Homicides drop to an all-time low in the city of New York

According to an estimate report published by the Brennan Centre for Justice, homicides in the city of New York were below three hundred in 2017 (between 273 and 286, according to sources). If we bear in mind that in 1990 2,245 were recorded, the drop is surprising and the figures are the lowest since the 1950s,[1] after a slight rise during the two previous years, which was particularly due to the situation in certain cities, of which Chicago and Baltimore are the most noteworthy.[2]The homicide rate is 3.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, a figure which is decidedly low for the United States.

In general, in New York crime as a whole has gone down by 3.3% compared with the previous year, and violent crime has gone down by 7.4%.[3] This downward trend is noted all over the country with a drop of 1.8% regarding global crime, at its second lowest point since 1990. Violent crime is down 0.6%, particularly thanks to Chicago’s stabilisation (the figures of which are still worrying, with over 750 homicides) and Washington D.C. As cities with homicide rates which continue to rise, the cases of Baltimore (375)¾which leads the violent crime ranking, followed very closely by Memphis¾and of Philadelphia(from 271 to 291) must be noted, where the results of the famous 2009[4] experiment would appear to have failed completely. In the country globally, it is forecast that homicides will see a drop of 2.5%, especially due to the drop predicted in Detroit (25.6%), Houston (20.5%) and New York (19.1%).

Although the fall in crime seems evident, this does not apply to the underlying reasons. A hard line (zero tolerance) policy had often been resorted to, applied by many police forces (quite emblematically by the New York force in the 1990s) to justify this halt in crime. However, over recent years the number of arrests and the use of force by most police forces has notably gone down (especially in New York, which now boasts a community police force), with a more moderate use of firearms and an increase in the use of less lethal weapons, and figures continue to fall. The New York police force has opted for a strategy which focuses on criminals who are potentially more dangerous, and at the same time having a closer relationship with the community, in order to generate trust and security. Criminology, however, is not at all unanimous when accepting this argument as an only cause for the continued drop in crime.

[1] Vid. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/27/nyregion/new-york-city-crime-2017.html

[2] Vid. https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/city-graphs-crime-2017-preliminary-analysis

[3] Vid. https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/crime-2017-preliminary-analysis

[4] Vid. http://www.cla.temple.edu/cj/files/2015/11/PFPE_research_summary.pdf


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Two examples of the use of open data related to crime in the USA

Open DataFurther to official statistical reports, which we have habitually been echoed in this blog, open data portals and transparency regulations enable academics, researchers and journalists, to analyse data to obtain information about evolutions and trends whether they refer to crime in general or specific incidents. We will now show two examples of this analysis which take advantage of open data in the USA.

Murders of whites are on the increase

The news portal The Crime Report echoes a study which uses supplementary homicide reports of the FBI to analyse the increase in victims of homicides in the USA between 2014 and 2016 (which was 22%). While majority public opinion related this increase with tensions between police and Afro-American communities and police negligence in some neighbourhoods, this study focused on the increase in the deaths of white people, the biggest since the start of the 1990s. The hypothesis worked on is that this increase would be related to the increase in the consumption of heroin in the USA which has caused an incredible increase in the murder of white people.

Despite this, they recognise that the violence related to the drug market is a long way from the one caused by the crack cocaine market in the 1990s, and this hypothesis must be confirmed with more detailed studies in a local or neighbourhood context.

Advances in crime-related data

The FBI publishes official data about crime in the USA between September and October, but most big cities in this country have open data portals where they habitually publish their own data. Taking advantage of this greater frequency, and requesting further information from some cities, the Brennan Centre for Justice of the New York University law school publishes estimating analysis of the evolution of crime (which they update during the course of the year). In this analysis, they gather the data of the 30 biggest cities in the USA, and compare it with the official data from the previous year. It must be noted that this study is estimation-related, as it carries out projections of the annual data of the current year based on the data corresponding to the first six months and to the basis of the weight of crimes during the first six months in previous years.

Therefore, the first estimation report 2016 (from the month of September), projected a global increase of crime by 1.3%. Update (from the month of December), reduced this increase to 0.3%, whereas the final data (in the report published in June 2017) showed an increase of 0.9%.[1]

Although differences between the estimated evolution at these two different times and the final figure may seem to be large, it must be kept in mind that the final source, the FBI, also publishes a preliminary report at the beginning of the year with some six-monthly data, in which evolutions are also quite different from the annual evolutions.

[1] The two latest publications correspond to data estimates 2017 based on data from the first semester and updates in mid-December 2017.


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Has capital punishment become decadent in the United States of America?

The Death Penalty Information Centre (DPIC) has just published a report on the death penalties passed and executed in 2017 which states that it is the lowest since 1973, although it means a small rise compared with 2016 which was the lowest figure in the same period[1]. In the same vein, capital punishment sentences passed have gone from 279 in 1999 to 39 in 2017 (with the previous year recording a historic minimum with 31). Furthermore, these sentences are geographically very concentrated. There are three counties (Riverside, CA, Clark, NV, and Maricopa, AZ) which are the focus of 31% of the sentences passed this year. These counties do not exactly appear to be examples in terms of criminal justice (Riverside police force is ninth in the ranking of civilians killed by the police). On the other hand, the county of Harris, in Texas, a traditionally prolific capital punisher, has not passed any such sentence this year, which is regarded to be a change in trend. Executions are also very concentrated, more specifically 75% of those carried out this year took place in four states: Texas, Arkansas, Florida and Alabama.

All of this coincides with the rates of support for capital punishment in recent times, which is still estimated to be 55% of the population (it had reached 80% in the mid-nineties). In 2010 a survey by Like Research Partners showed that 61% of those interviewed preferred sentences other than death for crimes like homicide and murder.

One of the reasons for the supposed disrepute of this measure may have been signs of faulty evidence, excessively aggressive prosecutors and relatively unprofessional defences which led to, in a non-isolated way, the sentencing of people who had not been proven to have committed the actions they were accused of. Indeed, 160 people have been freed while they were on death row since 1973 because their innocence was proven.

Another factor is the evident racial bias in the application and execution of the death sentence. While blacks and Hispanics constitute 15 and 7%, respectively, of those sentenced to death, a higher percentage are actually executed (34.3 and 8.3% respectively). In 75% of cases which actually conclude with an execution the victim was a white person (although these only represent half the victims of homicide and murder). In coherence with this data the immense majority of these executions (1,195) took place in southern states. Those executed in the afore-mentioned Riverside county between 2010 and 2015 were black in 76% of cases.

All the same, in spite of this downward trend, 31 states still apply the penalty[2]. In total since 1976 1,465 people have been executed[3] and on 1st July 2017, 2,817 people were still on death row awaiting execution.

 [1] Vid. https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/2017YrEnd.pdf

[2] Vid. https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/states-and-without-death-penalty

[3] Vid. https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf


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The Community of Valencia makes advances in the construction of a police system


The publication in February of the Valencia security agency law and the response to emergencies already indicated a bid to construct an integrated security system to improve on self-contained traditional frameworks (police, fire-fighters, civil protection..)[1]. Recently the Generalitat of Valencia has taken a step further towards this systematic construction in the field of policing with the passing of Law 17/2017, on 13 December, to coordinate local police forces within the community of Valencia[2]. This text introduces a range of mechanisms that try to construct a system based on existing local police forces (and in some cases includes other police forces operating in their territory).

Therefore, for example, a network of transmissions is included among the functions that integrate the competence of coordination of local police forces to connect the different local police forces and also provide access to databases concerning security developed by the Ministry of the Interior; the establishment of a mutual information system for the different local police forces; the impetus provided by such coordination and cooperation between administrations to enhance the provision of police security services in supramunicipal contexts or regarding services for municipal associations, and also the design of a local territorial security plan, are all functions intended to facilitate a systematic and coherent intervention by police forces.

Furthermore, a range of organs are foreseen in order to contribute to homogeneity and coordination, among which are the following:

a) The Valencia Institute of Security and Emergencies, which, for example, will annually organise physical and psycho technical entrance tests for local police officers, which will have a two-year validity. Those who wish to apply for vacancies for local police officers will therefore have to pass this “initial phase” which will guarantee that all candidates satisfy the same prerequisites.

b) The Security Observatory of the Community of Valencia, as a forum for debate, dissemination and study of security problems and includes not only local police officers but also the relevant unit, the National Police, the Guardia Civil and the association of criminologists.

c) The Internal Affairs Committee, the functions of which include collaborating with local police officers to monitor the legality of its agents.

d) Supramunicipal councils to coordinate local police officers.

e) Promotion of members of local police forces within other community forces which are different to theirs, in order to provide mobility by reserving vacancies.

f) An obligation for local police forces to have enough material and human resources to be authorised and made active.

g) Intermunicipal agreements to reinforce police forces that, temporarily, need it.

Finally, as noteworthy new additions, the law opts for a more even organisational structure of police forces (between 6 and 2 categories in accordance with the number of inhabitants of a municipality), enabling members of other police forces to process files (in the case of serious or very serious offences), providing a detailed regulation of a second activity and actively promoting gender equality at all levels, obliging police forces with fewer than 40% of women officers to reserve 30% of vacancies for women in future recruitment campaigns.

[1] Vid. http://notesdeseguretat.blog.gencat.cat/?s=Ag%C3%A8ncia+Valenciana+de+Seguretat

[2] Vid. http://www.dogv.gva.es/datos/2017/12/15/pdf/2017_11424.pdf


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Half of the USA’s most serious crimes are not reported

Percentages regarding the reporting of crimes and incidents to the authorities (the dark figure) is one of the items of information uncovered by crime surveys.

    • In the USA, in 2016, approximately half (51%) of the most serious violent crimes were reported (sexual assault, theft with violence and serious violent assault).
    • Percentages fall to 42% regarding violent crime in general, and to 36% regarding crime against property.
    • The type of incidents with the lowest dark figure is the theft of motor vehicles, given that 80% of such cases are reported.
    • Meanwhile, sexual assault is the least reported, at 23%.

Crime rates

The crime rate was 21.1 for violent crime per 1,000 inhabitants over 12 years of age. Of these, 7 of each 1,000 correspond to serious crime, and the remaining 14.1 refer to minor assaults. Of all violent crime, the rate was higher when it concerned assault by strangers (8.2) as opposed to violence involving a partner (2.2 crimes per 1,000 inhabitants). Within the area of violent assault, almost 1.8 crimes involved the use of firearms per 1,000 inhabitants; of which 61% were reported (this figure includes both the showing of the firearm and its actual use).

Regarding crime against property, the surveys showed that there had been 119.4 incidents per 1,000 homes; of which 90.3 correspond to theft or robbery without violence and without entering the home, 24.7 to burglaries or unlawful entry, and 4.4 to vehicle theft.


These are some of the results provided by the latest edition of the US crime survey , published by the US Justice Department in December 2017.The surveys were carried out, in 2016, with 224,520 residents in the USA over 12 years of age and in 134,690 homes, and who were asked about incidents that had occurred during the previous six months. This year the sample has been redesigned to take in the changes which have taken place in the census of the population and to be able to make estimations in the 22 most populated states and in some of the metropolitan areas of these states. Consequently, the results cannot be directly compared with previous years. Despite this, those in charge state that the sample is the same in these areas, and that any changes are not statistically significant.

This data complements that obtained by police statistics and which we included some weeks ago in Security Notes.


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Europol holds an international conference of experts in the field of burglaries

A local and regional focus is not enough to dismantle mobile organised crime groups (MOCG- Mobile Organized Crime Group) if Europe is to be a safer place. Aware of this, Europol, which works with the Police of Munich, BKA Germany, Eurojust and the Spanish National Police, gathered together over 300 top level experts from police services and the judiciary, as well as some investigators, from 38 countries, at the end of November 2017, to discuss the typology of crime against property, organised in Europol’s The Hague headquarters.

ThiefOrganised crime against real estate, especially inside the property, is a crime that all security organisms of the European Union combat firmly with numerous actions as they have a profound effect on the victims and provoke a strong feeling of insecurity in the general public. A large number of these crimes are committed by mobile organised crime groups (MOCG), characterised by a high rate of flexibility and mobility.

The objective of these conferences was to study how to effectively combat criminal groups in the field of theft by improving cross border structures. The intensive, transnational and interdisciplinary work of the conference participants sought to identify similarities and problematic areas in the fight against crime, thereby developing specific solutions. Only close national and international cooperation allows for the identification of crimes and active cross border offenders. There is also an attempt to establish a common understanding with investigations, which should not only be centred on active criminals in situ, as, indeed, it should also include intellectuals and facilitators, including investigations into finance and the recovery of assets.

Europol plays a key role in the fight against criminal activity involving organised crime against property. To help members in a more efficient way and continue with a multi-disciplinary and horizontal focus, the Crimes against Property Unit focuses on mobile organised crime groups (MOCG). One of the main objectives is to increase awareness in the member states affected. There is a lot of information available at an investigative level in the member states but it is not shared. The objective must be that this crucial knowledge be made available by organisms applying the law in other countries affected.

The project basically focuses on:

The introduction of a new support team with four secondary national experts (since 2016) with the task of linking up with investigators and prosecutors of the member states.

Identify the structures and the members of the gangs of criminals involved.

Organisation of operational meetings.

Provide operational analysis support during ongoing operations.

Identify and detect new trends via strategic analysis.

Organise conferences of experts and training courses all over Europe.

Improve the web-oriented focus.

Support and improvement of the Europol platform for experts in domestic theft.


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Europol documents how illegal drugs finance organised crime in the EU

Europol has just published how illegal drugs sustain organised crime, and how these serve to finance organised crime in the EU.

It is estimated that the drug business in the EU generates at least 24 thousand million Euros in income every year, which makes it the EU´s biggest criminal market.

  • Roughly 35% of organised criminal groups in the UE participate in the production, trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs. 75% of these groups use more than one type of narcotic drug.
  • The synthetic drug and the new psycho active substances (NPS) markets continue to be the most dynamic drug markets in the EU; over the last 5 years 620 new substances have been detected.
  • There has been a significant increase in the availability of narcotics in the European illegal drug market. Since 2012, a total of 24 new types of drugs have been identified.
  • The drugs are sold widely online via several platforms. The sale of medication via markets on the dark web is an important threat and continues to spread.
  • Little success in the fight against the laundering of capital: Money laundering activities in the EU are significant, reflecting the profits generated by the drug business. Moreover, the global framework against money laundering has displayed a deficient success rate. A mere l.1% of illegal resources are confiscated by the competent authorities at EU level.

On 6 and 7th December 2017, the head drug units of all the EU member states, representatives of the Commission of the EU and EU agencies, such as Eurojust and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OEDT), and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), other operative members and 10 third countries with operational agreements with Europol met at Europol to identify and discuss the introduction of new ways of addressing the illegal drug business, which is one the biggest penal threats to the EU. This conference complements the assessment of the implementation of the Drugs Strategy of the EU 2013-2020 and the EU drugs action plan 2013-2016 from the European Commission.

According to this assessment, it is demonstrated that there has been progress in all EU action plans aimed at reducing the availability of drugs, but over recent years, no significant reduction in the supply of drugs has been recorded. Basing itself on the results of the assessment, the new drugs action plan 2017-2020 provides a consolidated response to the newly emerging health and security challenges regarding the use and trafficking of illegal drugs.

Europol is the EU agency that helps member states to fight against serious international crime and terrorism. Established as an EU agency in 2010, Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, is at the centre of the European architecture of security and offers a unique range of services. Europol is a support centre for operations in the field of security, a source of information about criminal activities and an experienced centre for the application of the law. Europol works closely with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OEDT) to fight against illegal drugs.


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Proactive Police strategies: are they useful?

Proactive police practice may be understood to be “police practice strategies which, among their objectives, include the prevention or the reduction of crimes and disorders and that are not reactive in that they primarily focus attention on uncovering ongoing crime or investigating crimes after they have been committed”.  This is the definition that is used as a reference in the book Proactive policing: Effect on crime and communities, published by the National Academies of the USA in November 2017.

The book is the result of an investigation carried out by a scientific committee made up of sociologists, criminologists, lawyers and members of security forces, which intends to review evidence and debate the shortcomings related to data and methodology by focusing on four aspects of proactive police practice in the fight against crime:

  1. the effects and the different ways it is implemented,
  2. whether it is applied in a discriminatory way,
  3. if it is used in accordance with laws,
  4. the reaction of the community to this strategy.

To do this, they have established four different approximations to proactive police activity: based on space, resolution of problems, centred on people, and based on the community. Each of these approximations defines its own logical models of crime prevention, proactive strategies, primary objectives and main ways of meeting objectives, all of which are reviewed in the table below:

  Place-Based Approach Problem-Solving Approach Person-Focused Approach Community-Based Approach
Logic model for crime prevention Capitalize on the evidence for the concentration of crime at microgeographic places Use a problem-oriented approach, which seeks to identify problems as patterns across crime events and then identify the causes of those problems. Draw upon solutions tailored to the problem causes, with attention to assessment Capitalize on the strong concentration of crime among a small proportion of the criminal population Capitalize on the resources of communities to identify and control crime.
Policing strategies Hot spots policing; predictive policing; CCTV. Problem-oriented policing; third party policing; proactive partnering Focused deterrence; repeat offender programs; stop, question, and frisk Community-oriented policing; procedural justice policing; broken windows policing
Primary objective Prevent crime in micro-geographic places Solve recurring problems to prevent future crime Prevent and deter specific crimes by targeting known offenders Enhance collective efficacy and community collaboration with police.
Key ways to accomplish objective Identification of crime hot spots and application of focused strategies Scan and analyze crime problems, identify solutions and assess them (SARA model)[1] Identification of known high rate offenders and application of strategies to these specific offenders. Develop approaches that engage the community, or that change the way police interact with citizens.

Font: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2017, page. S-2)

The report has found evidence that, at least in the short term, many proactive police practices are successful in reducing crime and disorder, without hindering relations between the police and the community. Despite this, some flaws in the research carried out mean that some important questions cannot be assessed, like at the moment, the legality of police procedures or discriminatory conduct for racial reasons. Nor have the effects of this type of police strategies been successfully tested in the long term, or applied in anywhere larger than a local environment.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24928.


[1] Model SARA de l’acrònim d’Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment (Escanejar, analitzar, respondre i valorar)


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European Global Action against money mules

Police authorities of 26 countries, with the support of Europol, Eurojust and the European Banking Federation (EBF), have joined forces in the third coordinated worldwide action against money mules, with the European Money Mule Action ‘EMMA3’. During the week of action, which took place from the 20th to the 24st November 2017, 159 people were arrested across Europe, 409 were interviewed by police authorities and 766 money mules were detected. The EMMA3 has evolved since prior editions to fight not only against money mules but also those who recruit offenders. This led to the identification of 59 recruiters.

At the same time, the monetary sensitisation #DontBeaMule campaign was launched to warn the general public against this crime.

Money mules are recruited by criminal organisations as money laundering intermediaries to receive and transfer funds obtained illegally from and to bank accounts and countries. This illegal liquidation helps to finance other kinds of organised crime, such as drug trafficking, people trafficking and on line crime.

With the support of 257 banks and members from the private sector, 1,719 operations of money mules were documented, with total losses of almost 31 million Euros. Among these transactions there was money laundering, over 90% of these were associated with crimes related to cybercrime, like phishing or online auction fraud. For the first time, the police authorities informed of fraud in the context of holiday reservations. Moreover, a growing use of bitcoins as a money laundering system by criminal groups was detected.

The third week of action by EMMA3 is the continuation of a project carried out under the umbrella of the plan of operative action of fraudulent payments EMPACT, designed to combat payment and online fraud, led by the Netherlands.

EMMA3 demonstrates that an association between the public and private sector, the police, legal authorities and the banking system is essential to be able to effectively address financial contraband as an illegal activity.

Criminals usually use innocent victims to launder money in their name with the promise of easy money via apparently legal advertising spots, publications on line, mass media and other methods. Newcomers to a country, the unemployed, students and people with economic difficulties are frequently among the most susceptible to commit this crime.

Even if money mules act without realising it, they are committing a crime by laundering the illegal product of a crime. In accordance with the judicial framework of the country, they may face a prison sentence or community service, or never be able to aspire to a mortgage or open a bank account.

Unveiling these schemes for liquidating money and making the public aware are vital to prevent criminals from taking advantage of people who are at an economic disadvantage. Legal companies will never ask people to use their bank accounts or to transfer money by using their accounts. People must never give access, nor provide their bank accounts or electronic purse, to people who are unknown to them or not trustworthy.

Link of interest:

The European Fight against Money Mules


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The fight against plane ticket fraud intensifies

interior avióAt the end of 2017, a total of 61 countries, 63 airlines and 6 online travel agencies participated in the 10th edition of the Global Airport Action Days (GAAD), which took place in 226 airports around the world.

The GAAD are a horizontal and multi-disciplinary operation which fights against fraudulent online purchases of flight tickets with fake credit details. Representatives of airlines, online travel agencies, credit card companies, Perseuss and  International Air Transport Association (IATA) participate, working together with experts from the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) of Europol to identify suspicious transactions and provide information to police officers on duty in airports.

The concept of public / private association agreed for this action is the most efficient way of combating online fraud and other serious forms of organised crime, involving ticket fraud, illegal immigration, human trafficking, drug trafficking and others.

During the action week of 2017, information about 298 suspicious transactions was reported. As a consequence, 195 people were arrested. Some of these, with flights they had purchased fraudulently, were trying to transport drugs from Latin America to Europe.

The GAAD were organised via coordination centres of Europol, in The Hague; the Global Complex for Innovation, in Singapore and Ameripol, in Bogota, and had the support of Canadian and US police authorities via the NCFTA in Pittsburgh.

Eurojust attended the GAAD, along with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), which deployed officers in 20 airports, helping to detect identity fraud, fake documents and irregular migration. The airport communication project (AIRCOP), implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with Interpol and the World Customs Organisation (OMA), also participated in activities to apply the law in airports in Africa and the Middle East.

Crime as a service, the recent trend in all forms of serious organised crime of which we spoke in the blog concerning computer crime, has also appeared in the travel sector. A number of police forces have dismantled fake online travel agencies specialising in the purchase of plane tickets with stolen or false credit card information for other criminals, offering them a service.

The IATA estimates that the air travel industry loses over a million dollars annually as a consequence of fake purchases of online flight tickets.

In order to prevent the fraudulent purchase of online air tickets the IATA recommends that passengers be careful when buying online air tickets and offers the following advice:

  • Whenever possible, pay for the trip with your credit card.
  • Make sure that the company you buy the tickets from is legal. The logo of the IATA indicates this.
  • Avoid buying tickets on classified websites which sell other things, such as cars and holiday homes.
  • When you buy a flight ticket from a travel company, you can check that the flight exists by confirming it on the airline’s website.
  • Remember that if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you become the victim of on an online air ticket fraud, keep all the proof and report it to the police.


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