[Ashboro, NC] — Lantern Rescue, a leading global non-governmental organization dedicated to combatting human trafficking, is proud to announce the selection of Case Closed Software as its primary investigation case management solution. After an extensive search for an affordable and feature-rich software solution, Lantern Rescue has chosen Case Closed Software to enhance its efforts in the fight against human trafficking worldwide.Human trafficking remains a pervasive and heinous crime, affecting millions of men, women, and children around the globe. Lantern Rescue has been at the forefront of counter-human trafficking efforts, working tirelessly to rescue victims, prosecute traffickers, and prevent future cases of exploitation. To bolster their investigative capabilities and streamline its operations, Lantern Rescue sought a comprehensive case management system that would provide a seamless workflow and advanced features.
Following a meticulous evaluation of various software solutions, Lantern Rescue found Case Closed Software to be the ideal fit for their requirements. The software’s robust features, affordability, and user-friendly interface stood out during the selection process. Case Closed Software’s cutting-edge technology will enable Lantern Rescue’s investigators to efficiently collect, manage, and analyze case information, allowing them to focus on their core mission of rescuing victims and bringing traffickers to justice.
Key features of Case Closed Software include:
Intuitive Case Management: A centralized platform that simplifies the collection, organization, and retrieval of case-related data, ensuring investigators can access crucial information quickly and effectively.
Collaboration and Task Assignment: Seamless communication and task assignment capabilities enable Lantern Rescue’s team members to collaborate effortlessly and enhance overall efficiency.
Advanced Analytics and Reporting: Robust analytical tools and customizable reporting features enable in-depth analysis, pattern recognition, and data-driven decision-making for more effective investigations.
Document and Evidence Management: A secure repository for storing and managing digital assets, such as documents, images, videos, and audio recordings, providing investigators with easy access to critical evidence.
Customizable Workflow: Tailor-made to fit the specific needs of Lantern Rescue, Case Closed Software offers flexible workflow configurations to streamline and automate investigative processes.
Lantern Rescue firmly believes that the integration of Case Closed Software will significantly enhance their investigative capabilities, enabling them to make greater strides in combating human trafficking worldwide. By implementing this state-of-the-art case management solution, Lantern Rescue is strengthening its commitment to efficiently rescue victims, disrupt criminal networks, and contribute to the global fight against human trafficking.
About Lantern Rescue: Lantern Rescue is a global non-governmental organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking and modern-day slavery. With a team of highly skilled professionals and a network of partners worldwide, Lantern Rescue conducts rescue operations, provides victim support, pursues legal action against traffickers, and works to prevent future cases of exploitation. For more information, please visit www.lanternrescue.org.
About Case Closed Software: Case Closed Software is a leading provider of comprehensive investigation case management solutions for law enforcement agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate investigators. With its user-friendly interface, advanced features, and customizable workflows, Case Closed Software streamlines the investigation process, enabling organizations to effectively manage and solve complex cases. For more information, please visit www.caseclosedsoftware.com.
Baton Rouge, LA – The Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) has selected Case Closed Software™ as its primary software for investigating fraud and other crimes. The LDR is responsible for protecting the state’s revenue and financial resources, and the selection of Case Closed Software™ as its primary software will enhance its ability to detect and investigate fraud and other crimes.
The selection of Case Closed Software was based on the system’s advanced capabilities which will help LDR more effectively investigate an array of fraud types, protect taxpayer dollars, and ensure the integrity of the state’s revenue.
“We are honored to have been selected by the Louisiana Department of Revenue as its primary software for investigating fraud and other crimes,” said Case Closed Software CEO Douglas Wood. “Our software is designed to help law enforcement and government agencies like the LDR effectively conduct criminal investigations, and we are committed to supporting their efforts to protect the state’s revenue and financial resources.”
The project arose out of a need for a sophisticated tool to help the multi-jurisdictional ICAC unit effectively triage and investigate criminal activity involving child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). In particular, we needed to come up with an investigation tool that would work around evolving laws and The Wilson Ruling of 2021.
NCMEC then creates and distributes CyberTips to appropriate law enforcement agencies and specially-trained agents.
The Anatomy of a NCMEC CyberTip for ICAC Units
Without getting too granular, a CyberTip is made up of several sections. There’s a front page, and Sections A through D. The front page will contain the date it was received, its assigned report number, and an executive summary. The executive summary will say what type of incident the report refers to, such as “Apparent Child Pornography”, and the number of files that were uploaded.
The first section of a CyberTip, Section A, has information about the reporting agency – Google, Facebook, TikTok and so on. It will also include a brief incident description, the time of the incident, the webpage involved, and the email, username, and IP address of the person reported.
Spoiler Alert… Here’s a key to The Wilson Ruling: For each file, this section says whether the reporting ESP actually viewed the file and whether the file was publicly available. We’re going to come back to this shortly.
Section B is geolocation information for the offending IP address given in the report. This helps NCMEC know which ICAC Task Force should get the tip. The ISP who owns or controls the IP address will also be listed.
Section C is for any additional information and may reference other CyberTips that are associated with the same username or IP address.
Here’s another key point related to The Wilson Ruling. The images or videos associated with the CyberTip are provided to the appropriate agency along with a PDF report, but they are NOT shown in the body of the report.
Why the CyberTip Matters
The point of describing the CyberTip here is to reinforce just how much unstructured data exists on them and foreshadow some of the pain points that ICAC teams experience in getting these CyberTips triaged.
That’s a significant component of the partnership that Case Closed Software has developed with San Diego Police Department… how to manage, de-conflict, and triage the overwhelming volume of CyberTips that each ICAC task force or investigator receives.
The other significant component of what we’ve worked on together from a technology perspective is related to how courts have applied Fourth Amendment doctrines to CSAM investigations. The Fourth Amendment, of course, is an important piece of our Bill of Rights and is supposed to protect all of us from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.
The ICAC Investigation into Luke Noel Wilson
Let’s look at The Wilson Ruling of 2021. This came out of the court’s application of the Fourth Amendment in the case of defendant Luke Noel Wilson who, in June 2015, attached several images containing CSAM to an email on his Gmail account. Google’s screening system – which scans uploaded images and checks for identical matches in a database of confirmed CSAM – immediately flagged Wilson’s attachments as “apparent child pornography”.
Without having an employee review the attachments first, Google’s system then sent an automated report to NCMEC that included the images. As is standard policy for ESPs, the report contained information about the date and time Wilson uploaded the images, along with his email address, login information, and the IP address of the device he used to upload the images.
NCMEC subsequently forwarded the report to local law enforcement – in this case, the fine team at San Diego ICAC – where an agent reviewed the NCMEC CyberTip and inspected each of the images, confirming that they were indeed CSAM.
Relying on Google’s report and his personal observations, the agent then applied for – and obtained – a search warrant for Wilson’s email account. The agent’s affidavit accompanying the search warrant request included descriptions of the images but didn’t specifically contain any mention of matching hash values, nor any description of Google’s screening process for CSAM.
When, with search warrant in hand, the agent searched Wilson’s email account, he discovered several email exchanges in which Wilson received and sent CSAM and additionally offered to pay a woman to molest and exploit children.
Law Enforcement then obtained a search warrant for Wilson’s residence and vehicle where they discovered devices containing thousands of images of CSAM including the original four attachments. Wilson’s alleged attempt at throwing a backpack over his balcony was noticed by assisting agents and was found to contain a thumb drive full of additional Child Sexual Abuse Materials.
It was later estimated that Wilson possessed 500 videos and 11,000 images of child sexual abuse, and – a few months later – he was arrested and charged with Distribution and Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Materials.
Wilson was convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison.
So, this seems at this point like a fairly standard ICAC case. What then happened that fundamentally changed the way ICAC units operated to triage and investigate CyberTips?
The Motion to Suppress
After his trial, Wilson filed a motion to suppress the four original attachments (the ones included in the original CyberTip) AND all evidence subsequently seized from his email account and residence, arguing that San Diego ICAC’s initial review of his attachments was a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The District Court denied his motion, however, reasoning that the government does not perform a ‘search’ within the context of the Fourth Amendment when it inspects something that is ‘virtually certain’ to contain contraband.
Wilson subsequently appealed that decision to The Ninth Circuit which reversed the lower court’s decision, concluding that the agent’s viewing of the attachments violated Wilson’s 4th Amendment rights and rejecting the position that there was ‘virtual certainty’.
Basically, the Ninth Circuit said that Google’s initial report specified only the ‘general’ age of the child and the ‘general’ nature of the acts shown, and had not been viewed by any Google employee.
By viewing the four attachments without a search warrant, therefore, the higher court concluded that law enforcement unlawfully obtained new, critical information, and then used that new information to obtain warrants to search Wilson’s home and email account.
Of key importance in the ruling was the assessment that, even though Google employees viewed images identical to Wilson’s to create Google’s database of suspected CSAM, they had not viewed the actual image itself.
By contrast, after viewing the images, law enforcement could describe “the number of minors depicted, their identity, the number of adults depicted alongside the minors, the setting, and the actual sexual acts depicted.” So, even though Google’s algorithm had flagged Wilson’s attachments to a mathematical certainty that his images were “bit-for-bit” duplicates of images identified by its employees as CSAM within their database, Wilson’s motion to suppress was granted.
The fallout for ICAC Task Forces has been tremendous because of this ruling. How are ICAC units and their respective affiliates, supposed to expeditiously review, triage, and investigate a massive and growing number of CyberTips while tip-toeing around an individual’s 4th Amendment rights?
Last year, San Diego ICAC approached Case Closed Software™ with this exact set of problems and we began work on a tool designed to systematically process CyberTips – one that automates what is currently a time-consuming chain of events.
The Trouble with Triage
For most ICAC Units, individual CyberTips must be downloaded as zip files via NCMEC or IDS. Those zip files contain PDF files with unstructured text that lists:
• Reporting Agencies
• Email Addresses
• Telephone Numbers
• IP Addresses
• Hash Values
• Physical Addresses
• Sender IDs
• Recipient IDs
• Suspect Names
• Victim Names
• … and much more.
Triage administrators must:
Download each CyberTip locally
Unzip the file
Begin a long process of putting those data elements together to create a connected view of those data elements to determine solvability
And then assign to an investigator – internal or affiliate.
Oh, and then do the same for the next CyberTip… and the next one… and the next one after that.
Problem Solving for ICAC
Working with San Diego ICAC, we created a tool that allows administrators to save CyberTips directly a CJIS-Compliant ‘black box’ server instead of downloading them locally. That black box contains proprietary logic that systematically opens those zip files, pulls all of those data elements from the PDFs, grabs all of the attachments and underlying hash values, and links them into a single interface for the administrator. Important to note is that this process happens quickly and virtually eliminates the manual efforts in existence now.
We have essentially created a unique, user-friendly system where investigators cannot view attachments until they purposely elect to.
They can see usernames, IP Addresses, filenames, and an array of other information… but not the images. Images cannot be revealed until investigators have proper authority in compliance of the Wilson Ruling. It’s a simple but brilliant addition to the process that protects all parties.
Just to tie a bow around Mr. Wilson, he was eventually convicted of child molestation on the Stateside and sentenced to 25 years. He was subsequently charged and convicted of possession and distribution of CSAM on the federal side and received an additional ten years. He is where he should be, but his entire case was thrown into jeopardy when one agent viewed four files that one court felt violated his rights.
GASTON COUNTY, N.C. – 9 pitbull terriers from a home in Gaston County, NC are safe today after being rescued from a dogfighting ring earlier this week.
Janette Reever of the Humane Society International’s global anti-dogfighting team says that the animals are on their way now to an undisclosed shelter run by specialists in rehabilitating abused animals.
The Humane Society International uses specialized investigation management software from Texas-based Case Closed Software™ to track and investigate dogfighting and other forms of animal abuse around the globe. ™
“It’s not just medical treatment, it’s complete mind and body therapy,” Reever explained. “Removing them off their collars, you can see their relief. They know they’re being taken away.”
She says the animals have already been treated with antibiotics and pain killers for their injuries.
“What’s so unique about American Pitbull Terriers, or pitbulls in general, is that they are so loyal,” Reever said. “That’s why they are terribly exploited. You can do horrific things to them and they will still love you and still want to fight to the death for you.”
Reever says seven dogs were rescued from dogfighting on Wednesday. Two weeks prior, two dogs were rescued from animal cruelty.
One man faces eighteen felony charges related to dogfighting, cruelty to animals, and possession of drugs.
Billy the Kid carved his name into history through his exploits during and after the Lincoln County War. In a career filled with almost impossible escapes and daring acts in battle, the “Kid” nevertheless found himself on the losing side of the war and, in its aftermath, was branded the West’s most notorious and wanted desperado.
Reportedly killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881, rumors persisted that the Kid survived, and new evidence developed by Cold West Detective Agency may prove that the Kid lived well into the Atomic Age.
Cold West Detective Agency takes a different and unique approach to history. While historians like to ‘study’ it, Cold West detectives actually ‘investigate’ it as a cold case. Working with law enforcement, Cold West detectives bring distinctive and rare expertise to the investigation of historical cold cases.
Blending old-west footwork with leading-edge investigation case management technologies from Texas-based Case Closed Software, Cold West detectives perform robust investigations at these century-old crime scenes.
Cold West picks up where history left off, and that can make some historians uncomfortable. It’s been said that “dead men tell no tales”, but when Cold West’s group of hardened investigators combine their expertise and curiosity with Case Closed Software, these investigations come back alive, and history begins to speak its secrets.
Cold West uses the “posse method”, utilizing experts from any and every field required to move the case forward. They work hand-in-hand with local Sheriffs, police, tech experts, federal agents, historians, and other experts, using cutting edge modern crime scene investigative methods (CSI) to develop never before seen and court-accepted evidence that changes history.
“Case Closed Software has been a game-changer for us”, said Steve Sederwall the co-founder of Cold West and former federal criminal investigator. “Our ability to blend all of our new investigation findings with all of those historical records helps us identify and develop new tips on our historical cases.”
Recently, Cold West – in the midst of investigating another famous old west crime – used Case Closed to develop previously unknown information that could completely change history’s view of the case. That investigation continues today.
“I like to think about how Jesse James or Billy The Kid would react to seeing how the accepted narrative of their demise is being changed through the work of Cold West detectives using modern and leading-edge technology”, added Case Closed Software’s president Douglas Wood.
Case Closed Software™ has announced that the company is sponsoring the annual National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition (NNOAC) conference in Washington, DC. The conference, attended by hundreds of narcotics officers and agencies across the country, is happening February 2 – 6, 2019.
Case Closed is powerful Investigative Case Management Software designed and developed BY Drug Task Force investigators FOR Drug Task Force investigators. Case Closed Cloud is the industry’s only fully integrated web-based Law Enforcement Task Force software for managing investigations, evidence, intelligence, informants, and much, much more.
Built using the very latest technologies, Case Closed Cloud is NIBRS-ready, and can be accessed on any device at any time. Case Closed Cloud is accessed from our ultra secure, CJIS-Compliant cloud servers via any browser on any device. With a full feature set including:
• Designed for Multi-Jurisdictional DTF Use
• Tracks all Cases and Case Types
• Manages Incidents and Case Actions
• Mobile-Friendly for Field Use
• 100% C)IS Compliant
• NIBRS Ready Architecture
• Physical Evidence Management
• Stores all Document Types by Case
• Manages Statutes and Charges through Court
• Manages Confidential Informants
• Manages Tips and Leads
• Provides Internal Messaging and Reminders
• Tracks Gangs, Members, and Events
• Delivers ad hoc Reporting Tools
• Tracks all Persons/Places/Vehicles across Cases
• Creates Master Case File for DA Use
Case Closed Software will show Drug Task Forces how they can FINALLY stop trying to manage with spreadsheets, paper files, antiquated systems, or poorly-designed RMS software.
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
Knock ‘n Talks
… 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!
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:
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:
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.
There are four main organizational groups within the Major Case Framework. They are defined as:
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
This is Part 1 of a series dedicated to the science (and art) of managing Major Criminal Cases in law enforcement. In order to begin a discussion on this subject, though, it’s important to define what makes an investigation a Major Case Investigation in the first place.
“A Major Case is a real or suspected crime of such severity that it creates an intense public demand for identification, apprehension, and prosecution of the offender(s).”
– Chief Daniel McDevitt
Irrespective of how your own definition may vary from Chief Dan’s, this much is simple; Major Cases are serious criminal matters. The degree of ‘seriousness’, however, is almost entirely relative. A stabbing in Chicago may not, by itself, be ‘serious’ as viewed by the public at large. Conversely, a sexual assault on a small University Campus may be extremely ‘serious’.
Make no mistake… neither are good or acceptable, and both are, of course, unthinkable violations. The point here is that cases may be Major Cases (or not) by virtue of the relative socio-economic environment in which they are being investigated.
Attributes of a Major Case. You probably have a Major Case when..
All of that said, there are several attributes which are common in major case investigations:
Resource Requirements – The amount of resources that an investigation unit must devote to a Major Case is substantial… far more than the average investigative case. This would include additional officers, overtime, forensics work, and the like. If your budget is shot in one fell swoop… you probably have a Major Case on your hands.
Big Brother is Watching – Maybe the Mayor is involved. Maybe the ACLU. Black Lives Matter? The NRA, even. Major Cases are often associated with major non-law enforcement interest from groups claiming to be stakeholders. If Al Sharpton, Wayne LaPierre, or AG Jeff Sessions have chimed in… you probably have a Major Case on your hands.
All Hands on Deck – Major Cases tend to redefine titles and organizational roles. Many of the Chiefs and Sheriffs I have interviewed on this topic describe pulling all types of duty assignments. Patrol officers become Detectives, who become Media Relations, and so on. If the chief cook is washing bottles… you probably have a Major Case on your hands.
Media Attention – Many Major Cases capture the attention of the public and, subsequently, the media. In many cases, a local case can turn viral and suddenly there’s a CNN mobile satellite truck parked outside. What makes an investigation viral isn’t always clear, but it’s discussed HERE in some detail. If Wolf Blitzer calls your investigation ‘Breaking News’… you probably have a Major Case on your hands.
There are Multiple Jurisdictions Involved – Because of the possible complexities of Major Cases, they quite often involve multiple agencies. Task Forces are regularly utilized in Major Cases, and are comprised of any number of people from across different law enforcement agencies, making the problem of staying organized even harder. Perhaps the City PD is working to support the local Sheriff’s Office – or vice versa. Maybe the State Bureau of Investigation is involved. Maybe the FBI. If you need ‘Hello My Name Is…” stickers during your case review… you probably have a Major Case on your hands.
Having placed some parameters around what defines a Major Case, we will look deeper into the unique problems associated with these types of investigations. Stay tuned for Part Two of this series.