Friday, March 18, 2011

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: The 99.9 Percent Rule

I promised an explanation as to why I stand up (and take a lot of heat) for not promoting certain missions and beliefs. Here it is:

In this world, we have a many, many problems and we need many solutions to fix them. We have a great deal of evil and crime and sad situations that we need to ameliorate. The question that must be answered, and answered rationally and without deep emotions influencing our determinations is "How?" And "How much of our resources?"

Resources are not unlimited. We have only so much money and manpower. Let me use an example in the health realm. People often say we should do everything possible to save the life of a human being. Well, this is certainly a fine sentiment, but is it rational? Suppose a psychopathic, alcoholic, drug-using sixty-year-old serial rapist with a life sentence has a liver that is failing. Should we do everything possible to get him another liver? Most people would think our resources shouldn't be wasted that way when there are so many children and decent adults needing one. This is probably a fairly easy example.

Now, it gets harder. What if this were a very loved family man who never drank or used drugs, but, he has so many other systemic problems that, while a new liver might give him another few months, he is going to die anyway from all the other problems. Now, we feel really bad but we might, with a bit of guilt, say the resources we have should be spent on those who have a better chance of survival.

What about Japan and the earthquake and tsunami victims? When do you call off a search? We often see people become very upset when the search efforts stop. We hear, "What if there is still someone alive under the rubble?" Well, there might be and one always hopes that this isn't true (and maybe one has nightmares forever thinking there was some poor soul still trapped waiting for the rescue that never came). But, we can't search forever. Money and manpower runs out and, at some point, we have to use what we have in a more productive way.

The same is true for criminal investigation. Here I am going to use what I am calling the 99.9% rule (although the exact number is not the point; 99.8%, 97.7%, 99.6%, 99.5%...somewhere up there). If there is one out of a thousand or two out of a thousand that might be the victim of some rare kind of crime, one cannot spend the money and manpower in incredible quantities on the off chance that this is what happened to the victim. Nor should we spend huge amounts of money on solving a problem that is only a minute part of the entire problem (not that we cannot address it, but we just shouldn't have it take over a large part of our strategy or allocation of resources).

Why do we know the names -, Jaycee Dugard, Elizabeth Smart, Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby -oh, and Colleen Stan ("the girl in the box" as most actually remember her) so well? Because these are anomalies. Almost all of children and adults abducted by sex predators are dead within an hour; a few last a day or two, and a very, very, very few are found alive years later. When this happens, we are stunned and thrilled. I had a huge grin on my face when I heard Elizabeth Smart was alive - in spite of the fact I said on television she was likely dead. Wow! Amazing! It was a great moment but it also signified a bad turn of thinking for parents and victim support groups. It has become the fashion now to believe everyone is alive until proven otherwise and to pressure detectives to search every nook and cranny of the world, track down every sighting and tip, to leave no stone unturned, just in case, just in case that missing abducted person is alive. If one stops looking or spending a lot of money and time on the search, great anger erupts at law enforcement and any other person who says the victim is likely dead and the focus should be on body recovery and finding the perpetrator.

In a perfect world, we would have unlimited resources. If this were true, I would say split the money and manpower in half and one half look for a body and the killer and the other half keep looking for a living victim. But this is the real world and money and manpower is in short supply. One must decide how to allocate the resources that are available. And the method is to follow that 99.9% rule. If all the evidence points to the missing person as being dead, one must focus on body recovery and finding the killer and getting him off the street. The longer it takes to find the body, the less evidence will exist for conviction. The longer it takes to find the killer the less evidence will exist to convict him. If we divert the money and manpower needed to get this evidence, we may not get the killer and then there is a murderer still on the streets who will commit another crime and another innocent person will die. If we spend all our time and money chasing leads that are likely to be worthless, we decrease our chances of catching the killer and we have to then live with the fact we helped create an opportunity for him to kill again. This is wrong.

It also should be noted that if one is following the evidence trail, it doesn't matter if the victim is alive or dead; we need to get the perpetrator as quickly as possible anyway (so he can be convicted and the public is safer). If it happens when one gets to the property of the abductor that the victim is still alive, then, hurray! We are incredibly happy!

The same is true for juveniles and adults in prostitution settings. If a juvenile goes missing and ends up working for a pimp, the investigation should lead one to that endangered juvenile whether the juvenile was abducted or ran away or willingly decided to become a prostitute because she was attracted to the life that was presented (as fun and exciting) or wanted the money she thought she could earn. Even an adult who ends up in prostitution for whatever reason, if she goes missing or appears to be held hostage by someone, the investigation should work to find them or free them, regardless of why she ended up in the situation. If a crime was committed or being committed, law enforcement should be working on it.

Now, having said that, the question comes down to how we spend our time and money and manpower pursuing leads. Again, I say follow the evidence at all times. If the evidence does not point to certain things, the 99.9% rule applies: you can't overfocus on something that is extremely unlikely and no evidence points in that direction because 999 out of 1000 times, you will be wasting resources looking in all the wrong places.

For example, almost all young boys abducted off the street are abducted by lone sex predators who are not part of any organized sex ring. Johnny Gosch, the little newspaper boy who disappeared a couple of decades ago, is likely dead and buried on nearby farmland. The chances of him being alive today and still the captive of a sex ring are extremely remote; no evidence points that direction (and the bizarre stories from the mother and convicted felons and ethically-questionable private investigators do not count as credible evidence). Therefore, 99.9% of investigative efforts should be trying to locate Johnny's body and evidence to convict his killer.

The same is true for Kyron Horman. All evidence points back to a person he knows and was the last person to be seen with him. It is a waste of resources to investigate every speculation that Kyron is alive and being held as a sex slave. Follow the evidence trail.

Now, IF that trail led to some strange anomaly - the 99.9% anomaly - and that victim was seen being abducted in the vicinity of a sex ring that was just found to be setting up operations in a particular area, then by all means, check out that lead! In that case, there would be a reason to consider it a possibility. Also, the rule or the percentage can change if there is a change of culture or economics. The enslaving of Asian women in sex rings DOES exist in the United States and if I got a call from a worried mother in China who said she thinks her daughter is being kept captive in New York City, I would consider that not as much as an anomaly because there is evidence that there are quite a number of female Asian immigrants who are experiencing this.

As to public awareness of problems and how we perceive the issues of the sex trade and how we allot resources to combat the problem of prostitution in general and how we save people from prostitution and rescue them from it, this is another 99.9% rule worth looking at.

As it stands now in America, very, very, few juveniles or adults are abducted off the street and forced into prostitution. Even some of the stories of this may be flawed (I am not saying this one or that one; just we should be aware that sometimes we are not hearing the complete truth) in that the victim may not want to admit to the circumstances leading up to the captivity; she/he may be embarrassed that they wanted to party, or wanted to do drugs, or even wanted to make a buck through selling of their bodies. They may have willingly gone with the perps and even willingly participated in the acts and then things went seriously wrong. What started as consensual behavior escalates into nonconsensual crimes and now the individual needs to be saved from whomever is abusing them.

The reason this happens is the quality of human beings, if one can call them that, one can get hooked up with. A pimp may start out as a "boyfriend:" a young woman or teen is new in the big city and "Bobby" helps her out with a place to stay and some money. She is so grateful and he seduces her. She now is his girlfriend. Eventually, he suggests she could make some money through sex and she reluctantly tries it to please him and because she has no money to live on. Eventually, his real character comes out and she finds that he gets the bulk of her income and forces her to sleep on a mattress in a room with his other "girlfriends." She is given drugs to ease the feelings of degradation and soon she is a drug addict. Bobby beats her when she questions him and now she is terrified of his anger as well. Could she leave? Possibly. She might be able to leave town and he wouldn't follow her but she might be afraid she can't get drugs or she won't have a place to live or she may still "love" him. It is complicated and she needs help to get out of there. Bobby, the lowlife pimp, needs to be put in prison for the next decade or two.

Some girls also go into prostitution because they simply want to. And they do get a lot of what they were looking for, especially girls on the high end of the spectrum; bottle girls, call girls, and escorts. They can make big money and buy fancy clothes and hang out with the rich and famous and party hardy. Some don't have quite that level of a lifestyle but they still like the fast life. A good portion of these girls do not have pimps and they are not under threat of any kind. There are other who do have pimps/"boyfriends" who run them around and live with them; it is not as bad a life as the streets, but the fact there is a creepy guy of any sort in the picture raises the level of danger. Sometimes a girl at this level will get killed by her pimp/"boyfriend" in a domestic matter. He didn't kill her over prostitution but for the same reasons other husbands and boyfriends kill their women: "She isn't going to leave me or defy me." It is a matter of power and control. For girls in prostitution, the chance they are going to get a man with power and control issues is substantially higher than those not in the life.

So, how do we help victims of prostitution? We focus on preventing children from running away from home. We help runaways before they get into prostitution. We try to keep kids away from drugs and early sex experiences. We try to work with the community to protect our children from local scum and give them tools to work with for good lives. We work with parents and teach better parenting. We try to educate young men and women to stay far away from any form of prostitution: street prostitution, massage, parlors, strip joints, go-go dancing, escort services, bottle services, call services, adult films, adult services like Craigs List, any sort of sex for money kind of stuff....and educate them to stay away from drugs and careless sexual activities. And we fund law enforcement and support laws that put pimps and others running the sex trade in prison. We also need to get rid of the concept some believe that "prostitution is a victimless crime."

THIS is where our money and efforts should go. We need to face the fact that most everyone in prostitution DID NOT get abducted by strangers into the life. Hyping "stranger abduction by sex traffickers" as a big problem in the United States is wrongheaded and takes the focus off of how pimps and other sex industry handlers get their workers and it takes the focus off of how victims ended up there. We need to put our money and manpower into what constitutes 99,9% of the problem and not the few aberrations that exist.

This is what will save lives and because I want to save lives, I am going to keep speaking up to do so.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown


Preraphazon said...

Well, said. Sadly, people would rather believe their child was forced into prostitution than believe they may have somehow failed to provide an adequate foundation or adequate oversight of that child.

Some of the biggest myths about child abduction thrive because it is too uncomfortable for a parent to think that their child is just as vulnerable as the next, and I cite as an example the widespread fear of stranger abduction. Despite evidence that at least 85% of child sexual abuse is caused by someone known to the family and to whom the family has granted access to their child, it is too frightening and, sadly, sometimes too inconvenient (loss of babysitters, after-school activities, etc) for parents to accept the reality.

One of my closest friends, who I have always tried to share some of my limited knowledge on such subjects, still tries to rationalize and nitpick about the subject, reaches far and wide to find her "exemption," why it doesn't apply to her. For example, when I told her she should stop worrying about a stranger picking him up off the street if he and friends walk two blocks home together and worry instead about the fathers of the play dates(not to mention the karate instructors, the coaches, the youth minister) her defense was "But we live in really nice apartments, and it's gated and everything." She is smart, and if she didn't have a child, she would be able to hear the truth, but she just cannot, because it causes her too much worry, and inconvenience since play dates and activities are the only chance she gets to have a brief rest and the only way many women can find time to hold down a job. It worries me that in the last 20 years, the way working parents cope with having children is by having them play musical play date and loading them with outside activities. It was safer, but still not foolproof, when all activities were school activities and teachers and coaches held the same job for a long time so the community came to trust them.

My main advice to a parent in this day and age is to be suspicious of anyone who is too willing to watch/transport their child for them.

Jessie'sMomGlendene said...

Pat, if one of your kids ended up missing, would give up on them right away and carry on with your life (as you expect us to do)? It seems, from reading and listening to you, that you would say there would be no purpose at all in WASTING money on searching for them, because they are dead anyways, so why bother???? Please, correct me if I am wrong, but would you really give up that easily?

You know what? My youngest daughter told me, when she was 16, a year after her older sister went missing and I never stopped searching for her (it has been 5 years now, I still have not given up - and you know, if Jessie is dead, she deserves to be found JUST AS MUCH as she would if she were alive) - THAT IF SHE EVER WENT MISSING, SHE KNOWS I WOULD FIND HER. Could your kids say that?

I have done all that I do, educating other on human trafficking on a volunteer basis. I can't afford to PAY ATTENTION, but I do this, because it is necessary, not for glory or to hear my own voice, and certainly not for money.

Pat Brown said...

Now, THIS comment, I am happy to respond to, Glendene, and it is a good one to discuss.

First of all, I in no way fault you for continuing to search for your daughter being alive. You are are Jessie's mom; I get that and you love her and she knows she is loved by you. Jessie MIGHT be that anomaly and that a parent wants to believe that, I have no issue.

What would I do? I don't know, Glendene. I am a very logical person and I might be one of those parents that recognizes that my child ISN'T an anomaly; I may want to believe that, but I probably wouldn't. I would likely press for law enforcement to find my daughter's body and put her killer away. I would want justice for her, closure for me, and the killer not to hurt anyone else's daughter.

But, then again, I am not in that situation, so it is possible that I would believe she is alive and refuse to think anything else.

BUT, as a professional who is not in that horrible predicament, I must state reality for the purposes of the best focus for police investigations and the best focus for public safety now and in the future.

Dawnissa Flannery said...

I am not really sure where you got the info for this Pat, but sex trafficking of girls in the U.S. is VERY REAL!! It is happening, and AMERICAN girls are being trafficked. There are statistics after statistics to prove it. How could you possibly say that isn't true. I KNOW prostitutes and strippers that HAVE been trafficked! I know organizations PERSONALLY that assist these victims. You really need to research more info before you post things that this. You are WAY OFF Pat......WAAAYYYYY OFF! There are women and children enslaved right now and we should make EVERY effort to find them and protect matter how long that takes.

Anthony said...

I really like your point of view... to an extent. While I agree that these cases you mention are the anomaly, they are also a REALITY. Maybe not as much so as the reality that the missing may not come home, but still REALITY. But even with that said, I agree it is important not to burnout our already stressed and understaffed law enforcement resources with work that "might" not be considered an efficient use of paid law enforcement by society as a whole as let’s say catching a killer or rapist loose on the streets. But let’s be honest, that is exactly what these criminals are that pray on our youth in this regard.
I would like to point out the importance of ongoing recovery efforts and Keeping Hope Alive. Children reuniting with family after 18 years is truly amazing and a very realistic possibility that has been proven time and time again. And because of that FACT, every missing child should be afforded that same HOPE and dedication to their recovery until their case is closed. And for that reason, and the fact that these anomaly’s do exist is why we need to support families, and communities as a whole should support NPO missing children agencies that work with the family and law enforcement long after the media coverage goes away. Missing children agencies such as Child Quest International and the NCMEC are here to fill the gap that can't always be meet by police due to a number of reasons. That is why NPO missing children agencies exist, to fill the gaps, reunite families, and keep hope alive. So in closing, I agree we CAN’T expect law enforcement and tax payers to foot the bill for what could end up being a wild goose chase, but assuming the worse and giving up on searching for a loved one is not the answer either. There are other resources available besides law enforcement.

TigressPen said...

When I consider the logical aspects of missing persons, I can fully see where you come from with your post here, Pat.

However, I am a mom of 3 daughters and 2 grandaughters,and if one of them were to go missing, I think I'd live at the PD, SO or whatever official office involved until my child was found and the perp jailed. Like Glendene, I could not give up.

I seriously doubt it's ever easy for any department to cut back on resources and manpower in a search for a missing person. Especially a child. But, I am logical enough to see eventually they must. Eventually they must stop going over the same grounds and turn to another venue in the case. Eventually, in most cases, all that has been discovered leads LE to believe a child is deceased and they have to make that decision... move to a search for a body. And I do understand that. Haleigh Cummings and Kryon Horman is 2 examples. Common sense tells one that both are deceased. Admittedly though, I am not sure I'd be willing to agree with them my child is dead. I'd still demand they look. Not forget.

Pat Brown said...

TigressPen, I am nowhere suggesting the search for justice and public safety be given up on but the evidence should be followed and every tip that gives a parent hope for the child being alive cannot be followed simply because one feels the pain of the parent.

Believe me, as a profiler, I receive lots of tips on cases and i have parents requesting me to check out every tip on their child's case. When I attempt to explain that the tip lacks credibility and doesn't fit the evidence, I often get an angry retort that I don't care.

Now, sometimes a profiler or police detective could have interpreted the evidence incorrectly which is why I believe in a team effort. But, what more often happens is that if the family does not like the analysis of the case, they will search and search for an expert who agrees with them and this can be a PI who wants to make money off of them.

Search for the truth and fight to get the case solved, but fight for evidence-based investigation, not pointless searches in all the wrong places.

Preraphazon said...

When I read Pat Brown's post, I do not get from it that she is telling anyone, including police, to give up quickly on finding the child. The way I read it, she is simply proposing that the reality is there is limited manpower and funding, a chronic issue in this country and many others, and that what resources we have be deployed wisely, which means taking what we do know and what history has taught us in similar scenarios and using this limited time, personnel, and resources in the way most likely to actually find the victim, rather than focusing on whatever the current scare or trend of the day is that is getting the most publicity. If it were my daughter, I'd want to look for a lone male with opportunity, not an organized group where none is known to exist who targeted my daughter for reasons that cannot be fathomed when there are easier targets for them out there.

I will say that I don't blame anyone for resenting the fact that there are limited resources, but that is the reality across the board in our criminal justice system, from cops on the street to prison space, and my deepest sympathies go out to those who are having to discover this right when they need it most.

nardia.carter said...

I really wish that some people would read Pat's posts closely and fully understand the actual point she is trying to make.

For what I can see there seems to be alot of negativity towards Pat's comments, all for the simple reason that some people have failed to properly interpret what it is she trying to explain to us.

So instead of replying to her post half cocked and coming across as unintelligible make sure you read and understand her statements first.

It must be really frustrating for Pat to have to explain and re-explain over and over again the message she is trying to send, if only people would read and understand it properly in the first place.

Jamie said...

She has lost alot of Friends and Respect from alot of People.

TigressPen said...

Actually, I do not see how my comment says or hints at LE ever giving up on a missing person case. Or any case for that fact.

What I said is clear, eventually, they must switch modes and look at the case as not finding a missing person but a deceased body. At some point LE offices cannot continue using all their resorces and manpower on one case, they must cut back - in other words, where originally they had the whole department working the case they must stop and give the case to one or two. I never said the case doesn't continue. A case never stops, even after it grows cold. A prime example is the search for Jaliek Rainwalker. No matter what, if a tip comes in, they check that tip and if they feel a large search is needed, they do one.

Pat has 'not' lost me as a friend on FB or a follower of her blog or as a reader of any books she may publish. I still admire her for all she does and has done and accomplished in her life. As a matter of fact, I have read her Profiler book front to back twice and used it as a reference a few times since I purchased it.

Pat Brown said...

I am glad the book has served a purpose for you, TigressPen.

Yes, it is frustrating that my points on the issues are being misconstrued but I have found that there are certain issues which it is almost impossible to discuss without a rabid response. I believe if people are so bent on killing the messenger, the message must be hitting close to home and the reality must be upsetting.

It is always my hope that in accepting reality, we can then plot the right recourse. It is like having a sailboat in the doldrums out at sea and one needs to get back to shore because one of the passengers is ill. So there is a big argument over why the wind has stopped when there is a motor in the boat that could be started to get back to shore.

We need to view our problems realistically and look for solutions.

J. said...

In the 80's, there was much discussion about children being harmed/abducted by "Satanic cults". While some of it was true, 95% of it wasn't. The 'sex traffic" stories of today have replaced the Satanic cult idea. Two decades from now, there will be something else to replace this idea.
Cindy Anthony would have LE looking for her missing granddaughter now if she could. Despite finding Caylee's body, DNA evidence etc., she is firmly in denial.

Pat Brown said...

This is very true, J. It isn't that the sex trade doesn't exist, it is that it is being overhyped and misunderstood.

Below is the comment I made back concerning a story about a sex ring that was broken up with underage girls with a headline saying one of the girls was abducted off the street at gunpoint and forced into sexual slavery.

"This is a very sad story and some horrible criminals were put away, but there is a media slant that should be understood when reading such stories. The truth is not necessarily 100% represented. Here is how it goes. The story says a...n underage girl got kidnapped off the street at gunpoint and forced into the sex trade. I read the court record on this and the court record says this as well. But, here is what is likely not said. First, where was the girl gotten? Outside her nice home in the burbs in the front yard while she was playing lawn darts with her sister? Walking to her girl scout meeting? Probably not. It is more likely (not 100% of the time but that 99% number) that she was either already on the street working as a prostitute or she was hanging out at party places or doing drugs, etc. The pimp saw her as a girl who would be considered a runaway and wouldn't be missed. This is why pimps don't tend to grab middle-class cheerleaders off the street; they DON'T want the police chasing them and they don't want media attention. They pick victims that are easy and "forgettable."

Also, the girl says he used a gun and abducted her but that doesn't make it so. Unless there is proof of this, it may be a victim's way of lessening how she ended up with the snake. Now, once hooked up with a pimp, an underage girl usually ...doesn't have much freedom; he does control her and the money, playing her with affection and drugs and alcohol and terrorizing her as well. It IS a horrible life and I am glad this nasty bunch of pimps was taken down but these sex rings, as they are now named, have been around for years and years and girls have suffered with pimps owning them for decades.

BTW, pimps don't "grab" poor girls off the street either unless they are already hanging in the wrong places."

Preraphazon said...

That's a very good point, J, about the ludicrous focus on so-called satanic cults during a certain period. I remember one case in Austin, where I had actual goth friends, there was a murder at a fast food restaurant and immediately police focused on "satanic cults," which was really just young people who appeared gothy, a subculture of the day and one which is now quite mainstream. They had no idea what these people were about. I was doing that look early on, and it was about music mainly, just a harmless expression. They spent tons of time and resources barking up the wrong tree when looking for a disgruntled ex-employee or, more likely, stalker boyfriend of an employee was far more likely. If it was ever solved, I never heard about it. Murder trend misconception of the day.

Anonymous said...

Pat, Here is the link for Scotland Yard.

Anonymous said...

Pat, I don't understand how the cadaver dog information was overlooked. If the dog's hit behind the couch why wasn't it investigated further and if the McCann's are innocent of everything then why wouldn't they take a polygraph?