Are Cop Shows Teaching Criminals How To Get Away With It? (LIVE PD Helping Criminals)?


Just for the purpose of this introduction
let’s imagine you are an unethical kind of person and want to commit the perfect crime
– meaning you want to get away with it. Maybe you want to commit a robbery, escape
with the loot, and leave no trace whatsoever of yourself behind. You want to be in and
out like a ghost and spend your plunder without ever being caught. Or perhaps you have murder
on your mind and you know the victim-to-be; with today’s forensic technology how could
you do that and evade capture by the cops? Well, you might think about turning on that
TV or firing up the laptop and watching a cop show. Will that help?
We should let you know that this has been a big debate for some time, regarding just
how much cop shows might educate, and so help, criminals. We found evidence that a number
of prosecutors and law enforcement have said they believed that these shows are making
life easier for criminals, but we also found evidence that points to the contrary. Let
us present our findings. So, the major concern of some police is that
criminals, thanks to TV shows, are now much better at hiding DNA evidence. This has sometimes
been called part of the “CSI-Education Effect” or just “CSI-Effect”.
This is quite a broad term, however, and has often been related to matters of juries being
influenced by the show CSI. The influence being, that jurors often expect lots of DNA
evidence when in real life that is often not the case at all. We won’t discuss this issue
today, and will concentrate only on if criminals pick up certain tips from shows.
Wayne Farquhar, a cop who had decades of experience with the San Jose Police Department in the
U.S., has said in interviews that he had witnessed criminals over his time in the force using
improved techniques to get rid of DNA evidence. These techniques have appeared in movies and
on TV. He once said, “I see crooks more aware of protecting themselves against leaving
DNA, whether it’s by using gloves or masks, or the way they wipe things down and clean
things.” So, that’s one opinion. We might ask are
criminals just getting better with time, or have TV shows directly influenced them.
Let’s imagine like at the start of the show you want to off someone, maybe your boss;
perhaps you need to know a few things first. Do you think you should don plastic covers
over your shoes and wear a white protective suit, such as was worn by police Sgt. Sean
Dignam at the end of the movie “The Departed” when he committed that final murder. Oh- spoiler
alert. What if you want to get rid of the body and
all traces of blood, hair, etc, from the victim or yourself? How do you clean up in this case,
what chemicals will do the job? Where do you dump the body or weapons where they will never
be found? Well, perhaps TV cops shows might help with
a few things. This had been discussed over the years, with
some people saying these TV shows do help criminals. Sometimes statistics have supported
this, but as the saying goes, correlation does not always imply causation, meaning just
because numbers seem to support something it doesn’t mean the link leads directly
back to the cause. If over a five-year period Americans got fatter on average and during
that time ice-cream sales went up, it doesn’t necessarily mean ice-cream is to blame for
the increased weight. You have to look at many factors.
For instance some law enforcement officials said after CSI came out fewer sexual assault
cases in the USA were resolved over a certain time period. Does this mean the show helped
the perpetrators of those crimes? Well, there is a correlation, but it doesn’t necessarily
mean CSI was the cause. Over the years since CSI came out we found
sources stating that quite a few women had said their assailants had gone to great lengths
to make them shower, or sometimes bleach their bodies. Was this because those assailants
had seen that on TV? We also found a case of a double murder and
the killer was a devout fan of CSI. It’s said that he did a rigorous clean-up of the
crime scene using chemicals and he also got rid of the gun in a way so it couldn’t be
found, or so he assumed. He used blankets to prevent the spilling of blood, and on top
of that, he did a good job in ensuring fibers from his clothes or his cigarette butts were
not around the crime scene. He was caught in the end, so it didn’t work out for him.
Nonetheless, after that some American news media talked to certain law enforcement officials
who believed the show CSI and perhaps other similar shows were educating criminals. Why
were more criminals cleaning up after themselves? A captain of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s
Department told CBS news, “They’re actually educating these potential killers even more.
Sometimes I believe it may even encourage them when they see how simple it is to get
away with on television.” In the same article, the chief of the criminal division in the
Trumbull County Prosecutor’s office, said, “People are getting more sophisticated with
making sure they’re not leaving trace evidence at crime scenes.”
We should say that most crimes do not involve such commitment to cleaning up the crime scene,
and it’s well-known that most murders are crimes of passion or gang related and those
are often very sloppy jobs. Cops said it’s just some killers and other criminals that
were getting better at clearing evidence. Some argue that there is a possibility that
indeed a small number of murderers might have been educated somewhat, but the vast majority
of killers are just not clever enough to do a comprehensive clean-up, or in their anger
just don’t feel inclined to do the work. One investigator even went as far as to say
most people who commit murder are “pretty stupid.”
There is evidence that victims have learned from CSI, too, or at least one victim of a
crime. One woman in the UK who had been sexually assaulted by a man and been in his car had
actually pulled out some of her hair and left it on the back seat. This led to his arrest
and she said she’d learned that from watching CSI.
The 18-year woman said she had even spat on the car seat. The assailant, a British army
soldier, got 11 years. The thing is, he had told that victim to wipe herself clean to
destroy DNA evidence. She later told the media, “‘It sounds silly, but I have always been
a fan of CSI programs. I’ve watched so many of them, I know what to do and how things
work.” After hearing that you might think if the
victim can learn something surely the perpetrator can learn something, too. But just how much?
Well, a team of psychologists at a German research facility wanted to know just that
and they spent a long time researching this, to the extent of analyzing crime statistics
in the USA and Germany from the time these TV cops shows came on the scene. They also
interviewed convicted criminals and asked them how they had learned to evade arrest
and if cops shows helped. They actually said in the paper we interviewed “experts”,
meaning criminals. The researchers also asked non-criminal participants
to join their study. Some of those participants were self-confessed heavy consumers of crime
procedural shows, while some others were non-consumers of such shows.
First the participants were asked to commit a mock crime, just some stealing. It was to
see how well they committed the crime in terms of evading arrest. The researchers then set
up a mock scene that looked as though a murder had been committed. The participants were
asked to go in and clean up that crime scene. The research paper described it like this,
“We also tested for forensic awareness with an explicit knowledge test. In the last experiment,
we tested which factor predicted efficient criminal behavior the best. Subjects committed
a mock crime and were tested for implicit knowledge as a function of age, gender, education,
forensic crime series consumption, technical prowess and personality.”
It sounds quite exciting and we are sure you want to hear the results of this study.
Ok, part one. What about crime statistics in the USA and Germany since these shows came
about? After looking at crime figures and clearance
rates from the German Federal Bureau of investigation and the American Federal Bureau of Investigation
the researchers concluded that after shows such as CSI started airing on people’s TVs
there was no significant change to clearance rates, although trends did change. They said
this couldn’t be caused by the shows, though. But get this, they also said:
“A large number of crimes go unreported or undetected and never make it into the official
statistics. In Germany 50 percent of murders go undetected. Consequently, one could argue,
that criminals who used knowledge they obtained from forensic crime series do not appear in
the official crime statistics because they manage to evade detection.”
So, that could mean criminals have been educated by these shows, but we can’t really prove
that’s why they got away with their crimes. It’s just impossible to say exactly how
and why criminals avoid detection in the USA and Germany.
As for asking the convicted criminals if the shows were of any use, they interviewed 24
such criminals. They first asked the criminals where they learned to avoid detection, such
as where does one learn how to wear gloves or not leave DNA evidence. They asked them
what were the best sources of information available as to getting away with a crime.
It turned out that while a lot of those criminals had watched CSI and other similar shows, none
of them said they used it as a way to avoid police detection. When asked, they said the
best place to learn the tricks of the trade were other criminals and friends. These guys
were already in prison, so we expect much of their education comes from fellow prisoners.
The prisoners did admit that perhaps TV shows could provide some learning opportunities,
but they had just not tapped those resources themselves.
As for non-criminal participants committing a mock crime and trying to get away with it,
some of whom were big fans of CSI and others that did not watch the show, the researchers
found absolutely no connection with watching the show and not watching the show with committing
a better crime or getting away with it. The mock crime scene was pretty well done,
replete with a fake body, fake blood spattering, shell casings, door handles, etc. The researchers
concluded, “Both groups left a similar amount of forensic traces on both crime scenes.”
Out of interest, though, they found that male subjects were better at cleaning up a crime
scene than female subjects, while younger people were better than older people. Also,
those with more education were better at cleaning up the scene, as were people who worked in
technical professions – those were mostly men, too. You might conclude from this that
if you are young and male and a technical kind of guy you stand a better chance of getting
away with a crime. The leader of the study said this in conclusion,
“Over many years, it was presumed that certain links in this regard exist, although there
were no appropriate studies to prove this. We can now dispel certain myths that have
been coursing through the media and other publications for the past 20 years because
we are able to state with relative certainty that people who watch CSI are no better at
covering their tracks than other people.” So, there you go. That’s the most conclusive
study conducted on this. Perhaps more criminals are wiping and cleaning and getting rid of
evidence than before, and perhaps some criminals are just more calculating than others. The
show, which doesn’t always adhere to true procedure, may have helped a handful of people,
but we might ask how many more criminals learn their tricks inside prison walls or when socializing
with the criminal fraternity. Maybe as the researchers said, criminals learning from
shows such as CSI and other police procedural shows is just a myth.
What about you? What have you learned from cop shows that would help you plan the perfect
crime? Tell us in the comments. Now go watch Did OJ Commit Those Murders?. Thanks for watching,
and as always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.

21 Replies to “Are Cop Shows Teaching Criminals How To Get Away With It? (LIVE PD Helping Criminals)?”

  1. It's funny that you mentioned a specific department in this video, as I actually work for them. Thought that was pretty wild.

  2. They convict people aplenty with no DNA evidence or DNA evidence that is fully inconclusive. Usually in the interrogation room, or with psyop operations with the witnesses and the jury.

  3. I’ve always watched the tv show cops to learn the mistakes of other criminals and techniques of cops . Watch it and study it and you’ll see what I mean

  4. No. Cop shows do the exact opposite: portray a far more competent and powerful force of authority than is real. To run a police state, the police must seem powerful, smart, and advanced.

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