skip navigation


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: 237558 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Cold-Case Investigations: An Analysis of Current Practices and Factors Associated with Successful Outcomes
Author(s): Robert C. Davis; Carl Jensen; Karin E. Kitchens
Corporate Author: Rand Corporation
United States of America
Date Published: 2011
Page Count: 85
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Washington, DC 20531
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Rand Corporation
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
Grant Number: 2007-DN-BX-0014
Publication Number: ISBN 978-0-8330-5904-8
Sale Source: Rand Corporation
1776 Main Street
P.O. Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Report (Study/Research) ; Survey
Format: Book (Softbound); Document (Online)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Based on a national survey of law enforcement agencies regarding whether and how agencies conduct cold-case investigations, this report discusses the status of cold-case investigations in the United States and examines factors associated with successful cold-case investigations.
Abstract: The survey findings indicate that only 20 percent of the responding agencies (total of 1,051) had a protocol for initiating cold-case investigations; 20 percent of cold-case work is funded through line items in the budget, with most funded by grants or supplemental funds; success rates for cold-case investigations are low, with approximately one in five cases cleared; one in 100 cold-case investigations resulted in conviction; agency factors associated with higher clearance rates included level of funding and access to investigative databases. Four sites were selected for a review of up to 200 case files of solved and unsolved cases that have been assigned to cold-case squads. Four key findings emerged from this case analysis. First, factors can be identified that predict whether a cold-case investigation will be successful. Second, clearing a cold case does not automatically lead to making an arrest. Third, in sexual-assault cold cases, even when a suspect DNA match had been made, approximately one-third of cases were not filed because of problems with victim cooperation, credibility, or suspects being deceased or in prison; however, cases that were prosecuted resulted in convictions with lengthy prison terms over 90 percent of the time. Details are discussed for each of the four key findings. The study recommends two topics for research: a cost-effectiveness analysis of investigator time spent on cold cases compared with new cases and an assessment of the conviction rate for cold cases that includes a determination of whether prosecutor involvement in the investigation leads to a higher conviction rate. 6 figures, 18 tables, references, and appended survey questionnaire and an example of a cold-case data abstraction form
Main Term(s): Police policies and procedures
Index Term(s): Investigative techniques; Specialized investigative units; Specialized police operations
Note: For the Executive Summary see NCJ-237971
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*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.