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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.


Tanya Allport

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