Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “types of crime”

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.

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.

FBI Internet Fraud

FBI Internet Fraud – http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How can you tell if that e-mail from the FBI is a fake?
  • How would a character report an internet scam?
  • What is ransomware?
  • What are ways that smartphones could be compromised?


News stories and alerts of common internet scams such as:

  • Smartphone Users Should be Aware of Malware Targeting Mobile Devices and Safety Measures to Help Avoid Compromise
  • E-Mails Containing Malware Sent to Businesses Concerning Their Online Job Postings
  • Fraudulent Notification Deceives Consumers Out of Thousands of Dollars
  • Involvement in Criminal Activity Through Work-From-Home Scams
  • Claims of Being Stranded Swindle Consumers Out of Thousands of Dollars
  • New Twist on Counterfeit Check Schemes Targeting U.S. Law Firms
  • Mystery/Secret Shopper Schemes

FBI Common Fraud Schemes

FBI Common Fraud Schemes – http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some signs you are dealing with telemarketing fraud?
  • How does a prime bank bond scheme work?
  • How can reverse mortgages figure in scams against the elderly?


The place to go if you want to feature a scam in your story. Includes mail and telemarketing schemes. Also provides information on “Rolling Labs” and other medical scams.

Uniform Crime Statistics (National)

Uniform Crime Statistics (National) – http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/crimestats

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find tables of murder by relationship?
  • How many arson cases were there in Pittsburgh in 2012?
  • How has the number of aggravated assaults in Alaska varied from 1960 through 2012?
  • How many police officers did Los Angeles have in 1990?


From the website:

Crime in the U.S. is the most comprehensive analysis of violent crime and property crime in the nation. The annual publication compiles volume and rate of crime offenses for the nation, the states, and many cities and counties. It also includes arrest, clearance, and law enforcement employee data.

This set of reports can be helpful in establishing the level of crime in the local of your story.

Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspective for Investigators

Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspective for Investigators – http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/serial-murder

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How is serial murder defined?
  • How does the FBI deal with media in serial murder cases?
  • Why is it important for law enforcement to know traits of psychopathic behavior?


This publication was put out by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the inspiration for the series Criminal Minds. The report contains the following sections plus introductory material and appendices:

  • II. Definition of Serial Murder
  • III. Causality and the Serial Murderer
  • IV. Psychopathy and Serial Murder
  • V. Motivations & Types of Serial Murder: Symposium Model
  • VI. Investigative Issues and Best Practices
  • VII. Forensic Issues in Serial Murder Cases
  • VIII. Prosecution of Serial Murder Cases
  • IX. Media Issues in Serial Murder Investigations
  • X. Issues Regarding Talking Heads in the Media

This report seems like it would be helpful in adding realistic touches to serial killers and to the investigators charged with finding them.

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin – http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How do police handle hostage situations?
  • How does law enforcement view “sovereign citizens?”
  • Where can I learn more about school violence?


Monthly publication of articles related to law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels. Good for obtaining background. Each December issue has a subject index for that year. Interesting articles published in 2011 included:

  • “Police Corruption: An Analytical Look into Police Ethics,” Rich Martin, May, p. 11.
  • “Searches of Motor Vehicles Incident to Arrest in a Post-Gant World,” Kenneth A. Myers, April, p. 24.
  • “Police Negotiations with War Veterans: Seeing Through the Residual Fog of War,” Douglas Etter, Liane B. McCarthy, and Michael J. Asken, July, p. 1.
  • “Ingesting Poison: Adapting to Exposure to Child Pornography,” Nicole Cruz, October, p. 7
  • “The Hosam Smadi Case: An Example of Success,” Thomas D. Petrowski, Michael W. Howell, David W. Marshall, and Sheeren Zaidi, September, p. 12.
  • “Sovereign Citizens: A Growing Domestic Threat to Law Enforcement,” FBI Counterterrorism Analysis Section, September, p. 20.

The journal appears to have ceased in June 2013. But there is still a lot for writers to mine.

FBI Missing Persons page (brief summaries and descriptions)

FBI Missing Persons page (brief summaries and descriptions) – http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/kidnap

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What sorts of circumstances do people disappear under?
  • How long can missing person cases remain unsolved?
  • What can kidnapping victims look like?


Clickable photographs of people either kidnapped or disappeared. Each record has a summary of the case, a description of the missing person and in some cases additional photos.

This site will be helpful in getting a feel for the situations that people disappear under. They might also help as short story prompts.

FBI National Stolen Art Database

FBI National Stolen Art Database –https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/violent-crime/art-theft/national-stolen-art-file

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How would a character register something with the National Stolen Art File?
  • What are some abstract paintings known to be stolen?
  • What are some examples of 16th Century art known to be stolen?


If your story includes art turning up under suspicious circumstances, give this resource a try. The database can be searched by Type of object (Including book, crucifix, paintings, sculptures, tapestry and many more), title, maker, period, and “additional data.”

Search results sometimes have detailed descriptions. Records will contain the following fields: Description, Category, Maker, Materials, Measurements, Period and Additional Information. Not all fields will have information.

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