Target’s crime lab convicts people of murder, arson & more


Target Inc., has a forensic services laboratory called the “Target Forensic Services” which provides forensic examinations, and assists outside law enforcement with help on special cases. Target’s lab is among 390 crime labs accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB).

Schriever was a criminalist for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Examiners Aaron Read and Jacob Steinhour are members of FBI-sponsored scientific working groups. And lab director Rick Lautenbach is a Target “lifer,” having worked in assets protection and other leadership roles at Target for more than 16 years.  

“Most people don’t know what we do,” says Rick. “We’re a small team with a specialized skill set. People usually find out by word-of-mouth about all the cool things we’re able to do.

By “cool things,” Rick refers to processing, examining and cataloging evidence on countless cases, fingerprinting that evidence and then handing it off to case investigators.

Based in Las Vegas and Minneapolis, the forensic team helps solve organized retail crimes committed at Target stores through video and image analysis, latent fingerprint and computer forensics.  The team also tackles felony, homicide and special circumstances cases for law bureaus that need the extra manpower, facilities, resources and time – free of charge.

Approximately 30 % of Target’s crime lab caseload supports law enforcement with examinations of evidence from violent felony crimes.

How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her parents did:

Target assigns every customer a Guest ID number, tied to their credit card, name, or email address that becomes a bucket that stores a history of everything they’ve bought and any demographic information Target has collected from them or bought from other sources. Using that, Pole looked at historical buying data for all the ladies who had signed up for Target baby registries in the past.

An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager:

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

Private corporations are working with police:

When arson investigators in Houston needed help restoring a damaged surveillance tape to identify suspects in a fatal fire, they turned first to local experts and then to NASA. With no luck there, investigators appealed to the owner of one of the most advanced crime labs in the country: Target Corp. 

Target experts fixed the tape and Houston authorities arrested their suspects, who were convicted. It was all in a day’s work for Target in its large and growing role as a high-tech partner to law enforcement agencies. 

In the past few years, the retailer has taken a lead role in teaching government agencies how to fight crime by applying state-of-the-art technology used in its 1,400 stores. Target’s effort has touched local, state, federal and international agencies. 

Besides running its forensics lab in Minneapolis, Target has helped coordinate national undercover investigations and worked with customs agencies on ways to make sure imported cargo is coming from reputable sources or hasn’t been tampered with. It has contributed money for prosecutor positions to combat repeat criminals, provided local police with remote-controlled video surveillance systems, and linked police and business radio systems to beef up neighborhood foot patrols in parts of several major cities. It has given management training to FBI and police leaders, and linked city, county and state databases to keep track of repeat offenders. 

The efforts are part of a trend in corporate donations directed at solving societal problems. “Target is pushing forward a different model of corporate giving,” said Douglas G. Pinkham, president of the nonpartisan Public Affairs Council. Others are doing the same. Exxon Mobil, for example, is building hospitals in the developing world. Cargill Corp. is building schools in areas where potential employees lacked basic skills.

Target’s law enforcement efforts date back at least a decade but intensified after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The company has applied in-store practices, such as inventory-tracking technologies, to the business of identifying and locating criminals. “In many ways, Target is actually a high-tech company masquerading as a retailer,” said Nathan K. Garvis, Target’s vice president of government affairs.

Some people note the possible ethical complexities inherent in Target’s tight government relationships. “It is a tricky issue when firms get too close to government,” said Ernesto Dal Bó, assistant professor of business and public policy at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. Dal Bó sees such alliances as fraught with potential conflicts, though he cautions against alarm. “There is no reason we need to say that anything bad is happening, but we do need to watch,” he said. (ARE YOU JOKING?)


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