The Way We Catch Criminals is About to Change…

Hey Thoughty2 here Welcome to the Vidocq Society, a secret meeting of the best criminal detectives in the world

Where the world’s most difficult crimes are solved over a bowl of soup The society was formed in 1990 by three leading ex-criminal psychologists and forensics experts, all since retired They would meet for lunch on the third Thursday of every month in a private dining room on the top floor of the Union League Building in Philadelphia They started off merely discussing crime but within a year they were solving them The now highly revered Vidocq Society quickly grew to contain some of the world’s best and most experienced FBI profilers, homicide detectives, scientists, psychologists, prosecutors, coroners and forensic experts

All pay a $100 yearly fee and meet once a month for lunch in the same secret dining room Police chiefs, detectives and other law enforcement officials travel from all over the world to present their cold cases to the society over lunch Once all the facts and evidence has been presented to the group, they will attempt to solve it The society has prerequisites, to present a case it must be over 2 years old and unsolved and involve at least one murder The society doesn’t charge for their services and pays for all travel and hotel expenses for the visiting law enforcement agent

The society has gained fame worldwide amongst law enforcement, for they have solved hundreds of the world’s most complex cold cases, which were previously thought unsolvable and simply filed away for years They have even freed innocent convicts who were wrongly accused But how is this possible? How come some detectives are better at solving crimes than others and what secret techniques do they use? One of the best tools in the police’s arsenal is forensic science It was first used in 1983 in England And has since become to go-to tool for solving all kinds of crime worldwide

But two of the world’s best forensics laboratories can be found where you would least expect them Target, yes the very same Target that sells jumpers and televisions Retail giant Target has two of the world’s most advanced and most active forensics laboratories Located in secret back rooms in two Target stores, in Las Vegas and Minneapolis, the Target forensics labs contain world experts in the realm of forensic science and a myriad of expensive equipment Target’s labs are fully accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, of which there are only 390 such labs in America

These unusual crime solving powerhouses are used to solve crimes such as theft, cyber-crime, fraud, murder and rape But why? Well, when you have a chain of over 1,800 discount super stores, each brimming with expensive technology and other goods, you’re going to get a lot of crime and they do Target stores are host to hundreds of crimes each week, ranging from theft, to sexual assault and even murder Local police forces are already overburdened and especially their forensics labs The average police force’s forensics laboratory is massively backlogged with evidence to process and examine and a pile of crimes to get through

If Target had to wait for the police to solve every crime that effects their company or takes place in one of their stores they would be waiting a long, long time for any progress So it’s much more effective to do it themselves, being a private company they have the freedom to spend far more money on their forensics labs than the police do on theirs As a result Target has much more up-to-date equipment than the actual police And they can solve crimes rapidly Once sufficient evidence has been found and verified against a particular suspect, via Target’s forensics teams, it is handed over to the police who will make an arrest and convict the perpetrator

Target’s evidence will then be used against them in court Most of the forensics work conducted at Target’s labs is digital forensics, such as examining CCTV footage, retrieving lost data from smartphones and computer hard drives and even examining suspect’s emails and internet traffic using hacking Target even possess a device called a Faraday cage which they put a suspect’s phone inside and it stops the data on the phone from being remotely erased But they also do plenty of traditional forensics too, such as fingerprint analysis and facial recognition, even DNA matching But Target are so good and fast at what they do that police forces from all over the country commonly send their evidence to Target to get their help in solving a crime

And the best bit, Target do all this for free An employee said that one quarter of crimes solved by Target’s forensics labs are not related to Target in any way, yet they never ask for compensation For example, police in Houston asked Target to help them solve a brutal arson case, in which a mother and her two children had been torched to death The police had hit a dead end with their investigations They sent a CCTV tape from a nearby petrol station to Target’s forensics lab

The tape was wrinkled and unplayable, but Target’s top video analysts carefully placed the tape between two pieces of rice paper and ironed it They then digitally enhanced the footage and when they watched it they identified a high school student buying a can of petrol just moments before the arson occurred Using this evidence the police were able to convict the teenager of arson in court So Target are damn good at targeting criminals using traditional methods and some digital know-how but there are enforcement agencies such as the FBI, MI5 and even some forward-thinking local law enforcement agencies, that are using new, groundbreaking techniques and very clever technology to catch criminals like never before The Federal Bureau of Investigations has always been well prepared to solve any crime

The FBI has a collection of every single firearm ever made, over 7,000 in total So they can identify the exact make and model any evidential weapons that appear during cases They have even created a database of precisely what marking each gun leaves on a bullet when it is fired, which they have freely shared with law enforcement agencies in most other countries This means when someone gets shot they can quickly find out exactly what gun they where shot with and even narrow down where the shooter might have purchased the firearm from Up until recently the techniques used to solve crimes have remained the same for hundreds of years, effective interviewing of both witnesses and suspects

Knocking on doors to follow up leads with your cop buddy, True Detective style And in more recent years, forensics of crime scenes, weapons and bodies, including DNA matching Though many futuristic techniques used in your usual TV cop drama, such as blowing up a low-quality image to many times its size and somehow, miraculously enhancing it, so that very fine detail can be now seen, just doesn’t exist, that isn’t possible TV shows certainly take a lot of liberties in exaggerating the capabilities of the police, but maybe not for long Now police are looking towards computer scientists to solve crimes and even predict when and where a crime is going to happen, before it actually happens

In 2013 an MIT professor teamed up with two analysts from Cambridge police to develop a computer algorithm An algorithm that would solve crime It’s called Series Finder and it specialises in attempting to solve home break-ins and burglaries The algorithm uses data from 5,000 house break-ins in Cambridge, between 1997 and 2006 It studies pieces of information such as the time and date of the incident, how long it took, the means of entry to the property, what they did once inside, what they took etc

Using all this data, the algorithm finds patterns that would take human analysts many years of sifting through masses of documents to discover The results can be used to narrow down who might have done it, was it an organised criminal gang? Did they act alone? Did they come from out of town or are they a local? House break-ins are notoriously hard to solve, because of a lack of witnesses and there is usually no evidence left behind, just objects missing According to figures only 13% of residential burglaries are solved But this algorithm unearths data from these crimes that was previously thought impossible This incredibly clever computer software hasn’t yet provided enough evidence to convict someone of a home break-in, but amazingly it did completely rule out one suspect from a real-life crime, whom police believed was the main suspect

The creators are now working on adapting the system to solve other crimes such as rape and murder and they say it’s only a matter of time before their algorithm can actually solve the majority of crimes and convict criminals But what about predicting crimes before they happen, Minority Report style? Let me introduce University of California professor Jeffrey Brantingham He is the brains behind the police’s secret new weapon, PredPol Brantingham is an archaeologist, and in the early 2000s he was in Tibet discovering how ancient civilisations found food This led him to wonder why humans commit crimes in the places they do, so he had an idea, instead of treating criminals like criminals and crimes as crimes, he thought of criminals like scavengers and crimes as pieces of food that they are trying to find

He used this logic to create a mathematical algorithm, the details of how it works are a secret, but what it does is predict exactly when and where a crime is likely to take place in realtime PredPol uses very complex mathematics and thousands of bits of data such as the general profile and history of a specific location within an area and recent crimes and events, in order to make its predictions Now you might automatically think that it simply flags up areas where crimes usually do take place such as gang-ridden areas and red light districts and tells police officers to spend all their time patrolling that location, but not at all The time and location predictions PredPol produces actually change many times every night and are very widespread, it could for example flag up an area in a wealthy residential neighbourhood just a few square metres wide, predicting a crime will happen there within the next hour, that’s how incredibly intelligent this system is It was trailed in two locations with two police forces, California and Kent in the UK

The police officers would simply check the computer’s latest prediction and patrol that area at the given time, the idea is that having a police presence in an area where a crime could soon take place will most likely stop it from happening The results were incredible, in both locations that PredPol was tested, crime fell significantly, by around 8%, and the algorithm was found to be twice as accurate as human police officers at predicting when and where a crime will happen next Brantingham says the system works so well because whilst crime seems like a random event, it is in fact not at all, there are many variables and factors that go in to making a person want to commit a crime at a specific place at a specific time So here’s a top tip, if you’re a budding criminal, decide where to commit your crime then suddenly change your mind, unless of course the computer has already predicted that you would do that Thanks for watching

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About Thoughty2

Thoughty2 (Arran) is a British YouTuber and gatekeeper of useless facts. Thoughty2 creates mind-blowing factual videos, on the weirdest, wackiest and most interesting topics. Combining fascinating lists with answers to life's biggest questions.

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