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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Why some cases go viral. The case of Mollie Tibbets

BROOKLYN, Iowa — Mollie Tibbets, the 20 year old college student from the great state of Iowa has been missing since July 18th. The search is now well into week 3 after she disappeared while jogging in the area of Brooklyn, Iowa. Her case has hit headlines across the nation, and we have all seen her photo on our television screens over and over again.
First and foremost, we all certainly hope that Ms. Tibbets is found alive and well soon. Secondly, though, is the question of why cases such as hers go ‘viral’ while similar cases wallow in obscurity.
There are, according to most sources, somewhere around 100,000 people ‘missing’ in the United States at any given time. That’s the entire population of South Bend, Indiana. Approximately half of these missing persons are under the age of 21.
So, what makes a case such as Mollie Tibbets stand out from this crowd? Cynics would suggest that attractive, young, white females such as Ms. Tibbets garner more attention than other cases. A middle aged African American man who disappears is simply not as salacious and reportable a story, some might say.
Others would argue that cases such as Mollie Tibbets’ are newsworthy because they are uncommon. There seems to be a relatively small percentage of missing persons where the individual just disappears for no discernable reason, with no investigative leads, and with no good working theories. Perhaps this is true.
According to published data, almost 96 percent of missing persons in 2017 were runaways, and just one-tenth of a percent were abductions by strangers. Assuming (and we hope not) that Mollie Tibbets was abducted, that makes her case 1 in 1,000 as far as statistics go.
Factor in, also, that of all ‘missing persons’ under 21 years of age, just 53% are female, and of those, 57% are Caucasian. Suddenly Ms. Tibbets’ case is one of 30 in 100,000 at any given moment in this country.
The other things that separate these types of cases from the pack is the ability of family, friends, and law enforcement to raise public awareness. In the case of Mollie Tibbets, the reward for information leading to her discovery now tops $300,000.00. That type of reward is simply not accessible in the vast majority of missing persons cases.
Of major concern to family and friends of any missing person is the unfortunate fact that, in many states, it is not mandatory to report missing person cases to a national database designed specifically for the purpose of finding their loved ones. Perhaps that is a law that can be changed – and changed quickly.
In the meantime, we are left to wonder the whereabouts of Mollie Tibbets and 99,999 other missing persons. We hope for the best, and wish all of those cases could be as well publicized as this one.

August 21, 2018 UPDATE: UNFORTUNATELY, THE BODY OF MOLLIE TIBBETTS WAS FOUND TODAY. MAY SHE REST IN PEACE.

Douglas Wood is CEO of Crime Tech Solutions | Case Closed Software, a provider of investigation software for law enforcement agencies around the globe.

Case Closed Software user HCSO featured on Investigation Discovery Network

When the sleepy town of Mooresburg, TN receives news that beloved teacher Margaret Jack Sliger is murdered on her farm, Hawkins County detectives are charged with finding the sinister perpetrator to bring their community justice.
ID Network (Investigation Discovery) recently aired an episode of the popular program “Murder Comes To Town” featuring Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) in Tennessee. The story surrounds the 2015 murder death of 79 year old Margaret Sliger in Mooresburg, TN and the 2 year effort to solve and prosecute the crime.
Case Closed Software® is proud to be the investigation case management software provider for HCSO, and to be associated with the agency.
If you subscribe to ID Network, you can view the episode HERE.
 

Case Closed Cloud™ Announces Large U.S. Federal Contract

(January 22, 2018) Washington, DC – Case Closed Software® announced today that a large US Federal Government Executive Department has selected Case Closed Cloud™ as its next-generation investigative case management platform.

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The Department, with over 50,000 employees, is involved in investigating criminal cases and enforcing industry compliance in conjunction with their counterparts in all 50 U.S. States.

Case Closed Cloud is an innovative new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) investigation management platform from Crime Tech Solutions, LLC – a leading provider of software to law enforcement, state agencies, and other investigative agencies.

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“Case Close Cloud is an innovative new offering, and is already disrupting the case management industry”, said Douglas Wood, the company’s founder and chief executive. “This new customer chose us specifically for our unparalleled feature set, and because they can begin using the system without any significant upfront costs or IT requirements.”

Case Closed Software offers its software in both ‘on-premise’ and ‘cloud-based’ deployments, meaning that customers can quickly deploy the functionality in the manner that best suits their business requirements.

“The five year contract gives the customer access to our full suite of case management and big data investigation analytics”, added Mehul Panchal, Case Closed Software’s chief technology officer.

Case Management: Changing 'Overwhelm' to 'Overperform'

Posted by Audrey Rodgers, Customer Success Manager at Case Closed Software
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Law Enforcement Agencies today have to deal with a vast amount of information, both in physical and digital formats. Five new cases just fell into your hands today…. Those cases go with the other twenty you have already been assigned. BAM!
It’s clear that you have more than your share of work to do. Many detectives might find this a bit overwhelming and stressful, but with a bit of planning, and a great tool, you will be well on your way to keeping track of all twenty-five cases.
imageedit_12_9184783838Case Closed Software has all the functionality to assist you in that process:

  • Tracking your Cases
  • Approval Process
  • Master Name and Address database with address verification
  • Tips and Informants
  • Internal Communications via chat and email
  • Web-based Remote Case Reviews

In serving the public safety software industry for over a decade, Case Closed has heard a number of request from different departments across the country. Primary among those is the fact that Investigators do not want to be records managers, or state reporting clerks. They merely want to solve crimes.
The Case Closed application provides exactly what any law enforcement detective division needs. While other vendors focus on Records Management Systems (RMS) and Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) software with some ‘case management’ thrown in as an afterthought, Case Closed is focused SOLELY on case management and comprehensive investigative analytics.
No other system offers more at such an attractive price point. For more information on Case Closed Software, please visit us HERE.

North Carolina county selects Case Closed Software for investigation management

(November 1, 2017)  Austin, TX – Case Closed Software™, a leading provider of investigation case management software to law enforcement agencies, today announced that a large North Carolina Sheriff’s Office has signed a multi-year contract for their best-in-class software.
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The Tar Hill State county, serving several hundred thousand residents, selected Case Closed Software after a nearly year-long search for sophisticated software that can help them 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.
“We’re thrilled to add this Sheriff’s Office to our delighted customer base”, said Mr. Wood. “One of the reasons we won the business is the fantastic references provided by our existing clientele, which include Police Departments, Sheriff’s Offices, State Investigation Bureaus, District Attorneys and more.”
Case Closed Software has begun implementation of the software and expects the County to be fully installed and trained by November 30, 2017.
Case Closed Software, who recently announced a strategic relationship with analytics software provider Visallo, develops and markets investigation management software, sophisticated investigation analytics, and advanced criminal intelligence software for law enforcement.

The benefits of investigation case management software

You needn’t be a criminal investigator for particularly long before beginning to feel overwhelmed. Even the most seasoned detectives can be torn between competing priorities such as internal briefings, public scrutiny, phone calls, emails, and the general business that police officers experience every day.
Causing even more grief – and consuming additional time and resources – are the routine tasks of managing investigation case files, documents, interviews, supplemental reports, as well as preparing for DA meetings, court dates, and so on. The manual effort of attempting to locate specific pieces of evidence or paper documents, and then trying to determine how they fit together and disseminating the conclusions is massive.
Managing a criminal investigation becomes more and more difficult each day, given the sheer amount of information generated. Evidence and clues must be garnered from things such as call detail records, body cam video, crime scene photos, arrest records, calls for service data, search warrant results, physical evidence management, and so on… and they all combine to make management of individual cases nearly impossible without the appropriate resources
In an era where senior law enforcement officials are being asked to do ‘more’ with ‘less’, however, those resources can rarely come by way of additional staff. Instead, there are technology solutions, thankfully, that ease the pain that lies in the process of managing criminal investigations.
Investigation Case Management Software (ICMS) such as Case Closed Software provides investigation units with a solution that reduces the paper chase, keeps everything in order, and helps investigators close more cases, more quickly. Case Closed is also available via the cloud with Case Closed Cloud.
From a resource utilization perspective, effective ICMS automates the time-consuming tasks of:

  • Storing and retrieving documents such as witness statements, complaints, and supplemental reports
  • Locating and managing important audio and video files
  • Tracking physical evidence
  • Effectively communicating with counterparts
  • Keeping up with assigned tasks
  • Managing incoming tips and leads
  • Developing and understanding connections across incidents and cases
  • And much, much more.

From a productivity perspective, the benefits are also wide and varied:

  • ICMS saves everything in real time. Detectives never have to worry about losing important documents.
  • Allows case data to be entered anywhere – in the office, in the field, or at home.
  • Makes everything searchable. People. Places. Things… everything is cross-indexed and easily ‘findable’.
  • Provides real-time alerts to notify agents when and if information matches something already in the system.
  • Generates standard reports with a few keystrokes based on information in the system.
  • Easy preparation for internal status update meetings.
  • Allows investigators to share case files internally – or externally to the DA.
  • Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!

Many agencies are still operating investigations on paper files or antiquated, unfriendly systems because they believe the cost of implementing ICMS is prohibitive. Nothing could be further from the truth. The cost of effective software is now well within reach of the vast majority of law enforcement agencies. More importantly, the benefits far outweigh these costs.
Spend less. Solve more cases. Case Closed Software. Download a free brochure.

The Case for Software as a Service in Law Enforcement

 

Police officers protesting against budget cuts join public sector workers striking over pensionsState and local law enforcement agencies face a growing number of challenges due to lack of resources and the ever-dwindling public coffers. As a result of  legacy technologies that compound costs – through maintenance fees, implementation expenses, hardware purchases, and software upgrades – agencies are constantly challenged to do more with less.

 

To reduce cost and increase flexibility, more and more law enforcement departments are motivated to try cloud computing- Software as a service (SaaS). The benefits of SaaS to law enforcement agencies are many and varied.

 

Reduced Investment in Software Setup

 

shutterstock-cloud-computingThe majority of the law enforcement organizations already have the needed IT infrastructure to access SaaS applications. The essential requirement is a secure and stable Internet connection with devices that can access the web.

 

Cloud Computing Lessens Technical Effort

 

With SaaS solutions, agencies can easily store data or run applications which are accessible from any web-connected device at anywhere and anytime. Instead of investing in capital expenses such as software and computer servers, departments can effectively rent these on a variable payment plan.

 

Rapid Deployment

 

SaaS is typically ready-baked for its adopters. Through SaaS, agencies eliminate much of the delays of a traditional software deployment. Once subscribed, users can literally begin enjoying the benefit of the platform immediately. Contrast that to standard software deployments which can take weeks or months to spin up.

 

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System Maintenance is Automatic

 

Maintenance costs for SaaS subscribers are almost free. As part of their subscription fee, the SaaS provider manages upgrades, bandwidth adjustment, and bug fixes. It removes many of the headaches that an agency’s IT group experiences with new software versions and updates.

 

Traditional Policies Can Confound Adoption

 

Even though many US agencies are already using – or considering – cloud computing, adoption of SaaS is still a tricky decision for law enforcement. Because of the need to safeguard sensitive and confidential information that is saved offsite, the pace is slower than other market segments. That tide, however, is turning.

Case Closed Software is a leading provider of investigative case management software for law enforcement agencies across the country.

 

Tennessee county turns to Case Closed for investigation management

(March 27, 2017) Case Closed™ Software, a division of crime fighting software leader Crime Tech Solutions, LLC, announced today that they have signed contract with a large well-known and historic county in Tennessee.
tennesseeThe mid-sized Sheriff’s Department in the Volunteer State chose Case Closed Software after a long, thorough search for a solution provider capable of delivering “a feature-rich, affordable solution for managing investigations and the investigative unit”. The core modules of the software include Investigative Case Management, Link Analysis, Confidential Informants Management, Property & Evidence, Gang Tracking, and Departmental Reporting. According to a company spokesperson, the software also includes a mobile application for investigators in the field, and real-time alerting designed to help agencies solve crimes faster.
Case Closed Software said that the solution is being installed immediately, and that the agency will be fully implemented by April 30, 2017.
For more information on Case Closed, visit www.caseclosedsoftware.com
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