Thursday, February 09, 2006
Target sets sights on hard-to-crack cases
I got an unusual assignment this week -- Target's crime lab. Yes, I'm talking about that Target, the national "upscale discounter," as they style themselves in the information package the company hands out to reporters.

Turns out Target has one of the most advanced crime labs in the country at its headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was initially set up to deal with things like theft, fraud, and personal injury cases in their stores. Now, Target also helps law enforcement agencies nationwide solve crimes, even murders. Target has worked with the Secret Service, the ATF, and the FBI, to name a few.

Target does the work for free, seeing it as a kind of community service. It doesn't advertise its crime lab services, but word started spreading and law enforcement agencies started asking for help. Some government agency labs aren't as well-equipped as Target's. In other cases, Target can get results faster because of logjams in agency labs.

Target's lab is run by an ex-FBI agent and boasts a staff of forensic experts. They spend a lot of time analyzing video from surveillance cameras in their own stores.

The day we visited we looked at how they helped crack a murder case using video from a convenience store security camera in Minneapolis. The Target team cleaned up the image of the shooting suspect, but that wasn't enough to identify him. Then they figured out what kind of car he was driving, even though you could barely see the vehicle through the store's window on the surveillance tape. It was the stuff of CSI.

Police put these pieces together to help identify the murderer. He's now serving a life sentence in prison.
Posted By Jonathan Freed, CNN Correspondent: 5:12 PM ET
  31 Comments
That is an awesome story and gives me yet another reason to head out to Target this weekend. I only have one issue with the story...I wish that I could have gone!
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer: Alexandria, Virginia : 5:41 PM ET
Cool... now I can fight crime and buy a pair of socks at the same time.
Posted By Anonymous Oldkayaker, Benicia, CA : 5:43 PM ET
It is great they help to solve crimes using such an amazing technology specially to identify a murderer.
Posted By Anonymous Claudia, Guatemala City : 5:45 PM ET
The Dayton family in Minnesota has a long collective record of commuinty service, over many generations. George Draper Dayton came to Minnesota in 1883, and in 1902 opened Goodfellow's Dry Goods, the predecessor of the Dayton Hudson Corporation, now Target Corporation. He began a tradition of caring for the community early in his career. In 1918 -- long before corporate giving was a common practice -- he established the Dayton Hudson Foundation, and was involved in the original United way. His family, including current U. S. Senator Mark Dayton, continue on in tradition.

I'm not surprised that the corporation helps in this way.
Posted By Anonymous Linda, Boulder, Colorado : 5:49 PM ET
That is awesome. Who would have thought Target would have such a hi-tech. lab?! To be honest, I am suprised they offer their services free of charge as a community service. Most companies these days are all about making the big bucks.
Posted By Anonymous Kristy, Oklahoma : 5:49 PM ET
Very cool but strangely disturbing that government and state facilities are less equipped. Still, kudos to Target for providing such a service!
Posted By Anonymous Annie, Alamogordo, NM : 5:51 PM ET
Shouldn't the government be providing law enforcement agencies with enough funding to buy state of the art equiptment and train ther personnel so that they don't need to rely on the charity of a national superstore?

That's how things work here in Canada.
Posted By Anonymous Estella, Toronto, Canada : 6:00 PM ET
I wonder if Wal-Mart could do it cheaper?
Posted By Anonymous Andrew, Newmarket, Ontario : 6:02 PM ET
That is totally awesome.
Posted By Anonymous Anna, Nashville Tennessee : 6:08 PM ET
Wow, I'm glad to see Target views their help as a form of community service. It must be a sigh of relief to have a giant retailer like Target having that type of sense, especially in USA, where crime infested cities need as much help as possible. Maybe Toronto should consider its possibilities.
Posted By Anonymous Raghav, Toronto, Ontario : 6:10 PM ET
No, the United States federal government should not be funding this equipment for the state agencies, the states should be doing so.

As far as relying on the so called "charity" of TGT Corp...well, that is referred to a concept known as teamwork.

TGT Corporation has wisely invested in a concept and idea that returns dividends to the communities that support it. Hopefully other entities will follow the lead...
Posted By Anonymous jon, Minneapolis, Minnesota : 6:14 PM ET
In a world full of bad news, it's good to see a corporation being a good citizen... even in this day and age where no good deed seems to go unpunished by a blog full of lists of bad things the same company may do.... it's still nice to know the good deeds happen.
Posted By Anonymous Tisha Wichita, Kansas : 6:16 PM ET
Wal-Mart can't get much cheaper than "free".. Good for Target!
Posted By Anonymous Fulton Greenwall, Houston TX : 6:28 PM ET
Why is it so surprising? Remember who - within minutes of the devastation of Hurricane Katrine - was able to assess, assemble, and deploy the necessary goods to the area (and was hijacked by the US government)? That was WalMart - who was simultaneously working on a typhoon in Japan.
For all the bad talk of corporate America, what is emerging should not be ignored: a cumbersome government crippled by itself being outperformed by entities also funded.....by the people.
Posted By Anonymous Faith - Vegas, Baby! : 6:45 PM ET
That's admirable. Imagine more stores doing similar things. We have two Targets and plans for a third super store here in Laredo, TX. Maybe what we need is a slew of stores to save us from the effects of the drug cartels in our sister city.
Posted By Anonymous Angie, Laredo, TX : 6:45 PM ET
that is so cool to hear about, and it's super awesome of target to involve themselves in a good work without having to advertise about it.

i can't wait to see this story
Posted By Anonymous nicole el paso, TX : 6:47 PM ET
I always liked shopping at Target now that I know thay are helping fight crime I will be doing alot more shopping there. My thanks to all who work there.You have 100% of my support
Posted By Anonymous John Fetters Naples ,Florida : 7:13 PM ET
This is kool yet strange that a Department Store would need Forensics Lab. I thought most cases involved shop lifting but I guess I was wrong.
Posted By Anonymous Syed, Minneapolis, MN : 7:15 PM ET
Very cool but not too surprising...it's another example of Minnesota Nice in action.
Posted By Anonymous Jack, Minneapolis, Minnesota : 7:20 PM ET
That is really fascinating! My hat goes off to Target for making such a difference in the community. It's true, you learn something new every day.
Posted By Anonymous Angie, St. Louis, MO : 7:26 PM ET
Wow. I had no idea. Please continue to post things like this!
Posted By Anonymous Mea Aloha Shimizu, Haleiwa, HI : 7:35 PM ET
As a law enforcement detective and fellow video analysis, I personally know the folks working the video labs for Target. I would not want them on my trail! They are certainly a core group of professionals! Hats off to Target and more corporate companies should become involved in community. Law enforcement can't do it all!
Posted By Anonymous Ed Baker Tacoma WA : 7:37 PM ET
I'm surprise that nobody else finds it disturbing that a private company is doing what should be done by law enforcement. Will we look back at this as the first step in privatizing law enforcement?
Posted By Anonymous Mike Katz, San Leandro, California : 7:44 PM ET
Last year, New Scientist Magazine reported that there are a high percentage of false positive ID�s from Video Surveillance. It is about 65% false positives and this is in England where Video Surveillance is used everywhere.

Oh great, so now we have an Ex-FBI agent playing CSI, using bad video of a person who can�t be clearly seen and who�s car is even harder to spot� and they are bragging that they got a life conviction�
Posted By Anonymous John Anderson, Cincinnati, Ohio : 7:45 PM ET
That is so great - and so refreshing. If only all large corporations would help out in a similiar way, everyone might be in a much better place.
Posted By Anonymous Tracey, Powell, OH : 7:50 PM ET
It's great to see such large corporations giving back to the communites that helped make them and continue to make them what they are today.

I understand that Target doesn't want to preach to the world how much they give back to the community, for fear of being only self-interested, but it would be nice if these corporations get recognized for some of the good they do. We tend to focus on all the negative aspects of life (since that's what draws watchers/readers/listeners) instead of giving credit where credit is due.

Thank you Target and thank you CNN for bringing this to the forefront.
Posted By Anonymous Sam, Cincinnati OH : 8:18 PM ET
Sounds like a corp. you want to put your money in,I know this consumer will definetly spend more bucks there now. Thanks for the 411.
Posted By Anonymous Julie, Erwin,TN : 8:37 PM ET
The Target "crime lab" story is interesting, maybe even newsworthy, but I do not believe that Target is owed any special recognition for its "crime lab" in light of the fact that it is just one discount chain in a long line of such merchants that has contributed to America's dependence on cheaply made foreign goods. In so doing, Target and others have helped to weaken America's labor force, and has put many small retailers out of business. We all lose when stores like Target thrive. The "crime lab" is a good PR ploy - I wonder if the Target "Bullseye" logo is on the crime lab's front door? I think it is misleading to say that Target does the work for free. If there was no benefit in it - either in returns from favorable PR or some other grant funding - it surely would not exist - we are a capitalist society, after all. Our state, as well as federal tax dollars already fund crime labs. Let's get them up to snuff like Target's. Target should concentrate on strengthening America's work force by buying and selling more American made products and providing more career-track employment for its employees and get out of the business of crime.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa, Cleveland, Ohio : 8:38 PM ET
I think it is a sad day when the corporate world surpasses those tools available for the police and law enforcement officials. It makes you wonder where all these billions of dollars from our taxes go.
Posted By Anonymous Brandon Memphis TN : 8:58 PM ET
Whew! I'm just relieved those cameras aren't used to tell my friends I read the headlines in the celebrity "news" magazines near the checkout counter.
Posted By Anonymous Mary, Milwaukee, Wisconsin : 9:54 PM ET
Target should be commended for taking a position of leadership among corporations who often lack the vision to see beyond their own walls. By assisting with the capture of any criminal, they not only prevent those same criminals from victimizing them in the future, but ensure that society as a whole benefits. It's an intelligent and rewarding approach to business.
Posted By Anonymous Colin, Denver, CO : 10:26 PM ET
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