Posts Tagged ‘crime’

Sites for Writers


There are only a few sites  on the blogroll as of now but I’ll be adding new ones regularly.   Avoiding the “stars”  is hard (because they’re so good) but you can find them easily on many other blogs.

Instead, I’m hoping to feature places that mystery/suspense/thriller writers might not routinely encounter but that are worth knowing about. One such site is The meaty stuff is available for a very small price — $10 for 3 months — and includes such topics as: “A Day in the Life of a Nurse Coroner,” “Nurses Who Kill: Serial Murder in Healthcare Institutions,” and “The Myths and Legends of Sperm, Sexual Assault, Sex, and Contraception.” They also have a long list of comprehensive forensics articles and studies.  The perspective is, of course, the nurse’s, which is a little different from what we usually are exposed to.

Another off-the-beaten-path site  is This  zany place mixes cartoons and hands-on medicine, so if you want to learn about either, it might be a good spot for you.   The site could be called  “Learning Medicine Despite ‘House,'” as Scott, the doctor/blogger, frequently dissects medical practices on the TV program, “House,” and finds them wanting.  The concept of the whole thing is ingenious  and though probably not what you’re after if you’re out to learn the A to Zs of a particular disease, it’s a lot of fun and has a way of pulling you in.  I ran across it when investigating curare and, yes, it actually gave me an important piece of information I couldn’t find on half a dozen of the more buttoned-up medical sites.



I have no idea who runs this blog, but, for a mystery/thriller writer, it’s a source of endless (if sad and grizzly) fascination. Click on any of the red signs for more info, then on the title above the photo for the  full story of each crime. You can click on nearby incidents as well.  The site also offers you the option of checking recent murders and suicides by year.

Murder/Suicide: Murder/Suicide USA 2011

Femicide — A Special Kind of Crime


There’s a new term we’re getting familiar with in crime jargon.  It’s “femicide,” which loosely means the killing of a female.  This definition was first used in England in 1801 but in modern times has most commonly been associated with genocidal killing of women in places such as the Congo, Mexico, Guatemala, and the Middle East.  In fact, the term, in its genocidal form, has come to be known as killing women because they are women.  A more horrifying term is used by, which is dedicated to stopping femicide in the Kivu region of the Congo and Zaire.  They mince no words and simply call it the extermination of women.

In the U.S., femicide is a relatively recent term which has come to be associated with the murder of women by intimate partners.  The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women has issued its “2010 Femicide Report” and it contains some surprising information.

First, out of 11 “lethality indicators” — “separation, extended history of domestic violence or other violence, pregnancy, threats or fantasies of homicide or suicide, access to a firearm, threats to use a weapon, stalking, attempted strangulation, forced sex, extreme jealousy and control of daily activities” — MCBW has isolated four which are considered the most reliable.

These high risk behaviors, which MCBW identifies as lethality factors, are: 1)  the victim’s efforts to break free of  the abuser,  2)  earlier threats to murder the victim,  3)  access of the abuser to firearms, and  4)  any history of violence by the abuser.

MCBW has been investigating these four factors since 2006.  Their most striking conclusion is that  leaving a  spouse abuser (or batterer) does not lessen the threat of lethal violence against the woman in the relationship.  In fact, approximately two-thirds of intimate partner violent deaths occur after or while a woman is leaving.  The issue of control by the man — or, more specifically, lack of it — appears to be a strong contributing factor.

MCBW also considers a previous threat to kill as one of the most predictive factors in fatal spousal assault.  Ironically, they state that the criminal and civil justice systems tend to overlook such threats.

Firearms are used in two-thirds of domestic deaths.  Access to any type of gun raises the likelihood of killing.

Finally, a batterer’s overall history of violence is a key predictor.

Because the MCBW relies on news accounts for its information, it has some holes in its statistics.  For example, the 2010 report states that 47% of all abusers have a documented history of violence.  However, the remaining 53% are not in the No Previous Violence category, as we might expect, but are in the Unknown category.  Zero percent of documented abusers are categorized “No Previous Violence.”

Although this is a relatively local study, it has broader implications.  We will have to see if other states begin collecting information on femicide as a specific category of offense or if this is a trend of definition that is simply below the radars of most law enforcement officials and judicial authorities.  In the meantime, the term itself is enough to make many of us uncomfortable.  Whether it’s genocide in the Congo or domestic male on female murder in the Twin Cities, femicide is something that needs to be seriously addressed.

For more information, see  You may also be interested in “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide,”  a report by HOMICIDE STUDIES, Vol. 3 No. 4, November 1999 300-316 © 1999 Sage Publications, Inc.  See Although the report is over ten years old, it was done by an outstanding group of analysts and contains still relevant information.

Chicago Coverup?


Yesterday, I wrote about Lubbock, Texas, which posted a 100+ murder clearance rate for 2010 (they also solved three cold cases) and has one of the lowest murder rates in the country.  Today, I came across a story about Chicago, which is claiming a 5% drop in its 2010 murder rate. This would be the lowest  rate of homicides in almost half a century.  How have they done it?  Well, the article claims they mis-classify dozens of potential homicides as “uncleared death investigations.”

Read more at:

Here’s another link that may be of interest.



They’re doing something right in Lubbock, Texas.  2010 saw ALL homicides solved – plus 3 cold cases, including one from 1994.  To say that Lubbock consistently ranks above the national average in closing cases is to put it mildly. Lubbock cleared an astonishing 93% of cases over a 10 year period. And that includes the off-year of 2009, when their clearance rate was  69%, only 2.4% above the average for the nation.  Homicide rates are also down, again under the national average.  Maybe other cities need to visit Lubbock for some advice.  For more interesting details, check

More Murder Stats


The 2011 Census Bureau Statistical Abstract is out.  There’s a lot of meat here.  The latest year’s numbers are for 2007  and 2008 and show an up and down pattern in murders since 1997.  We are told by other well-documented sources that homicides for 2010 are generally down.  The document examines crime in 16 different reports; 12 include murder.  There is also a section on law enforcement and the courts, which contains reports on criminal victimization and arrests.


How Much Do We Really Know About Murder — Part 2


In the first part of “How Much Do We Really Know About Murder?” I provided statistics from the FBI that broke down murders by the method used.  While for crime writers it’s interesting to look at these statistics and compare them to the weapons and motives  we employ in our books, there are some non-statistics which make for more dismal reading.  The FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List” is decidedly unpleasant and the Bureau’s photographs of murder victims, some of them still unidentified, some of them children, are nothing but sad.  See: Perhaps you can put a name to an unfortunate on these pages.

In other ways, the FBI  remains a wealth of information for crime writers.   Two areas in particular are VICAP and laboratory analysis.

Almost everyone who reads or writes  crime novels has run across the term VICAP. VICAP is actually part of a larger and more complex organization — the Critical Incident Response Group. There’s a lot of information on the CIRG page.  Some of it I had never come across before.  See:

An eye-opener for me was this section : View the map and you’ll be amazed at the range and number of highway serial killings.

Since this is the age of CSI, no overview of murder would be complete without forensics.  The FBI is the strongman in this field.  Have a look at:

There are many, many excellent sites on the web for crime research.  Next time, I’ll post a few of the lesser known ones as an update.

In the meantime — stay safe.