Man, this is a dry chapter for anyone who isn’t really into this stuff. Even the dog fell asleep before I could finish it. I will hit on a few interesting points, but most of it is stuff you probably learned in a college law enforcement course.
Perkins addresses how criminals throughout history have usually stuck to one type of crime. Pickpockets keep pick-pocketing. Forgers keep forging. Burglars keep burgling. As an early means of identifying criminals, police of the past would initially reference their know criminals file to start their search. They were called “modus operandi” files. Alias files were eventually developed. John Dillinger, for example, went by John Hall at times. Eventually, fingerprint technology reached a point where individuals were identified solely by their loops, whorls, and ridges. Perkins explains that in 1940, the FBI already had 14,000,000 fingerprint files. Not 14,000,000 fingers. 14 MILLION SETS. He notes that back then every time the FBI received a new set of prints, a special light would flash. At certain points of the day, the flash would occur so frequently, the flashing light provided enough consistent light one could read a book by its glow alone. Back to Dillinger, when he was arrested, his dead body was fingerprinted. At the center of all of his prints was a small blank space. He had attempted to burn the prints off with acid. Enough remained of each finger to make a positive identification.
Despite being written 75 years ago, I was impressed to see how much of the old ways are still important. The firearm and bullet examination, polygraph, powder burns, handwriting and typewriter analysis, and burglary tool examination methods are all still used in some variation or other today.
Perkins details the kidnapping and murder of a young Bobby Franks in the early part of this century. Two men, Loed and Leopold had planned the perfect crime to get ransom money. Going so far as to pre typing their ransom notes and then disassembling and destroying the typewriter so as not to be tracked, they also stalked their target and stole a car. But on the day of their crime, their target had an appointment they hadn’t planned for. They kidnapped Franks instead. With no intention of ever getting caught because of a witness statement, they killed and dumped Bobby at their earliest convenience. Almost getting caught because one of the young men left his glasses near the dead body, they were eventually caught because they had to rewrite an envelope because the original ransom note was addressed to the first boys father. Thinking he was clever, Loeb tried to disguise his handwriting when asked to provide a sample. He changed how he wrote a “c” and a “y” in the word “city” hoping to throw off the detectives. He was caught when the distinctive way he wrote the “it” stood out. Loeb and Leopold eventually confessed to the brutal killing.
I warned you it was dry. And I spared you the most boring parts. Perkins ends with this: “While the scientific crime detection laboratory is an invaluable aid, the peace officer himself is still the backbone of law enforcement.” Hear that fellas? The backbone!
What are some old school methods you still use today? Keeping in mind this was written prior to DNA, what do you think will be the next major development in crime scene analysis? Come back next time for Part III: Criminal Investigation.