Talk the Talk: An A – Z Guide to Crime Speak Part 1

Who doesn’t love a good crime novel and the whodunit suspense of a cracking murder mystery? There’s just something satisfyingly entertaining about the gritty world of con artists, safecrackers, cutthroats and killers. Perhaps though, like me, you adopt a fill-in-the-blanks approach to the criminal jargon interspersed through the narrative. Here is Part 1 of your go-to guide for detective and mystery novels, a key to making the terms of the criminal world and its participants a little less murky.

Arbitrage: purchase of commodities for immediate resale on another market, the profits being the difference between the two.

Arson: intentionally damaging a building with fire or explosives.

At Large: refers to a criminal or dangerous animal that is escaped, or not yet captured.

Auto Burg (also known as automobile burglary): the breaking into a locked vehicle.

Beat Cop: term for a police officer assigned to patrol a particular area or neighbourhood (known as his “beat”).

Black Powder: type of gunpowder that can be compressed in a container that then becomes a pipe bomb.

Blue Collar Crime: crimes that happen on the street, every day.

Boob (also called the Chump, Customer, Dupe, Egg, Fall Guy, Gull, Patsy, Pigeon, Sap or Sucker): victim or person being duped or taken advantage of.

Bookmaker (Bookie): someone who accepts and pays off debts.

Booster: shoplifter; assistant in a con operation.

Bump and Run (also known as a Bump and Take): method for stealing a car, whereby a chase vehicle bumps a car, and when the driver gets out another person jumps into his vehicle and drives away.

Burn Pattern (also known as the V Pattern): direction a fire burns.

Cannon: pickpocket.

Call Girl: usually the most attractive female prostitutes who make their appointments via the telephone, rather than walking the streets (which is what street walkers do).

Century (also called a C-note): one hundred dollar bill.

Chickens: boy prostitutes.

Chicken Hawks: homosexual men who search for, or pick up boy prostitutes (chickens).

Chip: the infrequent use of narcotics, without being addicted to them.

Chop Shop: law enforcement slang for place where stolen vehicles are dismantled and the parts sold off.

Clan Lab: facility or chemical laboratory where Methamphetamine, or other drugs are manufactured.

Clink (also called the Slammer): prison, or prison cell.

Clout: to steal items from an unlocked vehicle.

Cold Deck: deck of cards introduced into a game dishonestly.

Cold Paper: case report from a very old crime.

Contact Wound: injury (by knife, gun etc.) resulting in the skin being broken.

Contract Killing: type of murder where one party hires another party to kill the victim.

Cook: to make Methamphetamine (which is made by the “cooker”).

Cop the Plate: to get information off a license plate.

Crank: street name for Methamphetamine (when under the influence of this drug, someone is “cranked”).

Cult: religion or religious group considered to be extremist, often with followers living in an unconventional manner, or with unconventional habits of behaviour.

DOA: acronym for “Dead On Arrival”, and refers to the state a person is in upon arrival at a medical facility.

Detail: a law enforcement assignment.

Deuce: a drunk driver.

Dime/Dime Bag: contains $10 worth of narcotics.

Dirty: guilty of a crime.

Distant Wound: caused by a weapon fired from a distance, where no gunpowder or soot reaches the target.

Dope: any illegal narcotic.

Doping: any participation in the sales, manufacturing or use of an illegal narcotic.

Drop: area where stolen goods are unloaded.

DUI: driving under the influence.

Embezzlement: the personal use of money entrusted for another purpose.

Espionage: practice of spying, or the use of spies, usually by governments.

Extortion: the act of obtaining money or something else using force or threat.

See also: Talk the Talk: An A – Z Guide to Crime Speak Part 2

See also: Talk the Talk: An A – Z Guide to Crime Speak Part 3


1 comment… add one

Tanya is a freelance writer, reviewer and blogger with a background in comparative literature. When she is not reading fabulous new books or writing about them, you can find her horse riding or walking her dogs in the beautiful Waitakere ranges. Visit Tanya at

Leave a Comment