Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke brought out a box and put it on top of a desk in the bullpen at the police station Friday.
The heft of the box was evident in the way he hoisted it. It contains 5,000 pages of documents from a case Burke investigated. People crimes are cases like money laundering and fraud. Another case he worked includes 1,200 pages.
“People try to hide things,” he said. “They will move it around to make it hard to track.”
Burke took a class on money laundering and investigating financial crimes Thursday in Wichita. The class was meant to teach Burke what to look for when searching through financial information. He also learned what he could discuss with a victim in an interview.
“It helps me know a specific direction that I need to go down during the course of an investigation,” Burke said.
One of the other messages of the class was avoid focusing too closely on any particular detail in a case.
“You can’t investigate a crime with tunnel vision,” he said.
He said there has been a dramatic increase in people crimes in Peabody over the past five years. Money laundering, identity theft, internet fraud, and scams taking advantage of the elderly have been perpetrated in Peabody. The class Burke took Thursday did not deal with scams and identity theft; he took a class on those the week prior.
Burke attributes the increase to the recent economic downturn. Peabody residents and businesses have been victims.
“People are preying on other vulnerable people,” Burke said.
With money laundering, Burke is interested in hitting a criminal where it hurts.
“If we confiscate $100,000 worth of drugs and we confiscate $25,000 in cash and put him in prison for two years, he doesn’t mind,” he said. “He’s bought a fancy home and a fancy car. But, if we can find out how drug money was used to purchase assets, we will be breaking the flow or cycle of criminal activity.”
Burke said he enjoys people crimes. Many officers would avoid people crimes because of the time-consuming nature of the work, going through document after document, Burke said.
“It’s very interesting work,” he said. “It’s not for everyone. You have to have a lot of patience.”
Burke is also part of a financial crimes task force in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He is joined by other local law enforcement members, county officers, KBI, military police, and IRS agents. He took the class Thursday and is part of the task force to improve his abilities working for Peabody.
“The main reason I’m there is to be able to better investigate crimes,” he said. “We want to provide the best possible service to our city.”