity of Jack the Ripper by using a shawl of one of the Ripper victims, Catherine Eddowes. Catherine was the Ripper’s fourth victim. The author of this book explains how he traced a shawl belonging to Catherine, bought it at an auction, and was able to have blood on it tested for DNA. Modern technology has helped to unmask Jack the Ripper. This is a very interesting story which not only tells the story of Jack the Ripper in an engaging way, but which also follows the investigative process of the shawl itself to reveal the identity of the killer.

Spoiler Alert: If interested in learning more about the shawl you can follow my link, however the killer is also revealed. If you would prefer to follow the story and then find out, I suggest the above book. Shawl and Identity of the Killer.  There are also some interesting docudramas about the Ripper  (not scary) on this site. There is some criticism of the Russell Edwards findings, but the DNA evidence seems pretty strong.

Were you aware that Jack the Ripper had been named? Is this a story you have followed? Are you more curious now about Jack the Ripper?