Kitsap Crime and Justice

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Posts Tagged ‘Federal Bureau of Investigation’

A bizarre and tragic coincidence: there are two Israel Keyes

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

In August 2008, a former North Kitsap man named Israel W. Keyes was reported to have shot and killed his girlfriend, Alexia Laslo, and her son, Michael Tasako, before killing himself, in Sanders County, Montana. 

In a bizarre turn of events this week, a self-professed serial killer died in an apparent suicide in an Alaska jail this week. His name is also Israel Keyes, though he was 34.

The news this week made at least one Kitsap Sun reader wonder about the death. After doing some research, we can confirm that while strange and while tragic, there were two Israel Keyes, one who reportedly killed himself in Montana after shooting two people and another who died this week, after he disclosing to the FBI that he killed four people in Washington between 2001 and 2006.


Crime reporter’s notebook: Police data, fingerprint scanners, weed and a pair of handcuffs

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

 Here are a few recent odds and ends from my reporter’s notebook:

POLICE DATABASE EXPANDS: You may remember the Kitsap Sun story about the Law Enforcement Information Exchange (LinX), in which Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents were working to thread together a database of all reports gathered by local law enforcement agencies. (The effort began in a Levin Road basement.) Keep in mind that prior to 9/11, a lot of data collected by law enforcement, including field interviews, mug shots, and investigative narratives, could only be accessed only by the agency that created them.

I asked Keith Haines, LinX’s regional program manager, how it was going. He said LinX, which already encompasses most law enforcement agencies on both U.S. coasts, has begun integrating with the FBI’s “N-DEx” system, which will host a nationwide database that hopes to include all U.S. law enforcement reports.

FINGERPRINT SCANNERS: Did you know King County Sheriff’s Office is using pocket-sized fingerprint scanners to identify uncooperative and unscrupulous suspects? Regular readers of the Kitsap Sun will know these debuted in Kitsap County five years ago. The followup, by the Seattle Times, is that they’ve got more of the bugs in them worked out.

MARIJUANA ROUNDUP: As the election looms, a number of stories have appeared regarding Initiative 502 in recent weeks. Among the most interesting in my book: More than 241,000 people in Washington state were arrested for marijuana possession over the past 25 years; marijuana backers are getting some states-rights conservatives to support the measure; and a bunch of drug czars have come out against the measure, which they say violates constitutional law and could trigger a “constitutional showdown.”

HOMEOWNER CONFRONTATION: Imagine going outside your home to find someone holding your machete and chainsaw. Not only do you own them, but you wouldn’t want a stranger swinging them at you, either. Last week, a homeowner west of Long Lake had just that encounter — and he wrestled the machete away from the stranger, chased him down the road and told him to stay put until Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies arrived, reports say. Deputies said the suspect remarked that he’d “only get a criminal trespass for this.” Prosecutors have charged him with burglary.

HANDCUFFED AND RUNNING: An Alaska man was arrested Friday for trying to pass counterfeit $20s at Walmart. Poulsbo police responded and the man let them look in his wallet, where officers found six $20s with the same serial numbers. Police had handcuffed the man, who’d also violated probation and had him sit on the push bars of a patrol car. That’s when reports say the man “jumped to his feet and took off running … still in handcuffs.” An officer gave chase and tried his Taser, but missed. The suspect was ultimately tackled and taken the Kitsap County jail.


Feds to consider changing archaic definition of rape

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Scottish author Andrew Lang once said of a man: “He uses statistics like a drunk uses lamp-posts, more for support than illumination.”

Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is supporting its annual rape statistics with a rather archaic, 80-year-old definition critics have long argued needed to catch up with the times. Rape is defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” reports the New York Times.

That definition may soon be updated by the FBI, which will take up discussion on it this month, the Times reported Sept. 28.

Why does it matter?

It’s a matter of honesty. The FBI’s report is known as one of the best indicators of crime in the United States (and its latest report shows crime dropping in America again). If the police jurisdictions report rape to the FBI using a more modern definition, they won’t include those cases.

The Times sums up the what the FBI leaves out (Blogger’s warning: some readers might find this terminology disturbing):

(The FBI’s definition) … critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting.

I invited Claire Bradley, a chief deputy of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office — and the current chair of Kitsap SAIVS (Special Assault Investigations and Victim’s Services) — to share her thoughts about updating the language. Bradley was also deputy prosecutor in the county’s special assault unit for eight years.

“I think, across the board, anyone who deals with sexual assault crimes would agree this is a good thing. Locally, our law enforcement, prosecutors and victim advocates already do a great job of responding to all types of sexual assault, not just the ones that would be classified as “rape” by these federal statistics. But, to the community as a whole, the classification of what is “rape” by federal statistical standards is absolutely misleading.

And, to me, the most important factor in this reclassification is that our victim advocacy programs rely on statistical data for grant funding. Our victim advocates serve so many more victims than the statistics would suggest, and so their funding is based on false numbers. I would love to see them be able to report actual, true numbers and receive more funding, that is actually representative of how many people they serve.”

Perhaps with an updated definition, the statistics provided by the FBI will become more illuminating for all of us.


Can murder of federal Seattle prosecutor be solved?

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Thomas C. Wales, a federal prosecutor based in Seattle, was killed 10 years ago this month. And close to the anniversary of his tragic death, efforts to find his killer are once again being ramped up.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday came to Seattle to help shine the light on the case, in the hopes that a tip or clue could come forward that will help bring justice to the unsolved murder of a Western Washington federal prosecutor.

We’re not strangers to cold cases here in Kitsap County. Four in five homicides go unsolved. Indeed, as a country, 6,000 people a year get away with murder.

Here’s more about the Wales killing from a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle:

SEATTLE – Attorney General Eric Holder joined U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny A. Durkan, the Wales family and the FBI in Seattle today to announce a new media and social media effort to seek information related to the 2001 slaying of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas C. Wales.  Wales worked as a federal prosecutor in the Western District of Washington for 18 years before he was shot and killed 10 years ago in his home the evening of Oct. 11, 2001.

“Tom was a dedicated public servant, a committed advocate, and a loving father and friend,” Attorney General Holder said.  “Although this case remains unsolved, and Tom’s killer remains unknown, our resolve to uncover the truth – and to help Tom’s family, friends, colleagues and neighbors find the answers and the closure that they deserve – has never been stronger.”

“The message to the public is: what you know may matter. Please call. What may seem to you to be a small, insignificant observation could be a critical clue for law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Durkan.  “It was one month after the 9-11 attacks. Think back, remember what you saw, heard or knew, and use the FBI tip line.  You could make the difference.”

In conjunction with the anniversary, the FBI is launching a major media and social media effort to encourage people with information to come forward.  Investigators believe there are people who have not yet contacted the FBI, either because they are fearful or they do not believe their information is significant.

This effort includes advertisements in The Seattle Times and The Stranger, on Seattle-area billboards, and in commercials on local radio and television which start today and run through the anniversary of Wales’ death on October 11th.  The FBI has also launched a new web page, www.fbi.gov/wales which is solely committed to posting and receiving information from the public about the Wales case. Additionally, the FBI will use its existing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages to reach the public across the country to seek any new information.

In addition to these efforts, anyone with even the smallest bit of information is encouraged to contact the FBI and can do so confidentially by phone at 1-800 CALL FBI or by email at walestips@ic.fbi.gov. People can also send anonymous tips to the FBI at PO Box 2755, Seattle, Washington, 98111.

“The murder of Tom Wales was more than a single act of violence against an individual,” said Greg Fowler, FBI Inspector-in-Charge of the case.  “It was a crime that impacted many, but no one more than his family.  Tom Wales left behind a legacy and a life that cannot be replaced.  We remain confident that, with the public’s help, we will find those responsible and bring them to justice. “

The FBI and the Seattle Police Department have led the joint investigation since the beginning.  They are joined by staff from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“It is regretful that the suspect in Tom Wales’ murder has not been brought to justice,” said Seattle Police Chief John Diaz.  “We will continue to work with our federal partners and do everything within our investigatory power to solve this heinous crime.”

“Attorney General Holder’s presence is a powerful reminder of the Justice Department’s dedication to pursuing justice in the murder of Tom Wales,” said Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney.  “Local prosecutors will continue our partnership with federal investigators on this case.  We are determined to solve this terrible crime.”

The compete library of information, including copies of the print and broadcast media pieces, the FBI “Seeking Information” poster, details about the tiplines and more can be found at www.fbi.gov/wales. Additional information regarding the FBI’s efforts is available at www.facebook.com/FBI, twitter.com/#!/FBIPRESSOFFICE and www.youtube.com/user/FBI.


Crime in America drops for fourth straight year

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Crime has fallen again

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released today its annual report on crime in America in 2010 and, in a continuing trend now four years running — and really a long downward arc since the 1990s — crime is down across the board.

Murder is down 4.2 percent. Rape is down five percent. Aggravated assault is down 4.1 percent. Burglary’s down two percent. Arson? A 7.6 percent decline.

Criminologists sometimes peg high unemployment with higher crime rates. But that didn’t happen in the sluggish growth of 2010. I welcome your theories as to what’s going on there.

Some other tidbits from the FBI:

  • Total number of crimes reported: 10,329,135 (1,246,248 violent crimes and 9,082,887 property crimes);
  • Most common violent crime: aggravated assault (62.5 percent of all violent crimes during 2010);
  • Most common property crime: larceny-theft (68.2 percent of all property crimes during 2010);
  • Top three crimes for which law enforcement reported arrests: drug abuse violations (1,638,846), driving while intoxicated (1,412,223), and larceny-theft (1,271,410);
  • Total number of arrests, excluding traffic violations: 13,120,947, including 552,077 for violent crimes and 1,643,962 for property crimes (the number of arrests doesn’t reflect the number of individuals arrested—some individuals may have been arrested more than once);
  • Most common characteristics of arrestees: 74.5 percent of arrestees were male, and 69.4 percent of arrestees were white;
  • How often firearms were used in crimes: in 67.5 percent of reported murders, 41.4 percent of reported robberies, and 20.6 percent of aggravated assaults; and
  • Total losses for victims of property crimes, excluding arsons: an estimated $15.7 billion.

Car theft: We’re No. 8

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

And that’s not No. 8 in a good way. The Bremerton-Silverdale area ranks in that spot for most car thefts among areas in the state.

But that’s much lower than the state’s No. 1 spot for car theft — Spokane — an area ranked fourth in the nation overall for the crime.

Here’s the release from the NW Insurance Council. Be sure to note the tips below to help you safeguard your own vehicle.

Washington continues to be a hotbed for auto thieves with a 9.8 percent jump in auto thefts last year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s annual Hot Spots Report released today.

Spokane ranked fourth-highest in the nation for auto theft rates, up from 18th in 2009.  The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area jumped to 13th from 37th and leads the state with more than 55 percent of all auto thefts, increasing 18.8 percent since 2009.  Yakima remains in the top ten, falling from sixth in 2009 to tenth last year.

In 2010, 29,298 vehicles were reported stolen in Washington, a 9.8 percent increase from 26,684 in 2009.  That’s an average of 80 stolen vehicles per day and more than three vehicles per hour.

Auto theft is a costly crime that vehicle owners pay for through their insurance premiums.  In 2009, auto theft cost more than $170 million in Washington.

“Consumers in America pay billions each year for auto theft,” said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. “The cost to replace stolen vehicles and repair those that are recovered is reflected in your insurance rates. That makes stopping auto theft important to all of us.”

Vehicle theft is the nation’s number-one property crime, costing an estimated $5.2 billion in 2009, according to the FBI.  The average value of a motor vehicle reported stolen in 2009 was $6,505.

Here are the Washington cities with the highest theft rates:

1.     Spokane                                  2,763                           586.35
2.     Yakima                                   1,266                           520.49
3.     Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue       16,192                         470.72
4.     Portland-Vancouver-Hillsb.   6,860                           308.17
5.     Longview                                293                              286.10
6.     Olympia                                  468                              185.52
7.     Mount Vernon-Anacortes      202                              172.80
8.     Bremerton-Silverdale             396                              157.69
9.     Kennewick-Pasco-Richland   392                              154.73
10.  Wenatchee-E. Wenatchee      153                              137.98
*The theft rate is based on the number of thefts per 100,000 inhabitants using 2009 U.S. Census data.

Here are Washington’s most stolen vehicles, according to NICB statistics:
1.     1992 Honda Accord
2.     1995 Honda Civic
3.     1990 Toyota Camry
4.     1995 Acura Integra
5.     1993 Subaru Legacy
6.     1994 Nissan Sentra
7.     1993 Dodge Caravan
8.     1994 Saturn SL
9.     1994 Ford Explorer
10.  1995 Nissan Pathfinder

NW Insurance Council offers the following tips to help you reduce the risk of your vehicle being stolen:

Keep your doors locked and windows completely rolled up.

Remove keys from the ignition, even when briefly stepping away from your car.

Keep valuable items such as bags, purses, cell phones and briefcases out of sight.

Always park your vehicle in well-lit areas.

Always activate your vehicle’s security or alarm system when parked.

Before buying a new vehicle, check with your insurance company to find out which vehicles have the highest risk of theft.

If you witness or have knowledge of an auto theft, contact your local law enforcement agency.  In some cases, auto theft is a form of insurance fraud when automobile owners arrange to have their vehicles stolen with hopes of collecting the insurance money.

If you know of anyone who has filed a false insurance claim, you may be eligible for a fraud award up to $5,000 offered by NW Insurance Council.  Call the Fraud Hotline at 800-TEL-NICB.  For more information about the Hot Spots Report  and insurance fraud, call (800) 664-4942 or visit NW Insurance Council.

NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon and Idaho.


DNA Testing Nets Washington State Record for Suspect ‘Hits’

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The Washington State Patrol’s crime lab identified 379 suspects from DNA samples in 2010, a record.

Every offender in the state convicted of a felony, and even some gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors, has to submit a DNA sample, which goes into a database, the state patrol said Tuesday in a release. Sex and kidnapping offenders provide samples as well.

That database has grown to 194,000 people in its more than a decade of existence, so not surprisingly, more “hits” are coming back when police agencies around the state submit a DNA sample from a crime scene.

Here’s more from a news release by the state patrol:

In June of 2009 an unknown male robbed a grocery store in Spokane.  A wig and fake beard matching that worn by the suspect were discovered along the escape route and submitted to the crime lab.  DNA recovered from both items was linked to a convicted offender in the CODIS database. Due to a previous drug conviction in 2006, he had been required to provide a DNA sample for the database. Faced with the evidence, the suspect pled guilty to robbery in May 2010.

DNA testing completed by the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory Division resulted in a record 379 hits in 2010 using the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).  Since it was implemented over a decade ago, this crime-fighting tool has provided investigators with over 1,500 leads.

“This is about arresting and convicting the guilty, and clearing the innocent,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “DNA is the most reliable way we’ve ever had for telling if someone was present at a crime scene.”

Located in Seattle, the WSP CODIS Laboratory receives approximately 1,400 convicted offender samples each month. The resulting database contains over 194,000 DNA profiles from Washington state offenders convicted of a felony, or certain gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors. State legislation also requires that registered sex and kidnapping offenders submit a DNA sample.

Samples from convicted criminals are compared regularly with DNA evidence retrieved from the scenes of more than 3,500 crimes statewide. Samples in the state database are also routinely searched against the nationwide CODIS database.

In 2010, over half of Washington’s CODIS hits were linked to burglary cases, while approximately 39% were hits in connection with violent crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery, and assault.

Of note is that 79% of the DNA hits were from convicted offenders whose profiles were in the database for typically less violent crimes, such as burglary or drug possession. This shows the value of capturing DNA from those convicted of less severe, mostly non-violent crimes.

In addition to being an all-time high, the 379 hits generated in 2010 equal a 47% increase over the 257 hits in 2009.  This marked increase is attributable to a number of factors, including a pilot project testing evidence from property crimes, and technology improvements implemented by the WSP Crime Laboratory Division.

“The CODIS program is a forensic time machine”, said Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau Director Larry D. Hebert.  “Our scientists use this powerful technology to link suspects to unsolved crimes, some of which were committed over 40 years ago.  CODIS is also used to link apparent unrelated cases to each other providing investigators with valuable information.”


Child Porn Prosecutions Skyrocket

Monday, February 21st, 2011

An interesting, if creepy trend in criminal justice these days is the growing number of (mostly) men prosecuted for having child pornography.

There was a time when child porn was exchanged on polaroids in back alleys around the nation, one local detective told me recently. But these days, the internet has made it possible to move millions of pictures and videos instantaneously, and law enforcement is struggling to keep up.

In the words of AP writer Paul Elias:

The number of federal child porn cases has exploded during the last 15 years as Congress passed mandatory five-year minimum sentences and federal authorities have declared such investigations a priority.

The FBI has made more than 10,000 arrests since 1996 and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reports a similar number of arrests since its creation in 2003. The U.S. Department of Justice says prosecutions are up 40 percent since 2006 resulting in roughly 9,000 cases. In 2009, 2,315 suspects were indicted.

No crime’s prosecution has exploded similarly, Elias points out: a 2,500 percent rate increase by the FBI.

We are not immune to child porn prosecution here locally either: some examples can be found here and here.


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