Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Tattoo Evidence: The New - the Old? - Gold Standard?

Curtis Krueger, Police say tattoo evidence ... helps catch more crooks Tampa Bay Times (Sept. 3, 2012):

Many Floridians have learned to their dismay that their unique ink can help police catch them — and persuade juries to convict them.

Tattoo evidence isn't as high-tech as DNA evidence, or as new. And a tattoo alone probably won't send anyone to prison without additional evidence to support it.

But tattoos have exploded in popularity, and police agencies increasingly photograph, catalogue and distribute them. ...

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A few tattoos figure into "dumb criminal" stories from the Tampa Bay area and beyond. Take Sean Eric Roberts, accused in 2009 of breaking into a home in Riverview. He was identified by the outline of the state of Florida, helpfully inked onto his face.

And, in what may be the most bizarre example of body art imitating life, a California man named Anthony Garcia was convicted of murdering a man outside a liquor store. The case had gone unsolved until a Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant was sorting through photos and saw one of Garcia's chest. It was covered with a tattoo depicting the murder scene.

But not every tattoo is helpful, said Mike Puetz, a St. Petersburg police spokesman and former homicide sergeant. All kinds of people seem to have inscribed themselves with crosses, hearts and skulls, so those don't exactly separate anyone from the crowd. But when a guy tattoos his girlfriend's name in cursive on his neck, that's a different story.

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Police have checked out tattoos for decades, but computers now make the job easier. Many police agencies enter descriptions of tattoos into computer databases whenever people get arrested.

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