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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
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
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