Myths about criminal investigations

This is from Moving the Work of Criminal Investigators Towards Crime Control (2011): Findings of Seminal Research Studies on Police Investigation of Serious Crimes. Many TI’s have some sort of hope and expectation that law enforcement might help them throughout ordeal, but is the system capable to deal with such crime as organized stalking?
3.Contrary to fictional portrayals, detectives do not work from facts to identification of suspects; they work from identification of suspects back to facts that are necessary to prosecute and convict them. The primary job of detectives is not to find unknown suspects, but to collect evidence required for a successful prosecution of known suspects. Although fictional detectives are constantly warning against the danger of forming a hypothesis too early, that is precisely what real detectives do most of the time. For all the drama of novels, movies and television, the fact is that criminal investigation is largely a matter of pro­cessing paperwork. This does not make it easy. Knowledge of the law and of people is critically important. But it is work that does not rely on the skills of Kojak or Dirty Harry. Instead, it requires the steady discipline and persistence of an accountant or bank examiner.

1.The vast majority of crime that police investigate is brought to their attention by the public. Police discover very little crime on their own. Except for a few proactive investigations into corruption, vice, and organized crime, most criminal investigations involve crimes that have been committed, not those in prog­ress or not yet committed.

2.The essential ingredient in solving almost every crime is the identification of the suspect by the public. If the offender is not caught on the spot, success depends on the victim or witnesses providing information that specifically identifies the likely suspect, such as a name, address, license plate number, or relation to the victim. If an offender has not been identified by the public for detectives, the chances of solving any crime fall to about 10 percent.

4.More crimes are solved through information provided by arrested or convicted offenders — called “secondary clearances” — than are solved by the original work of the police. Indeed, the major opportunity for raising clearance rates — the ratio of solved crimes to reported crimes — lies in having the police work more systematically to encourage criminals to confess to previous criminal acts.

5.Detectives generally have more information about particular crimes than they can assimilate and use. Furthermore, physical or forensic evidence makes only a small contribution to either detection or prosecution.

6.Neither the way in which criminal investigation is organized nor caseloads of detectives affect the success police have in solving crimes.

Even though police adapting all different kind of revolutionary strategies to fight crime crime clearing statistics confirm Dorothy Guyot who famously described, creating change in police departments can be like “bending granite.”

crime clearance rates for homicide, violent crime and property crime
Clearance Rates for Homicide, Violent Crime and Property Crime in the United States

Of course above statistics doesn’t reflect the volume of crime:

Violent Crime Rates in the United States
Violent Crime Rates in the United States

So if we assume that these statistics are consistent and clearly represent the real world and have not been intentionally interpreted in a ways to represent data so it’s favourable to the presenter we can say that crime rates have been dropping since 1992. After 2000 they stabilized and didn’t veer too much off the course (no pun intended GWB), but overall crime situation has been “on the wrong foot” to say it mildly. Crime clearing rates doesn’t really appear to be a priority – they always remained pretty much the same independent of the volume of the crime. So obviously police will always stress the statistics that are favourable to them as in second pic. Besides statistics doesn’t matter much to TI, but understanding how crime is perceived and battled is important to finding the ways to address the issue. Some of these statements also explain why it could be hard to solve this crime (assuming organized stalking is not part of the unwritten and existing system of social control) – even if police set up a surveillance and catch a perpetrator or two they can only implicate them on the particular harassment instance which would be no real help in uncovering bigger picture. It’s quite possible that most perpetrators are not aware of the whole picture and they know only what they need to know. If you tried to ask low level employee like newspaper delivery boy about some organizational issues of Washington Post (the newspaper he delivers) –  he will not know and he doesn’t care. He might not even be employed by Washington Post.

It is interesting article about prospects of policing towards proactive and preventive policing. They argue that average cop doesn’t have deep knowledge much about intricacies, methods, technologies and tactics of crime investigation. They are law enforcement front line on the streets and they could benefit of expertise that criminal investigator has amassed throughout his specialized education and career in the field.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s