Tag: Investigator

In the past decade, the number of shoplifting cases in Greene County has increased dramatically.

“The number of cases that we had in 2013 was just a little above 300 cases,” Judge Stidham said. “Ten years earlier, we had three on the docket the entire year.”

Greene County District Judge Dan Stidham said people were rarely shoplifting out of necessity either.

“For the most part, it seems to be people who don’t really need to shoplift. They do it for the thrill,” he explained.

That’s why in late 2014, the county started working do modify that behavior.

Now if an offender is convicted for shoplifting, they’re given two options; do the time or wear the sign.

“But the word got out very quickly that you can’t go steal something now and just get slapped on the hand,” Stidham said.

The program started in October 2014 but because of court process, the first offenders didn’t wear the signs until February 2015.

Six people wore a sign in February 2015.

“Then in March, we had every available court date full of people wearing the signs,” Stidham said. “We actually didn’t have enough signs to accommodate people.”

Over the course of 2015, those numbers started to dwindle.

“We’ve had a 2/3 decrease in the number of cases just in the first year. I think this time next year, I think we’ll have it down to the point we had it before where we’re just seeing a few cases a year,” Stidham said.

So far, Stidham said no one has chosen three days jail time over wearing the sign in public for three hours.

“I keep waiting for someone to say ‘No, I want to go to jail,’ but no one has,” he said.

Because of that, the consequences of shoplifting have been seen by a lot of people.

“I really thought we might decrease it by a third, maybe a fourth. Maybe if we were fortunate, 40 percent or 50 percent but I did not expect to see a two-thirds drop that fast.”

Stidham said the program is similar to a hot check program he started in 2000 to combat that problem.

However, if something else starts becoming a big problem like shoplifting, the judge said they’ll look at ways to expand the program to modify other criminal behavior.”

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Almost 75 years after they were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the remains of five U.S. sailors who perished when their battleship was sunk, have been identified, the Pentagon said Monday.

The five men, who were exhumed last year from their graves in Hawaii and examined in special military laboratories, were among 429 sailors and Marines killed when the USS Oklahoma was torpedoed and capsized.

They had been buried as “unknowns.”

The battleship’s loss of life at Pearl Harbor was second only to the 1,100 lost on the USS Arizona, whose wreck remains a hallowed Pearl Harbor historic site.

The men identified were Chief Petty Officer Albert E. Hayden, 44, of Mechanicsville, Md., in St. Mary’s County; Ensign Lewis. S Stockdale, 27, of Anaconda, Mont.; Seaman 2nd Class Dale F. Pearce, 21, of Labette County, Kan.; Petty Officer 1st Class Vernon T. Luke, 43, of Green Bay, Wisc.; and Chief Petty Officer Duff Gordon, 52, of Hudson, Wisc.

The Oklahoma had a complement of about 1,300, including 77 Marines.

The identifications are the first to come from a project that began last April when the Defense Department announced plans to exhume an estimated 388 of the Oklahoma’s unknowns.

The effort was sparked after researcher and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory, in 2003, used National Archives files to get officials to dig up a casket believed to contain an Oklahoma sailor’s remains.

That sailor, Ensign Eldon Wyman, was duly identified, and in 2007 a second casket was unearthed and the remains within were also identified as an Oklahoma sailor.

The remains were returned to their families.

The latest identifications were made by comparing pre-war dental records with the teeth of the exhumed sailors, said Air Force Lt. Col. Holly Slaughter, spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s newly created Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which is doing the work.

During the Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, which plunged the U.S. into World War II, many Oklahoma sailors jumped overboard as the battleship rolled over in about 50 feet of water.

But hundreds were trapped below decks.

Thirty-two were rescued by intrepid crews who heard them banging for help, cut into the hull and made their way through a maze of darkened, flooded compartments to reach them.

Others managed to escape by swimming underwater to find their way out. Some trapped sailors tried to stem the in-rushing water with rags and even the board from a board game. One distraught man tried to drown himself.

In the months, and years, after the attack, the handling of the crew’s remains was plagued by error, confusion and poor record keeping.

Most of the dead were found in the wreckage during the months-long salvage operation, especially after the Oklahoma was righted in 1943, according to a memo by DPAA historian Heather Harris.

By then, the bodies had been reduced to skeletons.

By 1944, the jumbled skeletons, saturated with fuel oil from the ship, had been buried as unknowns in two Hawaiian cemeteries, Harris’s report said.

Three years later, they were dug up and taken to a military laboratory near Pearl Harbor for attempted identification.

The chief tool then also was the comparison of the dental records with the teeth of the deceased. And 27 tentative identifications were made, but they were rejected as incomplete by the authorities.

Gordon, Hayden, Luke, and Stockdale were among those 27, Slaughter said in an email.

In 1949, all the remains were formally declared unidentifiable. And by 1950, they had been reburied in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, often called the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

There they rested until last year.

The first exhumations took place June 8, and the last four caskets were dug up Nov. 9.

Sixty-one rusty caskets, still with their carrying handles, were retrieved from 45 graves. The caskets were heavily corroded and had to be forced open with mauls and crowbars.

After the remains were removed, they were cleaned and photographed, and most of them were flown to the DPAA lab in Nebraska for further analysis. Skulls were retained in a DPAA lab in Hawaii, where forensic dentists are based.

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DNA has undoubtedly been a breakthrough for modern criminal investigation. It has freed the innocent, solved decades-old cold cases, and given detectives a kind of molecular witness in many cases that may have otherwise remained unsolved.

Except better and more-sensitive technology means more potential problems, in some cases. Mixes of DNA, and the “1-in-X” probabilities are currently being evaluated by some crime labs.

But the latest reevaluation involves “touch DNA” – the invisible genetic markers we leave everywhere we go, and on virtually everything we come into contact with.

A two-minute handshake, then handling a knife led to the DNA profile of the person who never touched the weapon being identified on the swab of the weapon handle in 85 percent of the samples, according to a new study by University of Indianapolis researchers, entitled “Could Secondary DNA Transfer Falsely Place Someone at the Scene of a Crime?”

In one-fifth of those experiments, the person who had never directly touched the knife was identified as the main or only contributor of the DNA on the handle, according to the study, in the January issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

“It’s scary,” said Cynthia Cale, a graduate student and author of the paper. “Analysts need to be aware that this can happen, and they need to be able to go into court and effectively present this evidence. They need to school the jury and the judge that there are other explanations for this DNA to be there.”

The concept of “touch DNA” needs to be rethought, in both a legal and scientific context, according to Madison Earll, the other graduate student who authored the study.

“This research highlights the need to eliminate ‘touch DNA’ from our vocabulary,” said Earll, now a microbiologist at Pace Analytical. “It’s clear that this term is misleading and does not adequately explain all of the possible ways that DNA can end up on an object.”

Read more: Widow Sues City after Husband, Linked to Cold-Case Murder, Commits Suicide

“We have found that it is relatively straightforward for an innocent person’s DNA to be inadvertently transferred to surfaces that he or she has never come into contact with,” Cale wrote in a piece for the journal Nature. “This could place people at crime scenes that they had never visited or link them to weapons they had never handled.”

Cale cited an example of a man in California in 2013 who was held for a homicide for four months after his DNA was pulled from underneath the fingernails of the victim. However, it was later proven that the suspect was hospitalized and several intoxicated at the time of the crime – but the paramedics who had responded to him medically responded to the murder shortly thereafter, she wrote.

“It’s a small world,” a deputy district attorney reportedly said upon the innocent man’s release.

Other suspects have claimed their DNA was transported to incriminating places through contamination. A criminalist in a San Diego lab maintained his innocence of the killing of a girl in 1984, saying he had only worked in the lab near where the samples were originally analyzed. The criminalist killed himself before charges were brought.

The scientists said they plan to continue experiments into 2016, systematically reducing the two-minute handshake down to smaller time frames, they said.

“I think this issue has been swept under the rug,” said Krista Latham, the director of the school’s Molecular Anthropology Lab, and who oversaw the study by Cale and others. “It’s going to change the way the medicolegal system looks at DNA evidence.”

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NEW YORK – The White House and New York City’s district attorney have pledged a combined $79 million on Thursday to help clear the tens of thousands of rape kits that have gone untested across the country.

The White House announced that $41 million in federal funds plus $38 million from the Manhattan prosecutor will go toward clearing backlogs in 27 states.

Local law enforcement agencies applied for the grants. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is using asset forfeiture funds toward the effort.

Vance and Vice President Joe Biden announced the local authorities receiving funds at a news conference at the New York City medical examiner’s office.

Awards range from $97,305 to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, which will test approximately 148 kits, to $1,999,982 to the Georgia State Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which will test approximately 3,108 kits.

It’s estimated that tens of thousands of DNA samples taken after sexual assaults have gone untested. Part of the issue is the cost of testing the kits, which can run around $800 to $1,000 per kit. Some cities such as Detroit have turned to private donations to raise money to clear the backlogs.

The district attorney’s office said it has established agreements with two private forensic labs to secure competitive rates for testing kits. Kits tested through the initiative will cost less than $675 per kit, significantly less than the estimated nationwide average of $1,000 to $1,500 per kit.

In 2009, CBS News reported that investigators often ignore DNA evidence collected from victims in sexual assault kits. Thousands of these rape kits have gathered dust for years but the CBS News report and subsequent coverage have helped persuade some police departments to begin testing them

In one of those cities, Cleveland, once the kits were analyzed, they revealed 225 men were potentially linked to multiple rapes.

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Investigator Turns Eyewitness

In today’s world of social media, investigators are taking on a new role; they are becoming a form of eyewitness. As the eyewitness, an investigator observes evidence that might not be visible to any other available investigator. The investigator is wise to create a record of what he or she sees at any particular point in time, including print outs of screenshots.

Screenshots, combined with written eyewitness reports, are commonly used today to record what an investigator observes in social media. However, the process of making screenshots and written reports is less than perfect. Pulling together 25 pages of screenshots off a Facebook wall, creating a report, and detailing each screenshot is time consuming. Ultimately a court or legal authority like a jury will look to you as the eyewitness, to determine what happened and whether they believe you or not.

As with any eyewitness testimony, two corroborating witnesses are much better than one. Therefore if you can get a second person involved you can improve the credibility of the evidence being collected for presentation in the courtroom.

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Cell Phone Trace

Sometimes all that I’ve located on a skip is a cell phone number. While collection laws prohibit calling cell phones to attempt to speak to a debtor, of course, there are many other ways to get information from a cell phone number. Our society has evolved into a digital world that is constantly on the move. Having a land line phone is not only a waste of money, in these times, it’s more of an inconvenience.

Talk, text and web offered in unlimited prepaid deals with really nicely designed cell phones have dazzled even the least tech-savvy individual. Because of this cell phones are it. I devote a lot of time to seek out new ways to spin on old tricks that get me location information. I ask questions and always get lots of factual information mixed in with heavy opinion.

In my step by step process I use databases, some free and some paid to get as much data collected as I can before I give up and get a professional cell phone investigation done. The companies that do cell phone investigations never reveal the source of how the information is obtained. By pretexting and a subpoena perhaps? Or they just “know” someone that can provide information. I often wonder if my databases can’t find it exactly how would the other investigators get that account owners name and billing address. If I’ve discovered a land line I need the service address too. I can only speculate because I know what I do and what I do works most of the time.

Does the skip have a direct connection with that cell phone company? So many times I’ve run down a cell phone number to find the account in another person’s name. This just gives me another person to look for that’s connected to my skip. By using the White Pages smart phone app (monthly subscription) I get every person’s name and sometimes an address that’s been connected to that phone number. This is a search that is nearly nonexistent on the internet anywhere else outside of professional skip trace databases.

Is the process to discover the cell information legal? If you’re using a database that you’ve been credentialed for a subscription then yes, you’re good to use it to bust cell phone number. Your permissible purpose has been verified. You know your boundaries for the work that you’re doing. Professionals keep it professional. We all know hacking to get detailed call lists is not only a crime, but sometimes a complete wast of time. If you’re involved in a lawsuit you can subpoena these records and if you’re on the front end of a contract you can request the detailed call history as a part of the required documents.

Where am I finding cell phone numbers? On credit reports, MasterFiles and SkipSmasher. These sources have amazing and fresh information. This is the kind of thing that makes you joyfully yell glorious things at your computer screen. If you don’t have these two data providers get the ball on the roll. You’ll be so happy that you did. Each database has some very unique features and it pays to have more than one.

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Video Surveillance In Tactical Planning

On a hillside in New England, two narcotics investigators armed with a video camcorder and a 500mm lens are watching a farmhouse on the other side of the valley. From their observation point in the tree line, they are able to get license plates and legally identifiable video of all who visit the farmhouse. The video provides raw intelligence as well as insight into how the drugs are moved and stored. While watching the video, raid planners learn critical details about which doors open out and that there are children present in the farmhouse.

A covert entry team in Europe is wiring a location for sound and video. While they work, the security officer is watching all the approaches using four tiny Wi-Fi enabled camcorders. They are capturing more than 4,000 lines of resolution (4k) and sending their signals to a handheld tablet. These camcorders, hidden inside fast food cartons near a trash barrel and in other easy to make “hides,” can pick up the slightest movement and warn the team in time to take evasive action. Once the entry is complete, the camcorders can be retrieved and used again elsewhere.

In North America, Mobile Surveillance Teams (MSTs), sometimes referred to as “Spin Teams,” are shooting video of suspects as they conduct their criminal enterprises and meet other criminals. The teams spend their entire shift in the field. At the end of the day, video of targets is emailed to case officers and intelligence analysts.

A successful tactical mission involves many intertwined elements: target identification, planning, team selection, scheduling, support manpower, transportation, supplies, operator rehearsals and, of course, intelligence. None of these can be overlooked if the mission is to be successful. But time and again planners forget to include video surveillance in their tactical plan. Perhaps that is because they are unaware of the technological advancements of the past two years.

4k mini video cameras and High Definition handheld camcorders are changing the way surveillance is shot. Gone are the grainy videos of the VHS era. (VHS, by the way, was 250 lines of resolution; 4k mini video has 16 times more resolution.) None of the equipment mentioned above is classified. Nor is it expensive. It can be delivered to your agency overnight. In the U.S. and in some Canadian Provinces, the equipment can be borrowed from a Regional Intelligence Sharing System (RISS) Agency at no cost to the LEA.

Why then doesn’t every tactical team use video? I have heard all the excuses: “It is too complicated, the camcorders are too big, the camcorders cost too much, the camcorder has too many buttons, we don’t have anyone who knows how to use the equipment. Our people already have digital SLRs.”

In my view, those excuses don’t hold water. Around the world, law enforcement agencies are adapting video surveillance and it is helping to win cases. In Korea, a police officer is using video to win convictions in an illegal gambling operation. The officer attended a class conducted by the International Tactical Training Association (ITTA) at the Korean National Police Institute. In North America, municipal and regional intelligence units are using inexpensive High Definition camcorders to record criminal activity. In both cases, a key to their success has been training, learning to operate their equipment under real-world conditions.

Another key to a successful video surveillance operation is equipment selection. Hi- Def camcorders range in price from about $400 to more than $5,000 and price generally denotes quality. The more expensive camcorders from Canon, Panasonic and Sony use interchangeable lenses, which make them perfect for long-range surveillance from fixed locations. My personal choice is the Canon C-100 camcorder because it uses widely available EOS-mount lenses.

The longer the lens, the more impor- TACTICAL SOLUTIONS 23 tant the tripod becomes. The price for high quality carbon fiber tripods can be daunting. Instead, select a metal tripod with a fluid head. For extremely long lenses consider adding sandbags to each to minimize vibration and shake.

At lower price points, today’s camcorders have some extraordinary features such as the ability to see infrared light and to stream video to other locations using Wi-Fi. Some have very long optical zooms. Most of today’s camcorders also have digital zooms, which give the operator that ability to video objects up to half a mile away. The compact size of these camcorders makes them perfect for deployment in many situations.

No matter the price, when purchasing a camcorder insist on these four features:

1) A viewfinder in addition to a flip-out view screen,

2) On-the-lens focusing,

3) An auxiliary microphone jack and

4) Removable digital media.

Look for a camcorder that has a viewfinder. Most of the current camcorders have a flip-out view screen. They are difficult to use in bright sunlight. At night, in my opinion, flip-out view screens are downright dangerous because they light up the operator’s face endangering their safety and the surveillance operation. A viewfinder is easier to use and can be adjusted to match the operator’s individual eyesight. Using a viewfinder conserves battery power.

Many of the best-known brands of consumer camcorders use what is called “Touch Screen” focusing on the flip-out view screen. Others use a small joystick on the flip- out view screen. Both of these methods are nearly impossible to use while wearing cold weather gloves. Further, they can only be used when the flipout screen is open. On-the-lens focusing is easier to use under all conditions.

An auxiliary microphone jack allows the operator to use a “Dead Short” knockout plug, which blocks the camcorder’s on-board microphone. Without a microphone, the camcorder records silent video. Why silent video? Let’s say you are shooting surveillance video and your cell phone rings. No matter whether the conversation is professional or personal, you do not need to share that conversation with a jury or the court. Frequently, surveillance teams have sat in the same place for hours and may make comments that should not be shared with anyone. In my opinion, a camcorder that lacks an auxiliary microphone jack may not be suitable for use in law enforcement. Removable digital media refers to either a Compact Flash Card or an SD card, which are used to record the video files. The alternative is an internal hard drive. Removable media have several advantages. Each operator can be assigned their own media and thus are responsible for maintaining chain of custody and duplication. The original media can be kept with the case file and used to prove that duplicates of the video were not altered. Some camcorders have two digital media drives that allow you to continue recording on the “B” drive when the media in the “A” drive has filled to capacity. In selecting digital media, make certain it is suitable for recording video. At the moment, most manufacturers recommend “Class 10” SD cards for their camcorders.

Because camcorder models tend to change each year, it is impossible to recommend any specific unit because it may not be available when you need to make a purchase. A knowledgeable video store is a good source for camcorder recommendations. If, when you mention the four required features, the clerk does not understand what you are looking for, find another store. I am reluctant to recommend shopping online because while the prices may be better, some vendors sell “Gray Market” goods intended for sale in another country. “Gray Market” camcorders may not have a warranty for your country. If all else fails, contact the camcorder manufacturer’s office in your country. Almost all manufacturers will have a tech rep who deals with law enforcement and may be able to make a recommendation.

No matter which kind of mission your team undertakes, video is simply the best way to quickly and safely gather intelligence.

About the Author

Wadi Sawabini has 23 years experience teaching law enforcement professionals how to shoot evidence-grade video. A former Reserve Deputy with the Erie County, New York Sheriff’s Office, Sawabini has taught for the ATF, FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol and dozens of other federal agencies. He has also taught members of the Korean National Police, the Bermuda Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario and the Ontario Regional Police

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Deception Detection for Interviewers

The Psychology of Lies: Behavioral Science Perspectives on Conducting Successful Interviews

There are plenty of myths about the “science” of lie detection.

Despite what popular books on nonverbal behavior may say, there’s no scientific evidence that crossed arms or legs indicate a non-receptive person, or that deceivers touch their noses, evert their eyes, or cover their mouths.

Unfortunately, deception detection isn’t so simple, say behavioral scientists who actually study communication and deceit using scientific methods. Spotting a lie, it seems, is an inexact science.

So how can investigators improve their chances of discovering deceit during investigative interviews? To tackle this topic and overcome popular misconceptions, I asked three leading research psychologists who specialize in the study of deception to share their insights on how to catch a liar.

The Experts:

David Matsumoto, San Francisco State University
Aldert Vrij, University of Portsmouth (UK)
Caroline Keating, Colgate University

Deception detection researcher Paul Ekman established that basic emotions are universal, as are their expressions.

Why Humans Are Good Deceivers and Lousy Detectors

According to Caroline Keating, we’re better liars than we are lie detectors. This point is echoed in various academic studies, which suggest that most people are no better than 50/50 at detecting deception by observing verbal and nonverbal cues.

Research conducted by Paul Ekman and Maureen O’Sullivan, published in Psychological Science in 1991, suggests that even professionals involved in fighting crime (such as law-enforcement and judges) veer only a little better than chance at detecting deception.

According to David Matsumoto, later research by Ekman and O’Sullivan demonstrated that law enforcement personnel were able to tell when people were lying about whether they committed crimes, but not about their opinions on various topics. Of the law enforcement professionals tested by Ekman and O’Sullivan, the Secret Service were the most able at detecting deceit, averaging a 65% success rate.

The bottom line is that even if law enforcement as a whole is better at detecting deception than the general public, that isn’t a particularly impressive statistic.

Most people are no better than 50/50 at detecting deception by observing verbal and nonverbal cues.
But there’s hope yet for lie detection science.

Matsumoto points out a problem with academic research on the topic: Many experiments are based on low-stakes lies. In the real world, lies that concern investigators or potential employers are usually high stakes—in other words, liars in the interrogation room have a lot more to lose than study participants.

How to be a Good Liar

Naturally, some people are bad liars; but professional investigators are concerned with the gifted ones. It stands to reason that to be a good lie spotter, the investigator needs to know what makes a good liar.

Sometimes the investigator may need to be good a liar himself in order to go undercover or pretext.

According to Keating, good liars are ultimately good actors. Her advice on how to lie convincingly is to “rehearse” in order to reduce anxiety; she also suggests creating plausible responses by interweaving deception with truth. Good lying, like good acting, is an art that requires a plausible story, well-practiced.

There are, however, pathological types that make natural liars: psychopaths and pathological liars such as those suffering from Münchausen syndrome. Pathological liars may tell lies with ease, but they are usually unmasked over time by inconsistencies, which earn them stigmatized reputations.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, are natural chameleons that mimic the behavior expected of them but have little or no emotional attachment.

The latter condition is thought to result from structural differences in the frontal lobe and amygdala—areas of the brain that are responsible for regulating emotion. In essence, psychopaths have little fear or anxiety but are natural actors. Keating notes that their “lack of stress” enables them as deceivers.

Good lying, like good acting, is an art that requires a plausible story, well-practiced.

Like the psychopath that simulates love for another when it serves him, good liars uses a measure of control over emotional appearances to overcome discovery, says Keating. The possibility that a liar will be unmasked naturally creates the desire to avoid the issue, but a savvy liar can take the offensive.

For instance, he may mimic anger or hurt in response to an accusation that’s true. The seeming natural response would be anxiety or embarrassment, but a good liar can turn the tables, emotionally speaking.

A final quality of good liars, according to Keating, is self-deception. She cites the story of Colonel Oliver North, who tried to hide evidence of U.S. arms sales to Iran and illegal funding of the Contras. North knew he was breaking the law, but he was acting on behalf of senior government officials—on some level, he believed he was doing the right thing.

Lying to himself, according to Keating, may have enabled him to lie about his actions more convincingly.

Self-deception reduces anxiety by justifying the lie. Presumably the Russian SVR agent presenting as an American businessman, the Al Qaeda operative engaged in terrorism, and the investigator pretexting during a fraud investigation are all enabled by a belief of inherent righteousness.
Caroline Keating suggests that anxiety lies at the root of high-stakes lies—if unmasked, the deceiver faces stiff consequences. But the researcher’s dilemma is that high-stakes lies—and the anxiety associated with them—are hard to ethically replicate in the laboratory.

There is, therefore, hope that in real-world scenarios, fear may betray the deceiver’s self-control more inexorably than it does in the dispassionate environment of the behavioral-science lab.

Catching Liars Through Cognitive Taxation

Aldert Vrij suggests we throw out all notions of specific nonverbal cues and rather look for narrative inconsistencies when mining for lies. To that end, he provides several guidelines based on a synthesis of psychological and social science research. Most notably, Vrij supports the proposition of “imposing cognitive load.”

The idea here is that lying requires extra psychological effort at creating a plausible story, whereas the truth doesn’t, because the teller is simply recalling, not inventing. According to Vrij, an interviewer can exploit this fact through several strategies (as summarized below):

1. Ask for details.

The more details the interviewee provides, the more chance of inconsistency. This fact alone may cause the guilty interviewee to be reluctant about answering questions or to give short or vague responses. If the interviewee is reluctant or vague in responding to a question, the interviewer should pursue the subject further.

Vrij suggests borrowing from the techniques of “cognitive interviewing”—developed to enhance eyewitness’ memories—because they are useful in encouraging the subject to report details. Such techniques include asking the subject to describe his story with richness and imagery and to reassure him that no detail is without significance or is too trivial.

While inconsistency, vagueness and hesitancy can be signs of deception, details provide the practicality of more information that can be cross-referenced and validated.

2. Encourage the subject to describe events in reverse order.

Because a lie is a fabrication, it may be more challenging for the liar to describe events in reverse order, because such act creates extra “cognitive load.” Vrij cites research in which subjects watched videos in which they had to distinguish a liar from a non-liar.

Subjects detected the liar 42% of the time when the lies where sequential but 60% of the time when the liar had to describe what happened in reverse order.

3. Ask unexpected questions.

Just as Caroline Keating suggests that the would-be-liar rehearse responses to possible tough questions, Vrij suggests asking “unexpected questions” as a counter-measure. To be successful, the interviewer must be able to develop relevant questions that the interviewee doesn’t anticipate.

Vrij cites experiments that show that liars produce fewer details when responding to unanticipated questions than truth-tellers.

4. Conduct an information-seeking interview rather than a confrontational interview.

Vrij is critical of the popular Reid method of interviewing, which progresses from interview to accusation. (Some researchers have asserted that success-rate claims in texts on the topic are unverifiable and un-replicable.) Basically, the Reid method presumes guilt and incrementally increases pressure on the subject to make a confession.

In contrast, Vrij promotes the information-seeking interview, in which the interviewer aims to build rapport and plays a sympathetic role in order to coax out facts. Vrij cites a recent meta-analysis of several field studies (as well as laboratory studies), which found that information-seeking approaches yield more information and cues to deceit than confrontational approaches.

Evidently, information-seeking interviewing is a war-proven approach: Ali Soufan, A CIA interrogator, describes using information-seeking interviews with good success on Al-Qaeda suspects in developing intelligence in his book, The Black Banners.

5. Strategic Use of Evidence (SUE)

Vrij advocates an approach developed by Maria Hartwig in her doctoral dissertation, which studied the presentation of evidence in interrogations. Hartwig’s research showed that the non-accusatorial interview— asking open-ended questions and presenting evidence late in the interview—revealed more inconsistencies and contradictions than if the evidence were introduced early.

Furthermore, when interrogation trainees formulated indirect questions specific to the evidence without revealing their own knowledge of the evidence, their ability to detect deception significantly increased. (Such questions are also introduced at a late stage in the interview.)

A later study on SUE showed that trainees utilizing the SUE method produced 85% accuracy vs. 56% over a control group of interrogators not trained in SUE in determining the veracity of statements made by interviewees.

Catching Liars Through Emotional Leakage

Paul Ekman is widely credited with establishing that basic emotions are universal, as are their expressions.

Some anthropologists (such as Margaret Mead) theorized that facial expressions and emotional expressions were learned behaviors with culturally relevant meanings. Ekman’s research took him to Papua New Guinea, where he discovered an isolated primitive tribe whose members were able to accurately describe the meaning of facial expressions from pictures of Westerners.

Ekman is best known for his work on micro expressions—facial expressions that last a faction of a second and are believed to be involuntary. The proposition that these fleeting expressions reveal the true emotion of the subject led Ekman to suggest the ability to posit micro-expressions as a means of truth detection.

Ekman and his colleagues David Matsumoto and Mark Frank then developed a micro expressions training tool called METT—utilized by the TSA and other federal agencies—which has been further expanded independently by both Ekman and Matsumoto.

Matsumoto has been at the forefront of academic scholarship on nonverbal behavior and cross-cultural psychology. He heads a company called Humintell that provides seminars and training material on recognizing and interpreting micro-expressions.

When I asked what actions investigators can take to improve their sensitivity to deception, Matsumoto said this:

“Get trained on the VALIDATED indicators of veracity and deception, both verbal and nonverbal.”

“Learn to strategize their interviewing techniques to maximize the potential for them to receive CLEAR verbal and nonverbal signals to interpret.”

Caroline Keating concedes that micro-expressions betray a person’s true feelings, but she adds this caveat: “You almost need a video camera running in slow motion to see them,” (although Matsumoto counters that a person can be trained to see them in real time). Keating recommends scanning for anxiety and attempts at self-control when looking for deception but also recognizes that individuals have different baseline behaviors and different levels of response.

For instance, one person may be naturally anxious in most situations, while another may become anxious when asked questions that he believes may falsely incriminate him. There are also liars who show little anxiety because they are well rehearsed in their deceit, are self-deceived, or suffer pathological conditions.

The bottom line: a guilty person facing the possibility of unmasking should be anxious, but so, too, could an innocent person fearing for his freedom…and there are exceptions to every rule. To deal with variations in behavior between people, Keating suggests the importance of interpreting behavior by gauging the individual’s “baseline” behavior.

Parting Wisdom

Popular science is not the same as real science, nor is real science on complex human behavior fully resolved. Unfortunately, popular beliefs on nonverbal behavior and lie detection have managed to leak into texts on police interviewing and interrogations.

Nonetheless, behavioral science is making headway, and savvy investigators should pay attention. Ultimately, an interview with a suspect relies on psychological strategizing that aims to unmask the truth.

Deceit betrays itself by behavioral and narrative inconsistencies. Looking for incongruences in a subject’s story and behavior is common sense, but investigators can improve their chances of discovering lies by aligning their strategies with advances from the behavioral sciences. Watching for involuntary micro-expressions and the theory of cognitive load are two such advances that can aid an investigator’s tactics and observations.

There are many variables in human behavior. The investigator must consider all possibilities when interpreting the significance of a statement, pause, contradiction, gesture or hesitation. The goal shouldn’t be to become a psychological X-ray machine, because that’s currently impossible.

Instead, the investigator should aim to acquire verifiable intelligence, and/or, if the intelligence merits it, a true confession. The tips offered in this article provide the investigator with insights from world-class researchers in the field on how to achieve those goals.

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SUNBURY, Pa. (AP) — A couple married for just three weeks lured a man to his death with a Craigslist ad because they wanted to kill someone together, police said.

Elytte Barbour told officers before his arrest Friday night that he and his wife, Miranda, had planned to kill before, but their plans never worked out until last month when Troy LaFerrara responded to an online posting that promised companionship in return for money, authorities said.

Elytte Barbour told investigators “that they committed the murder because they just wanted to murder someone together,” police said in the affidavit.

Elytte Barbour, 22, and Miranda Barbour, 18, face criminal homicide charges in LaFerrara’s death. His body was found Nov. 12 in an alley in Sunbury, a small city about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The couple had recently moved to nearby Selinsgrove from Dunn, N.C.

Sunbury’s police chief, Steve Mazzeo, said Saturday he did not want to comment on the case or the couple’s motives since it was still an active investigation.

According to Sunbury police, Elytte Barbour told investigators he hid under a blanket in the backseat of the couple’s SUV as his wife picked up LaFerrara at a mall Nov. 11. He told police that, on his wife’s signal, he wrapped a cord around LaFerrara’s neck, restraining him while Miranda Barbour stabbed him.

The 42-year-old Port Trevorton man was stabbed about 20 times, police said.

Miranda Barbour was charged Tuesday, a day after police first contacted her. She initially denied knowing LaFerrara, but her story evolved as investigators gathered evidence, including the discovery that the last call received by the victim’s cellphone was made from her number, according to an affidavit in her case.

That affidavit said Miranda Barbour acknowledged meeting the victim in Selinsgrove and driving with him to Sunbury, where they parked. She said LaFerrara groped her and she took a knife from between the front seats and stabbed him after he put his hand around her throat, according to the affidavit.

Police said Miranda Barbour had told them she purchased cleaning supplies at a department store after stabbing LaFerrara, then picked up her husband and took him to a strip club for his birthday. On Friday, police said, Elytte Barbour told them he was the one who had purchased the cleaning products, an account investigators said was backed up by surveillance footage.

Following his wife’s arrest, Elytte Barbour told The Daily Item of Sunbury that Miranda Barbour, whom he married Oct. 22, regularly hired herself out as a “companion” to men she met on various websites, a business venture he said he supported because it didn’t involve sexual contact.

Barbour said his wife made anywhere from $50 to $850 by meeting with men for such activities as having dinner together or walking around a mall. The ads she placed on websites including Craigslist all said upfront that sex was not part of the deal, he said.

“She is not a prostitute,” he said. “What she does is meet men who have broken marriages or have no one in their lives, and she meets with them and has delightful conversation.”

Elytte Barbour didn’t have an attorney at his arraignment Friday night. Telephone messages left for his wife’s public defenders Saturday were not immediately returned.

Investigators also plan to look into the death of a man with whom Miranda Barbour had a 1-year-old child, Mazzeo said, but he would not say if there is a suspicion of foul play.

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An Oregon woman is on the hook for what Internal Revenue Service investigators are calling one of the largest cases of tax fraud in the state’s history.

Krystle Marie Reyes, of Salem, Ore. allegedly weaseled more than $2 million from the state by filing a false return using automated TurboTax software, according to a police report obtained by Oregon Live.

Reyes, 25, reported $3 million in wages and claimed $2.1 million in refunds, which worked its way through TurboTax’s system and was approved by the state. Soon enough, a Visa debit card loaded with the refund was in her hands.

What’s bizarre about the situation is how Reyes was caught. She reported another debit card as lost or stolen to the issuer, which apparently saw enough red flags to get the state’s revenue service on the case. The police affidavit doesn’t offer say how much cash was loaded on the second card or whether it was obtained by a fraudulent tax return as well.

When Reyes was taken into custody June 6, she had allegedly spent about $150,000 over a two-month period, including $2,000 on a Dodge Caravan and more than $800 in tires and wheels, according to police. It’s not clear from the report where the rest of the cash went, though it says she spent tens of thousands of dollars per week.

Her case underscores the debate over whether the IRS should issue refunds via debit cards. On one hand, they’re a boon to unbanked Americans who can’t rely on direct deposits for speedy returns.

But that also means fraudsters can get their hands on cash faster than authorities can catch them. Reyes was running around Salem for two months before authorities cottoned on – and that was only after she practically served herself up on a silver platter by reporting the card stolen.

Oregon may have its own issues to sort out – the state reported $559 million in delinquent taxes in 2010 alone, according to Oregon Live – but tax fraud is running rampant nationwide.

The IRS counted more than 900,000 fraudulent tax returns in 2011 that totaled $6.5 billion – and that’s only counting returns that weren’t actually issued. The IRS told CNN earlier this year it couldn’t estimate how much cash has been doled out to scammers.

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