Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the category “Crimes, Criminals, Cops and Crimefighters”

Nebraska State Police – Police Dogs

Nebraska State Police – Police Dogs – http://statepatrol.nebraska.gov/vnews/display.v/ART/5638ebb033051?in_archive=1

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How long has Nebraska been using police dogs?
  • What are dual-purpose police dogs?
  • What sorts of tasks can police service dogs do?


This web page provides a nice overview of the types of jobs that police service dogs can accomplish along with a brief description of the selection and training process for dogs and their handlers. The selection of handlers includes a home visit because dogs live with their handlers when off duty. There is also a gallery of police dog photos. The Nebraska program appears to encourage public inquiry and contact information is provided at the bottom of the page.


Law enforcement K-9 dog bites: injuries, complications, and trends (1997)

Law enforcement K-9 dog bites: injuries, complications, and trends (1997)  – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9140249

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What’s the difference between “bite and hold” vs “find and bark”?
  • In Los Angeles, between 1988 and 1995, what percentage of police dog bite victims were black or Hispanic?
  • What sorts of injuries can one receive from a police dog?


Medline is a medical literature database operated by the National Library of Medicine. This particular item is a record for an article from the Annals of Emergency Medicine studying whether the Los Angeles Police Department’s shift from having their dogs “bite and hold” to “find and bark” reduced bite injuries on suspects. Although the full article is not freely available, the abstract is enough to give you information on K9 bites in a large city. It also documents that “find and bark” does seem to easier on suspects and dogs alike.

You’ll hear more about Medline and MedlinePlus, its layman oriented partner in Health Issues and Tragic Complications.

Fingerprint and Other Biometrics

Fingerprint and Other Biometrics – http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/fingerprints_biometrics

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Should subjects follow along with the fingerprint collection process?
  • How often is CODIS used in criminal cases?
  • What are three features found in fingerprints?


This would be good background for spy or crime stories. Some of the items of interest:

Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) – Describes the database and tells how long it takes to produce a hit (~30 min). Prior to it’s activation in 1998, it could take weeks or months to match a print if a match existed.

Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) – From the website, “CODIS is the acronym for the “Combined DNA Index System” and is the generic term used to describe the FBI’s program of support for criminal justice DNA databases as well as the software used to run these databases. The National DNA Index System or NDIS is considered one part of CODIS, the national level, containing the DNA profiles contributed by federal, state, and local participating forensic laboratories.”

Fingerprint Identification Overview (pdf) – Brief history of fingerprinting including pictures of standard fingerprint forms.
Recording Legible Fingerprints – Procedures for taking fingerprints. Includes special circumstances like extra finger or deformed fingers.

Fingerprint and Criminal History Record Training – Extensive catalog of courses in this area. Only open to law enforcement personnel but descriptions may be helpful in providing character education and experience. Representative courses from Training and Records Testimony Team’s Catalog of Classes:

  • Course 12: Answer Hits to Wants (AHTW) – Description: This sixteen-week class is intended to provide instruction to Criminal History Record employees on the policy, criteria, critical information, and procedures for the AHTW function. Upon completion of this course, employees will be trained to competency in performing the duties of the function. (640 hours)
  • Course 16: Classifying Fingerprints Using Henry – Description: This class instructs students in the three basic fingerprint pattern types and the classification pertaining to each. They will learn to select the proper deltas, cores, type lines and other fingerprint characteristics, in order to assign an accurate and complete fingerprint classification, and to formulate the Henry Classification following the classification of each finger. (40 hours)
  • Course 99: Introduction to Friction Ridge Embryology – Description: This one-hour overview will provide information on how fingerprints form during fetal development, how the patterns arise, and the factors that influence ridge development. (1 hour)

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Cancer Research Autopsy Pathology Rotation

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Cancer Research Autopsy Pathology Rotation (http://home.ccr.cancer.gov/LOP/intranet/ResidentsManual/sect4autopat.asp)
UPDATE: Checked on 6/29/17, this resource was not found.  Will be checking for new links or similar resources.

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What organs need to be weighed after death in the course of an autopsy?
  • What hours can a typical autopsy resident expect to work?
  • What is the relationship between a junior resident and a senior resident?


A procedures guides to residents working in the NCI autopsy department. Mix of administrative and how-to materials including:

  • Hours and Rotation on Autopsy Service
  • Autopsy Responsibilities for Residents During Other Rotations
  • Work-up and Sign-Out
  • Instructions for Dictation of Autopsy Reports
  • Delinquent Autopsies (Autopsies Older Than 60 days)
  • Gross Examination – Outline of Basic Method, to be modified as needed for individual cases
  • Safety Considerations

Although this is not for a criminal morgue, many procedures are similar.

For more on autopsy procedures, see Everything and Everyone Dies.


Terrorist Organization Profiles

Terrorist Organization Profiles – http://www.start.umd.edu/start/data_collections/tops/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some examples of nationalism based terror groups?
  • What are some Canadian terrorist organizations?
  • Who were the Peace Conquerors?


Updated through 2008, this is the place to go for background on terrorist groups you either want in your stories as they are or as models for fictional terrorist groups you plan to create.

This database can be searched by keyword or browsed by location, ideology or organization name.

Each Record contains Mothertongue name, Aliases, Bases of Operation, Date formed (when available), Strength (when available), Classifications (Ideology), Financial Sources, Founding Philosophy, current goals, Key Leaders (when available), Related Groups, US Government Designations and Other Governments’ Designation.

Searching groups by ideology, it appears that nationalism is a stronger motivator than religion in the period the US has been tracking terrorist groups. 208 organizations are tagged as religiously motivated, but 339 organizations are tagged as Nationalist/Separatist.

About 30 groups are classed as racially inspired. The oddest sounding name to me is the Phineas Priesthood, a group of anti-Semitic US white supremacists who take their inspiration from the Jewish priest Phineas. Interestingly, no attacks are attributed to it in the Global Terrorism Database.

Global Terrorism Database

Global Terrorism Database – http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What terror attacks can be attributed to anti-abortion opposition?
  • How many terrorist linked biological attacks have taken place since 2001?
  • What are some attacks in China that killed more than 100 people each?

This database covers terrorist attacks from 1970 through 2012 and covers both international and US domestic terrorism. The database can be browsed or searched by keyword. For example, searching on abortion brings up 257 incidents since 1970, with virtually all in the United States.

Search results include GTD ID, Date of Attack, Country, City, Perpetrator, Fatalities, Injured, Target Type. The results list can be sorted by any column by clicking its heading. Clicking on a specific incident brings up a summary of the attack and a number of details including the news accounts of the accounts.

An Advanced search allows you to search by: When, Region, Country, Perpetrator, Weapon Type, Attack Type, Target Type, Terrorism Criteria and Causalities. If you are using multiple criteria, be sure to pick a country or region before selecting other criteria.

Back in 2011, a search for attacking resulting in more than a 101 deaths in the United States pulled up four attacks: Timothy McVeigh’s killing of 168 people in Oklahoma City in 1995 and the three attacks on 9/11. Looking globally, there have been 118 terrorist incidents killing more than a 101 people at once. Ten of these have taken place in Iraq since 2006.

Abusive Tax Schemes (aka Illegal Tax Shelters)

Abusive Tax Schemes – https://www.irs.gov/compliance/criminal-investigation/abusive-tax-schemes-criminal-investigation-ci

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are the most common types of abusive tax schemes?
  • How do people hide money overseas?
  • How does a false billing scheme work?


This is where a writer should go for stories that involve illegal tax shelters and creative (and illegal) uses of offshore accounts. Here’s an example of what the IRS considers to be an abusive tax scheme:

Diamond Merchant Sentenced for Conspiring to Hide $7.1 Million in Swiss Bank Accounts

On November 9, 2011, in Manhattan, N.Y., Richard Werdiger, a former client of Swiss bank UBS AG, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison, one year of supervised release, fined $50,000 and ordered to pay a $600 special assessment. Werdiger pleaded guilty in March 2011 to conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by hiding more than $7.1 million at UBS, filing false federal income tax returns, and evading nearly $400,000 of taxes. Werdiger agreed to pay a civil penalty of more than $3.8 million for his failure to report his overseas accounts. Restitution will be determined at a later date. According to court documents and statements made in court, from 1986 to 1988, Werdiger opened multiple accounts at UBS under the name of sham Liechtenstein-based foundations in order to evade taxes on money that he had inherited from his father. To further conceal his ownership of these accounts, Werdiger instructed UBS to permit him to communicate with the bank using the code name “Trygon.” In late 2000, Werdiger opened up yet another account at UBS in the name of a sham Panamanian corporation. This allowed him to continue to invest in U.S. securities without having UBS notify the IRS of his identity or withhold taxes on income arising out of his holding U.S. securities. During the conspiracy, Werdiger used the funds hidden offshore to satisfy various business obligations, such as paying off business debts incurred by his companies, Michael Werdiger Inc. and Eloquence Corporation, which sell diamonds and other jewelry.

Program and Emphasis Areas for IRS Criminal Investigation

Program and Emphasis Areas for IRS Criminal Investigation – http://www.irs.gov/uac/Program-and-Emphasis-Areas-for-IRS-Criminal-Investigation

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Why is the IRS involved with narcotics investigation?
  • What are some signs of an abusive tax scheme?
  • Where can I find examples of healthcare billing fraud?


This is an overview of the types of investigations that the Internal Revenue Service gets involved in. Clicking on the title of a section brings you to a fact sheet with a more detailed overview of that fraud topic, statistical information on the occurrence of the fraud, and most helpfully for writers, examples of cases of that particular type of fraud. The types of investigations are:


  • Abusive Return Preparer Enforcement
  • Abusive Tax Schemes
  • Bankruptcy Fraud
  • Corporate Fraud
  • Employment Tax Enforcement
  • Financial Institution Fraud
  • Gaming
  • General Fraud Investigations
  • Healthcare Fraud
  • Identity Theft Schemes
  • Insurance Fraud
  • International Investigations
  • Money Laundry & Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)
  • Mortgage & Real Estate Fraud
  • Narcotics-Related Investigation
  • Nonfiler Enforcement
  • Public Corruption Crimes
  • Questionable Refund Program (QRP)

Here’s a summary of one of the IRS narcotics investigations:

Seven St. Croix Men Sentenced for Money Laundering and Drug Trafficking

On December 2, 2011, in St. Croix, V.I., seven defendants were sentenced for money laundering and drug trafficking. In March 2011, Lionel Fawkes, Christopher Alfred, Shango Allick, David Clouden, Marcelino Garcia, Jamaal Maragh and Jamal Young were found guilty of numerous counts of money laundering. Additionally, all of these defendants, except Maragh, were convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and Fawkes only, of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The evidence at trial disclosed a drug trafficking organization operating in Fairbanks, Alaska, that was supplied with narcotics from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Cocaine and crack cocaine were sent, usually via Express Mail parcels, from St. Croix to Fairbanks. Members of the organization in Alaska then distributed the narcotics in Alaska for significant financial profit. Some of the illegal drug proceeds were then sent back to St. Croix, via Western Union wire transfers and money orders. Documentation uncovered showed at least 167 wire transfers and money orders were sent between St. Croix and Fairbanks, totaling approximately $307,849.

Internet Fraud Schemes

Internet Fraud Schemes – http://www.ic3.gov/crimeschemes.aspx

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some signs of auction fraud?
  • How does a parcel courier scheme work?
  • Why is shipping items to a third country almost always a bad idea?


There are a number of agencies with jurisdiction over internet fraud, for example the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission, just to name two. The Internet Fraud Complaint Center is a partnership of federal agencies working together on e-fraud issues. This page provides information on different fraud schemes, including:

  • Auction Fraud
  • Auction Fraud — Romania
  • Counterfeit Cashier’s Check
  • Credit Card Fraud
  • Debt Elimination
  • Parcel Courier Email Scheme
  • Employment/Business Opportunities
  • Escrow Services Fraud
  • Internet Extortion
  • Lotteries
  • Nigerian Letter or “419”
  • Phishing/Spoofing
  • Reshipping
  • Third Party Receiver of Funds

This site might be helpful in deciding which schemes a con-artist character might become involved in or provide details about how a specific scheme might work. It can also provide a way for honest characters to get ensnared in crime.

FBI Jury Duty Fraud

FBI Jury Duty Fraud – http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2006/june/jury_scam060206

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How can you tell when a call purporting to be from a court is fake?
  • What information should you never give over the phone?


This is a 2006 news release on a less common scam that involves fear of authority. From the article:

The phone rings, you pick it up, and the caller identifies himself as an officer of the court. He says you failed to report for jury duty and that a warrant is out for your arrest. You say you never received a notice. To clear it up, the caller says he’ll need some information for “verification purposes”-your birth date, social security number, maybe even a credit card number.

This might be a good story starter or backstory for a character.

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