skip navigation

PUBLICATIONS

Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.

 

NCJ Number: 200718 Find in a Library
Title: How to... Open a Cold Case
Journal: Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine  Volume:27  Issue:5  Dated:May 2003  Pages:28-31
Author(s): David Spraggs
Date Published: May 2003
Page Count: 4
Publisher: http://www.policemag.com 
Type: Guideline
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses the cold case investigation process in police work.
Abstract: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reports show that under 20 percent of all crime in the United States is cleared by arrest or exceptional means. Violent criminals face significantly higher statistics, but almost half of all murderers and rapists nationwide are still roaming the streets. There appear to be an ample number of cold cases that are just waiting to be re-opened and solved. The cold case investigation process involves assigning detectives to examine cases that went unsolved for various reasons. These reasons include the lack of available technology to analyze evidence, hostile witnesses, and not enough time allocation to properly work the case. Police agencies of all sizes can form cold case squads, either permanently or temporarily, to examine old cases. No department has unlimited time, personnel, and resources so it is important to carefully select the cases for review. Because homicides and sexual assaults tend to yield the most evidence, they are well suited to cold case review. It is important to define the parameters for selecting specific cases. A crime analyst can sort through and filter all reported crimes and give a list of cases that meet the criteria. A few factors, such as physical evidence and available witnesses, can determine whether a case is too old to re-open. Re-opening a cold case requires patience, diligence, and strong deductive reasoning abilities. The first step is the review of all existing case material; this is the most time-consuming step. The most important components of cold case investigation are the people--victims, witnesses, and suspects--and the physical evidence. Inventory of the available evidence is one of the most important steps in a cold case investigation. Biological evidence may degrade over the years, poor storage of items can result in ruined fingerprint evidence, poorly developed and fixed negatives and photographs may fade, and evidence may have been destroyed or lost by evidence technicians.
Main Term(s): Homicide investigations; Investigative techniques
Index Term(s): Crime Scene Investigation; Evidence identification; Forensic sciences; Interview and interrogation; Police role in criminal investigations; Rape investigations
To cite this abstract, use the following link:
http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=200718

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.