Category Archives: law enforcement software

Best Practices for NGO Investigations Into Human Trafficking

Introduction

The investigation of human trafficking – and the rescue of victims – is a complex undertaking with many moving parts.

Investigations of human traffickers, and the subsequent rescue of victims, is a very complex undertaking. Unlike more traditional criminal investigations, there is rarely ‘one suspect’, ‘one victim’, or ‘one location’.

Instead, the crime of human trafficking takes place in a shady world that consists of multiple entities. Multiple perpetrators who work for multiple criminal organizations. Multiple victims who are trafficked by multiple pimps in multiple locations. These variables can make human trafficking a hidden crime that is difficult to investigate. The cost of not investigating, however, is the loss of lives, the loss of freedom, and the loss of innocence.

One particularly complicating feature of human trafficking investigations is the relationships between victims and traffickers. Traffickers initially use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They seek out victims who may be susceptible to their lies for a variety of reasons including economic hardship, psychological or emotional instability, or other socio-economic disadvantages.

Victims of human trafficking are often helpless to call out for help, making the crime even more difficult to investigate.

Once lured by the traffickers, victims rarely have an opportunity to speak out or call for help. Language barriers, fear of their attackers, lack of a social safety net, and a general feeling of helplessness overwhelm the victims. Thus, the crime becomes difficult to investigate.

But investigate we must. The cost of turning our backs on this global problem is simply too high.

This overview will focus on some best practices for managing investigations into human trafficking, the capture of perpetrators, and the rescue of victims. A haphazard approach to these sensitive and complex investigations is likely to cause more harm than good, and these best practices are designed to help your organization maximize your productivity and safely rescue more victims.

Best Practice #1 – Stay Organized

The first best practice we need to discuss is ‘Staying Organized’. What might start off as a Tip that a young girl is being sold for sex in a local hotel may quickly grow in scope to include multiple victims, multiple locations, multiple pimps, and multiple abusers. These criminal enterprises thrive in the dark and, like cockroaches, simply scatter and disappear once light is shone. The practice of staying organized helps ensure that no intelligence or evidence falls through the cracks, giving the traffickers time to scatter and hide.

Using investigation case management software, such as that provided by Case Closed Software™, helps human trafficking investigators plan and stay organized.

Use investigation case management software. There are simply too many ‘moving parts’ within a human trafficking enterprise to attempt to stay organized without a purpose-built database. Spreadsheets, notes, cloud folders… these are all yesterday’s tools that cannot adequately manage today’s investigations.

With your case management software, track every tip that you receive. Some tips may be stronger than others. Some may lead to full-blown investigations, and some may not. In any case, track and store each tip that you receive as you never, ever know when information from those tips may become relevant to your ongoing investigations.

Triage every tip you can. Spend a moment to search your case management system to determine if anything about a tip relates to any current or past investigation. You can’t do this with paper files or spreadsheets. Perform some online research on the subject(s) of the tips to gauge how reliable the information might be. If the tip initially lacks the actionable or credible information to assign resources, keep the data in the case management system for future use. If the tip does contain actionable and credible information, use the case management system to prepare an actual Investigative Case and assign resources immediately.

A key to a successful investigation and rescue is tracking all of the actions being taken and sharing that information with the appropriate team members.

Importantly, in terms of Staying Organized, use your case management process to track each action being taken on the investigation. Did someone perform some Open Source Intelligence on the suspected location? Log that information electronically so that it does not fall through the cracks.

Has an agent visited the suspected location to determine if there are likely victims there? Log that into the system. Store any videos or photographs that the investigator made and attach them right to that case.

Log and maintain notes and related files on every action taken on your human trafficking cases. Make them safe, secure, and easy to access by other team members.

Organization is the KEY to any criminal investigation, and even more so for investigations into human trafficking.

Best Practice #2 – Securely Share Information in Real-Time

Investigations into human trafficking and victim rescues are complex and cannot occur in a vacuum. Much like the criminal enterprises themselves have multiple roles such as kidnappers, transporters, handlers, and pimps for example, so must your investigation team have specialized roles. Your undercover ‘john’ cannot be the same as your public-facing advocate, for example.

Sharing information across jurisdictions, cultures, and languages can be difficult. Use case management software from Case Closed Software™ to facilitate understanding.

The key to ensuring that everyone involved in the investigation is successful is sharing information. In an environment where traffickers are always on the lookout for potential risks to their operation, it’s of utmost importance that your operational team all be on the same page so that no missteps occur.

This type of alerting and information sharing cannot be done by text messages or word-of-mouth. It must occur within a fool-proof system of secure information sharing where there is no room for ambiguity. Lives depend upon it.

All of the actions and intelligence that is gathered during an investigation should be securely stored in your case management system. The moment a member of the investigation team submits new information, all other permitted team members should have secure, online access to the new information whether they are notes, videos, photographs or other file types. The removal of ambiguity or misinterpretation is key to ensuring that all team members are aware of the case status at all times.

Human trafficking is a global problem. Language barriers should not stand in the way of investigations and rescues.

As an aside, for multi-jurisdictional investigations, teams should ensure that individual members can view the information in the language of their choice in real-time. If the information was entered by an investigator in Brazil using Portuguese, that information should immediately be readable to a team member in Colombia who understands only Spanish. Always focus on ensuring your team members have access to accurate information in real-time. When time is lost, the cockroaches scatter.

Ensuring that sensitive data is available only to those with proper permissions is vital to keeping human trafficking investigations on track.

In those unique situations where individual team members do NOT require access to the information, perhaps because an investigation is particularly sensitive or involves public officials, your case management system should have capabilities to disallow them from viewing the update. This keeps information in the correct hands, while still furthering the integrity of the data-sharing requirement.

Only when information is shared in real-time can managers and team leaders best determine the next steps for the investigation and rescue of victims.

Best Practice #3 – Maintain Investigation Privacy and Integrity

As mentioned above, human trafficking organizations are like cockroaches. The moment they sense something is going to shine a light on them, they disappear into the woodwork. This most tragic of outcomes is painful for both the investigators and victims alike.

Keeping the investigation lights off, therefore, must be a strategic goal of human trafficking investigations. Assigning roles to your team, and ensuring that all members are adhering to those roles, is one way to keep your actions covert and secure. If a team member’s role is to pose as an interested buyer of sex, that team member should probably not also be involved in general reconnaissance of crime scenes where he or she may be recognized.

Policies and procedures exist for a reason. Ensure that they are followed. Even seemingly small mistakes can cause an investigation to derail.

Another way to ensure privacy and integrity is to utilize cutting-edge access policies to ensure that information is not accessed by outsiders or, worse yet, an insider to your team. Ensure, therefore, that EVERY SINGLE KEYSTROKE into your case management system is logged and reviewable. If your suspect organization packed up and left mere days before your major rescue and arrest operation, its important to know how that happened. Who accessed the information in your case management system, and why?

Make sure that the information your team is electronically storing is secure. Very secure. Use globally recognized and proven data security standards to protect all data and access to it. Ensure that all team members are trained and well-versed on any systems you are using for investigations.

There can never be too much integrity in a human trafficking investigation, and there can never be too much privacy. Loose lips sink ships. The same goes for loose investigation procedures. The line between a rescued victim and a lost opportunity is thin. Use investigation privacy and integrity to walk that line more effectively.

Best Practice #4 – Share Information with Senior Law Enforcement or Trusted Partners

As a team of human trafficking investigators, you recognize the seriousness and horror of human beings – like you, like me, like our daughters, sons, and grandchildren – being bought and sold for pleasure. You understand the misery of the victims and feel compelled to help. Good. That makes you a good person.

Law Enforcement agencies, however, do not typically act as emotional human beings. They have full caseloads involving homicides, drugs, corruption, and a host of other traditional crimes. Too often, they view human trafficking as merely ‘prostitution’. If a person wants to sell his or her body in exchange for money, there are no victims and, therefore, these cases can often receive a very low priority. Many times, they are dismissed out of hand.

The job of the human trafficking investigation team, therefore, is to get the attention of senior local law enforcement partners in a direct and meaningful manner… one that compels the officers to work with your team in rescues and arrests.

When meeting with Law Enforcement partners, be prepared.

Our history and background suggest that engaging senior law enforcement ‘too early’ adds risk to the investigation. Remember, loose lips sink ships, and these cases are often viewed as unimportant.

Sadly, our experience also shows that involving senior partners ‘too late’ is problematic as police departments are often reluctant to become involved in situations that they have not directly controlled and cannot easily verify the integrity of the work done prior to their involvement.

So, the answer of when to involve your senior partners is unique to each case and each situation. That decision can’t be covered in detail here. Instead, the method used to involve local senior law enforcement – whenever that transpires – is a factor that you can and should control to maximize the potential for a successful operation.

Sharing a full case file with Law Enforcement is vital to achieving their assistance. Wherever possible, use specific statutes and violation codes to help your partners understand the work you’ve put in.

Going in to meet with your prospective law enforcement partner should be a pleasant experience. Your team has built a good case and you’re ready to involve the authorities to help finalize the operation. Going in unprepared, however, will result in disappointment or disaster. As advocates for the prosecution of these types of crimes, you’re full of passion. Best practices, however, show that it is equally important to be full of actionable facts, evidence, and proof.

Therefore, best practices suggest that you build a ‘case file’ as you prepare to meet with law enforcement or senior management. On television, they sometimes call the visual representation of this case file a ‘murder board’. Make sure you have one. Make sure your case file lists ALL of the entities involved in your case. Make sure it includes all of the specific actions you’ve taken. Make sure it includes all of the audio, video, photos, and other evidence you’ve gathered.

Make sure the case file clearly shows the human trafficking operation. Who is in charge? Who are victims? What locations are involved? Who are the supporting witnesses?

Without an easy-to-digest case file, your chance of getting senior law enforcement’s attention diminishes quickly. So, utilize your case management system to very clearly outline the case in a compelling and thorough manner.

Best Practice #5 – Plan, Plan, and Plan Again

The final best practice is Operational Planning. Not to overstate it, but as I’ve said earlier human traffickers are cockroaches. At the first sign of light, you’ll lose them. Every time.

The final best practice for investigating human trafficking is perhaps the most important. Plan.

The biggest key to a successful human trafficking investigation boils down to three elements: Plan, Plan, and Plan Again!

Plan, then plan again, and then plan once more. Plan your response to every initial tip. Plan your initial investigation work into every case. Plan the tasks and mission of every operative involved in your case. Plan how to get case information into the hands of those who need it in real-time. Plan to keep the investigation quiet so as not to risk the cockroaches running.

Plan every covert operation as if lives depended upon it. They might. Plan in advance what the ‘panic’ word is. Plan in advance what hand signals your operative might use if audio fails. Plan in advance to know where the nearest trauma center is. Plan in advance to know what other risks are present. Dogs? Security? Children?

Plan and make that plan available to everyone who needs to see it. Share that plan in your case management system and know when every user has read it.

Finally, plan to present your case in a compelling manner to senior law enforcement officials. And then work with them on a plan to successfully pull victims out of harm’s way and arrest the bad guys.

Summary of Best Practices

Software from Case Closed Software™ helps NGO’s and other parties manage successful investigations into human trafficking.

We have covered some of the key ingredients to a successful human trafficking investigation and rescue. Of course, no operation ever goes exactly as you expect, but by ensuring that you are following these best practices – staying organized, sharing internal information, maintaining investigation integrity, effectively engaging with senior law enforcement officials, and conducting meticulous planning – you greatly increase the likelihood that your efforts will result in the wonderful rescue of victims and the prosecution and incarceration of the perpetrators.

By Douglas Wood, entrepreneur and investigation management professional.

Copyright 2021 Case Closed Software™

Managing Multi-Jurisdictional Investigations

Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Forces, Cold Case task forces, Anti-Human Trafficking task forces, Internet Crimes against Children Task Forces, Wildlife Protection task forces, and the like… they all share a common problem.

Collecting, storing, and disseminating investigative information is difficult enough in any complex investigation unit. Imagine the compounded problems of investigating cases in multiple jurisdictions, across different countries, in multiple languages, with multiple sets of rules and case workflows!

 

Case Closed Software™ produces software to assist people with this process, making it easier to generate, store, and retrieve information over the course of investigating a case, whether that case is across the city or halfway around the world.

When international users investigate cases, they need to be able to collect and store data in a useful and meaningful way so that they can access it later AND to make information available to other people who might have an interest in the case.

Historically, investigative case management required people to start paper files to store witness statements, track evidence, collect and record the outcome of various lines of inquiry, and so forth. Today, Case Closed Software replaces the paper files, allowing people to quickly record and access data.

Investigative case management facilitates the recovery of data at every step of the investigation, along with supporting references, digital images, and other electronic material that can be stored in a computer case file. It is often also necessary to store physical evidence and provide information to help people find it through evidence handling and chain-of-custody records.

The ability to know where EVERY case is, where EVERY piece of evidence is, and what EVERY agent is working on is vital to multi-jurisdictional investigation units.

Active information sharing – across remote jurisdictions and disparate languages – also allows people to do things like connect related cases, identify persons of interest, track organized crime, work with informants, and increase productivity.

CJIS-Compliant and globally-recognized systems from Case Closed Software streamlines the process and simplify data entry so that users can enter materials to quickly and easily, rather than days or weeks later when the information may be less useful.

Case Closed Software solutions for multi-jurisdictional investigations are currently used by customers across the globe to investigate drugs and narcotics, animal cruelty, child sexual abuse, human trafficking, and a host of more traditional criminal investigations.

For more information please visit us at www.caseclosedsoftware.com

Contributed by Douglas Wood, CEO at Case Closed Software™

GA Sheriff’s Office Deploys Case Closed Software™ for Investigation Case Management

(April 6, 2021)  Austin, TX – Case Closed Software™, a leading provider of investigation case management software to specialized investigation unit, today announced that a large Georgia Sheriff’s Office has signed a multi-year contract for their secure, cloud-based systems.

The Peach State county, serving tens of thousands of residents, selected Case Closed Software after speaking with existing users and testing the functionality with their own data.  Case Closed Software will help the county’s Sheriff’s Office and associated Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force work investigations more efficiently with a goal to close criminal cases more quickly.

According to Douglas Wood, President of Case Closed Software, the county selected his company’s offering due to the flexibility and overall feature set it offers.

Case Closed Software is powerful and feature-rich software for specialized investigation units.

 

“We’re thrilled to add this new law enforcement client to our delighted customer base”, said Mr. Wood. “We very proudly focus on specialized investigation units which include state bureaus of investigation, fugitive recovery agents, anti-human trafficking investigators, drug task forces, internet crimes against children units, and local law enforcement.”

Case Closed Software has begun implementation of the software and expects the County to be fully installed and trained by April 30, 2021.

Year long Ohio drug task force investigation leads to arrests on drug and weapons charges

According to Commander Justin Conley of the Brown County Drug and Major Crimes Task Force, the people arrested are allegedly responsible for distributing more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine and several firearms in the area.

Read the impressive story HERE.

Case Closed Cloud adds Multi-State Natural Resources Task Force

(September 20, 2018) Austin, TX – Case Closed Software® announced today that a 5 State Natural Resources/Law Enforcement Task Force has begun working on the Case Closed Cloud™ platform for advanced investigative case management.

imageedit_1_5054046854.pngThe task force – consisting of natural resources law enforcement agents from Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri – selected Case Closed Cloud due to its ease-of-use, quick deployment model, and cost-effective pricing.

 

“We are thrilled to add another big name multi-jurisdictional task force to our group of cloud customers,  said Douglas Wood, CEO of Case Closed Cloud’s parent company Crime Technology Solutions, LLC. “Our SaaS offering is now used by agencies, security firms, drug task forces, and other investigative organizations both here in the U.S. and overseas”,

Case Closed Cloud is an ultra secure, CJIS-compliant investigation case management system designed for investigative agencies that want to stay organized and manage cases more easily. The browser-based system includes functionality for tracking cases, investigator actions and supplemental reports, evidence (both physical and electronic), reporting, tips and leads, and much more.

“Cloud software has so many benefits for law enforcement. It is the fastest growing segment of the market by far.” added Mr. Wood.
cloud-computing-benefit

For more information on how Case Closed Cloud can help you revolutionize your investigative unit, visit https://www.caseclosedcloud.com

 

 

Case Actions: The Baseline for Productive Investigations.

Let’s face it… RMS software, by and large, is not designed for managing major cases. Agencies know it, and the RMS vendors know it. For them, the notion of managing the complexities of major case investigations is an afterthought at best.

(The answer I give to these inquiries, by the way, is that any good investigation management software should have capabilities to ingest data from other law enforcement products, including RMS).

The more important point, however, is recognizing that criminal investigators gather vasts amounts of information during the course of an investigation. Witness statements, interviews, interrogations, tips, leads, informant statements, audio files, video files, photos, and much more. Too often, agents must rely on their RMS systems which, per above, are not purpose-built for investigations. Investigators also rely heavily on paper files and file cabinets full of notes, search warrants, and physical evidence.

Fortunately, there is an alternative… purpose built investigation case management software that utilizes what I call ‘Case Actions’ as the underlying workflow. Case Actions are the individual actions that an investigation unit takes in pursuit of closing a case. Case Actions are expansive in nature, and include:

  • Crime Scene Visits
  • Interviews
  • Interrogations
  • Knock ‘n Talks
  • Surveillance
  • DNA
  • Search Warrants
  • Affidavits
  • Controlled Buys
  • Arrests

… and much, much more. You get the idea, though.

By effectively logging each Case Action in a particular Case, the investigators (and management) are able to quickly and visually recognize the status of the case, and what further actions should be taken. Each Case Action leads to new information… which leads to new Case Actions. And the beat goes on. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, enough information is garnered to close the case. That’s the power of Case Action based workflow.

WIth the Case Action based approach, each Case Action is tied to Persons, Locations, Vehicles, etc. As a result, robust dossiers of these things are built without the individual agent(s) even realizing it.

By utilizing an investigation case management solution that is based upon Case Actions, law enforcement can leverage information from previously-entered data such as telephone numbers, evidence items, addresses, persons, gang members, etc. The Case Actions feed themselves – and each other – to build a valuable repository of investigative information.

An example: A detective has received a tip that Doug Wood is involved in a particular criminal activity. By accessing her Case Action-based system, she quickly learns that Doug Wood has been a Suspect in Case 1 (belonging to an entirely different investigator), and a Witness in Case 2 (belonging to a third investigator).

She also learns (via Case Actions performed by the Gang Unit) that Doug Wood shares an address with a confirmed Gang Member and goes by the nickname ‘Woody’. She also sees Doug’s previous addresses, telephone numbers, work history, social media accounts and so on… each of which has been logged as part of completely unique Case Actions.

That is the power of Case Actions based investigation management software. Because each previous Case Action involving Doug Wood was logged, the current investigator has a goldmine of information at her fingertips.

Case Closed Software is the leading provider of Case Action based investigation case management software for law enforcement. Contact Us for a demo today!

Case Actions – The Baseline For Productive Investigation Units

Several times each week, I receive an inquiry from a PD, task force, or Sheriff’s office asking if my investigation case management software, Case Closed Software, can interface with a particular Records Management System (RMS). The question stems from the investigation unit’s desire to have a purpose-built, flexible solution designed to help their agents stay organized and work more efficiently.

Let’s face it… RMS software, by and large, is not designed for managing major cases. Agencies know it, and the RMS vendors know it. For them, the notion of managing the complexities of major case investigations is an afterthought at best.

(The answer I give to these inquiries, by the way, is that any good investigation management software should have capabilities to ingest data from other law enforcement products, including RMS).

The more important point, however, is recognizing that criminal investigators gather vasts amounts of information during the course of an investigation. Witness statements, interviews, interrogations, tips, leads, informant statements, audio files, video files, photos, and much more. Too often, agents must rely on their RMS systems which, per above, are not purpose-built for investigations. Investigators also rely heavily on paper files and file cabinets full of notes, search warrants, and physical evidence.

Fortunately, there is an alternative… purpose built investigation case management software that utilizes what I call ‘Case Actions’ as the underlying workflow. Case Actions are the individual actions that an investigation unit takes in pursuit of closing a case. Case Actions are expansive in nature, and include:

  • Crime Scene Visits
  • Interviews
  • Interrogations
  • Knock ‘n Talks
  • Surveillance
  • DNA
  • Search Warrants
  • Affidavits
  • Controlled Buys
  • Arrests

… and much, much more. You get the idea, though.

By effectively logging each Case Action in a particular Case, the investigators (and management) are able to quickly and visually recognize the status of the case, and what further actions should be taken. Each Case Action leads to new information… which leads to new Case Actions. And the beat goes on. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, enough information is garnered to close the case. That’s the power of Case Action based workflow.

WIth the Case Action based approach, each Case Action is tied to Persons, Locations, Vehicles, etc. As a result, robust dossiers of these things are built without the individual agent(s) even realizing it.

By utilizing an investigation case management solution that is based upon Case Actions, law enforcement can leverage information from previously-entered data such as telephone numbers, evidence items, addresses, persons, gang members, etc. The Case Actions feed themselves – and each other – to build a valuable repository of investigative information.

An example: A detective has received a tip that Doug Wood is involved in a particular criminal activity. By accessing her Case Action-based system, she quickly learns that Doug Wood has been a Suspect in Case 1 (belonging to an entirely different investigator), and a Witness in Case 2 (belonging to a third investigator).

She also learns (via Case Actions performed by the Gang Unit) that Doug Wood shares an address with a confirmed Gang Member and goes by the nickname ‘Woody’. She also sees Doug’s previous addresses, telephone numbers, work history, social media accounts and so on… each of which has been logged as part of completely unique Case Actions.

That is the power of Case Actions based investigation management software. Because each previous Case Action involving Doug Wood was logged, the current investigator has a goldmine of information at her fingertips.

Case Closed Software is the leading provider of Case Action based investigation case management software for law enforcement. Contact Us for a demo today!

Managing Major Cases Part Four: Operational Structures

In the first chapters of this series, Managing Major Cases, I focused on what defines a major case… and what are some of the unique problems associated with different major case ‘types’. For reference, you can find our previous chapters below:

Managing Major Cases: Part One

Managing Major Cases: Part Two

Managing Major Cases: Part Three

In this chapter, I want to overview the operational structure of Major Case Management.

The Command Triangle

Many Commonwealth countries (and some larger US jurisdictions) define Major Case Management roles within what’s called a “Command Triangle”. Specifically, per the diagram below, jurisdictions within countries such as Great Britain, and Canada define three (3) primary roles – a Major Case Manager who is responsible for the effective governance of the investigation, a Primary Investigator who reports to the Major Case Manager, and a File Coordinator who is responsible for coordination for internal communication and case file management.

Let’s take a look at the responsibilities of each role:

MCMT

 

As part of this Command Triangle, the Major Case Manager is accountable for the overall investigation. He or She determines investigation strategies, identifies and manages investigative resources, conducts case reviews, and all other high-level management functions.

The Primary Investigator typically reports to the Major Case Manager and is responsible for tasks including preparation of the case file for status meetings, ensuring that assignments are completed in a timely fashion, identification of resources required for the investigation, and report any major case updates to the Major Case Manager.

Also reporting to the Major Case Manager is the File Coordinator. Their job is also multi-faceted, and includes tasks such as scrutinizing the documents created during the process of the investigation to ensure the completeness and quality, ensuring that tips and leads are assigned and managed, ensuring the security of the case file(s), ensuring that all case actions are logged into the investigative case management software, and more.

Within these three roles are any number of supervisors and line staff that perform interviews, collect evidence, communicate with the media, and so on. Not to beat a dead horse here, but I’ll point out again that all of these roles may be performed by just a few people in some jurisdictions.

The Command Triangle vs. The Major Case Framework

I believe in The Command Triangle model but also strongly support a more US-centric model – The Major Case Framework. Perhaps the differences are subtle, but a Triangle is a hard shape with defined lengths and known, predictable angles. A Framework, however, is just that – a frame which, by nature, allows for additional flexibility than a hard shape. A frame is designed to support a structure, not confine it.

It’s this flexibility that makes the Major Case Framework ideally suited for the U.S. market. By that, I mean there are 200 or 300 law enforcement agencies in Canada, the majority of which have dozens or hundreds of officers. Down here, there are over 18,000 law enforcement agencies ranging in size from NYPD (More than 50,000 Officers) to Frenchtown, New Jersey (3 Officers). This type of variance requires the flexibility of a framework.

So, what is the Major Case Framework?

As noted in discussing The Command Triangle, managing major cases generally consists of organizational groups that perform different, but equally important, roles. The Major Case Framework, however, better recognizes the true nature of investigations by acknowledging from the outset that many, and sometimes all, of the roles are performed by only a small number of individuals and that role flexibility is part of day to day investigation work.

MCMF3_1
There are four main organizational groups within the Major Case Framework. They are defined as:

  1. Command: Personnel who establish standard operating procedures, guidelines, and policies, along with the direction that ensures departmental compliance with mandates and laws. The responsibility for the specific directions that a MCM Team takes falls into the hands of those in the Command role. Some examples of Command roles include Chiefs of Police, Sheriffs, Task Force Commanders, and Commissioners.
  2. Command Staff: Personnel who are charged with the high-level implementation of the policies driven by those in the Command role. CID unit heads, divisional Captains, and task force Directors are examples of the roles that fall into this group.
  3. Supervisor: Personnel who manage, control, and direct the actual resources of the MCM Team. There are any number of ranks that fill this important role, including Lieutenants and Sergeants, but – in general – the Supervisor is the individual who holds responsibility for the actual control of the personnel involved in the daily activities of the investigation.
  4. Line/Support: Personnel who perform the day to day tasks related to the investigation. These are the Detectives, Investigators, Technicians, Deputies, Analysts, and a host of other titles that are working the investigation at the ground level. The success of this organizational group.

As noted in the MCM Framework diagram, in many organizations ‘Commanders’ will find themselves performing Line/Support functions, and Supervisors will often find themselves doing the roles defined in ‘Command Staff’. American Law Enforcement, particularly small and medium-sized agencies and task forces, require the flexibility of the framework in order to succeed.

It is important that any agency’s case management systems and processes allow for the flexibility of both the Command Triangle and the Command Framework.

In Part Five of this series, I’ll examine the topic of “What Do Investigators Do?”

New Doug4Douglas Wood is CEO of Crime Technology Solutions | Case Closed Software, a leading provider of serious investigation software to law enforcement, state bureaus, DA offices, and other investigative units. Doug can be reached directly HERE.

 

Managing Major Cases Part Three: Multi-Incident Major Cases

In Part One of this series, I overviewed a generally-accepted definition of Major Cases, and discussed some of the attributes that define them.

In Part Two, I began to probe the ‘types’ of Major Cases – specifically, Single-Incident Major Cases. These are cases that may, under different circumstances, not be Major Cases but for the identity of the victim, the identity of the suspect, the location of the incident, and/or the uniqueness of the crime.

Here in Part Three, I want to discuss the second ‘type’ of Major Cases – Multi-Incident Major Cases and – specifically – the problems associated with trying to investigate a case while related crimes are still occurring. (Spoiler Alert: It’s stressful)

Based upon interviews I have conducted with CID Commanders, Sheriffs, District Attorneys, and other law enforcement experts, there are several types of Multi-Incident Major Cases. Based on the patterns of the crimes, Multi-Incident Major Cases are classified into three basic categories – Mass crimes, Spree crimes, and Serial crimes

Mass Crimes – A Major Case mass crime involves multiple victims at one location during one continuous period of time, whether it is done within a few minutes or over a period of days. The term ‘mass murder’ springs to mind, and invokes images of Dylann Roof(Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina), James Holmes (2012 Aurora, CO. shooting in which he killed 12 people and injured 70 others at a movie theater), and James Loughner (2011 Tuscon, AZ shooting that killed 6 people and severely wounded US Representative Gabrielle Giffords).

massmurderers
Dylann Roof, James Holmes, and James Loughner

There are other types of Major Case mass crimes, however, including mass assault, mass human smuggling, and other horrible crimes that need no further illustration here.

Spree Crimes – Spree criminals commit two or more serious crimes with two or more victims, but at more than one location. An important distinction about spree crimes is that there is no ‘cooling off’ period between the crimes.

markbarton
Mark Barton

An unfortunate example of a spree crime is that of Mark Barton. On July 29th, 1999, he walked into his office at Momentum Securities and opened fire, killing four people. Then he went next door to another company and killed five more people. Earlier in the day he had also murdered his wife and their two children. Multiple crimes in multiple locations with no cooling off.

 

Another example of a spree crime is the armed robber who hits a slew of pre-chosen banks on the same day, terrorizing employees in the process. The examples here are too numerous to mention, but they become Major Cases by virtue of their spree qualities. Again, this shows multiple crimes in multiple locations with no cooling off.

Serial Crimes – Serial criminals commit multiple crimes with multiple victims. Unlike spree criminals, however, serial criminals commit their crimes on distinctly separate occasions. There is a cooling off period between crimes.

Uniquely, serial criminals tend to plan their crimes meticulously and pre-select their victims and locations. Unlike mass crimes and spree crimes, serial crimes are differentiated in that the perpetrator tends to carefully select their victims, have cooling-off periods between crimes, and plan them carefully. Examples of serial criminals (especially serial killers) are far too easy to find and include The Zodiac Killer (in California in the late 1960s), Ted Bundy (confessed to killing 30 women), and Dennis Raider (The BTK Murderer who killed 10 people in Wichita between 1974 and 1991

A unique problem with Multiple Incident Major Cases

The major problem for law enforcement investigating Multiple Incident Major Cases, especially those that fall in the ‘serial’ category, is that new crimes are committed even as the investigation is underway. Resources can be stretched to their thinnest when a new crime is added to the serial list, and the public pressure for an arrest can overwhelm even the hardest of investigators. Hello, stress.

stress

A common attribute of the successful serial crime investigators that I have spoken with is their ability to separate the pressure from the work. The crimes and their timing are unpredictable, the public demand for a resolution is powerfully serious, and ‘interested parties’ (think politicians) are breathing down the investigators’ necks. That’s a lot of pressure.

Just as in any profession, untreated stress can lead to major consequences. These consequences not only affect the individual investigator, but also those with whom he or she has daily contact, including family and friends. The investigators I have spoken with help alleviate the pressure through:

  • Taking care of themselves physically,
  • Ensuring that workload is spread as evenly as possible, and
  • Taking time to partake in leisure and family.

(A quick point of clarity and a disclaimer: Any discussion around the differences between mass criminals, spree criminals, and serial criminals is going to be lively, and is an ongoing source for debate among criminologists. This posting will undoubtedly include characteristics and definitions that some readers may not entirely agree with.)

In Part 4 of this special series Managing Major Cases, I will examine the operational structures involved in managing major investigations.

New Doug4Douglas Wood is CEO of Crime Technology Solutions | Case Closed Software, a leading provider of serious investigation software to law enforcement, state bureaus, DA offices, and other investigative units. Doug can be reached directly HERE.

Managing Major Cases Part Two: What puts the ‘Major’ in Major Cases?

In Part One of this series, I provided my definition of Major Cases and went into some detail about some of the attributes that differentiate a Case from a Major Case. Moving ahead now, I want to take a look at the different ‘types’ of Major Cases.

One of the problems in dealing with Major Cases is that, because of the varying types of cases, there’s no firm blueprint for investigating them. Major Cases move in real time, and – based upon interviews I have conducted with Major Case Investigators – can generally fall into one of two categories – Single Incidents and Multiple (serial) Incidents.

This article tackles Single Incident Major Cases.

Single incident Major Cases are defined by one single criminal act so abhorrent to the socio-economic environment, that it alone creates intense pressure to apprehend the perpetrator(s). What makes the incident so abhorrent ranges from factors such as:

The identity of the victim: In September of 1996, at the height of tensions between The Bloods and The Crips, a 25 year old African American man is shot in a drive-by shooting on the streets of Las Vegas and dies a few days later. Unfortunately, young black men die far too frequently in times of gang tensions, and few of these cases ever elevate to the status of a Major Case. The victim here, however, was Tupac Shakur.

Tupac was an American rapper and actor who came to embody the 1990s gangsta-rap aesthetic, and was a key figure in the feud between West Coast and East Coast hip hop artists. Simply put… he was famous as hell. Hence, a far-too-routine shooting became a Major Case in the blink of an eye. The case remains unsolved.

The identity of the suspect(s): “We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder.” Thus ended the double murder trial of former NFL player and Heisman Award winner OJ Simpson. In what was deemed ‘The Trial of the Century”, Simpson had been charged with the June 13, 1994 killings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.

After weeks of testimony, and a clear nation-wide division between those who believed Simpson to be innocent and those who believed him guilty, Simpson was acquitted of the murders on October 3, 1995.

While the case of two relatively young and affluent Caucasians being killed in the generally safe area of Brentwood may have been newsworthy, it was the identity of the suspect that was the catalyst in this becoming one of the most famous single-incident Major Cases in American history.

The location of the crime: When a half-naked corpse, covered in cuts, bruises and bite marks, is found behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York’s Central Park, you have the makings of a Major Case. The corpse was that of 18-year-old Jennifer Dawn Levin. Levin was murdered during the early morning hours of August 26, 1986.

The ‘Met’, as the museum is known, is one of the most-visited and famous museums on the entire planet. Murders don’t happen in world-famous places like this, and the case became the top story on the evening news for months and months. That is one major single-incident Major Case.

After an investigation into what the press dubbed “The Preppie Murder”, college student Robert Chambers was charged and tried for murder. The jury, however, remained deadlocked for nine days and a plea bargain was struck. (Chambers’ defense, you may recall, was that he had killed Ms. Levin during consensual ‘rough sex’.)

The uniqueness of the crime itself: Six year old girls in upscale Colorado neighborhoods aren’t supposed to die. They’re certainly not supposed to be murdered… especially in their own home while the rest of the family slept. Uniqueness has always surrounded the December, 1996 killing of young beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey in Boulder, CO.

On the morning of December 26, 1996, John Ramsey found his daughter’s body with duct tape over her mouth and a cord twisted around her neck in the basement of the family home. John’s wife, Patsy, says she found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for JonBenét’s return – an amount that is purported to match exactly a recent work-related bonus that John Ramsey had received. Despite these odd circumstances, the couple retained lawyers and were not formally interviewed by police for over 4 months. (The case has never been solved, and Boulder Police have cleared the couple of any wrongdoing.)

Tragically, it’s estimated that over 1500 children are murdered each year in America. JonBenét’s case may have been just another number in that truly sad statistic were it not for unique circumstances that surrounded it; it occurred in an upscale neighborhood, the victim was a young beauty queen, the ransom note matching the bonus, a possible crime scene contamination by father John, and ‘seemingly’ uncooperative parents that made this a single-incident Major Case.

In Part Three of this series, we examine some examples and problems associated with Multiple Incident Major Cases.

 

Douglas Wood is CEO of Crime Technology Solutions | Case Closed Software, a leading provider of serious investigation software to law enforcement, state bureaus, DA offices, and other investigative units. Doug can be reached directly HERE.