Organizing investigation details in small, manageable parts helps to keep everything running smoothly.
Investigators collect a large amount of information and evidence. Most rely on their records management system and long narratives to document their findings and to prepare their cases for court. Many times, investigators also rely on paper based files and collections of notes and note pads, only to find themselves eventually compiling all this information into a single case closing document. This makes it difficult to categorize information and evidence, and it makes it impossible to visually and quickly see the contents of a lengthy investigation.
A Better Way to Organize
Activity based investigations management relies on small, incremental and manageable pieces of information. This method allows investigators, their supervisors, prosecutors and other individuals involved with the investigation to quickly and visually understand the information.
By using this approach, investigation documents can build upon themselves by leveraging information from prior documents like persons, locations, vehicles, phone numbers and property, significantly cutting down on the amount of information an investigator must enter into their electronic case management system. Without even realizing it, the investigator painlessly begins developing a master index of persons, places and things, a timeline of their investigation and a self-generating, self-documented, and self-explaining index and directory into the case.
Discernible Benefits of Activity Based Entries
Incremental activity based entries into the case management system can also expose larger problems, linkages and investigative leads to an agency. As information is entered into a case management system, that information must be quickly processed so that the following benefits can be gained:
- Crime Pattern Identification – New information may identify a crime pattern by keeping attributes about the crime and suspects current. Patterns may be established by key words, methods, pedigree, modus operandi and other structured data elements.
- Cross Case Relationships – By compiling information in a timely manner and structuring activity based information, relationships and links across many cases, incidents and intelligence can be produced and visually inspected by the investigator, supervisors and analysts.
- Performance Analysis – While the investigator enters information in incremental pieces, agency supervisors and executives can gain better knowledge of the overall performance of an investigator, squad or entire agency. Activity based investigation documents allow the agency to ensure that cases are being actively investigated. Key monitoring factors like solvability and overall case progress help to answer questions such as:
- Do we have identified suspects?
- Where have we canvassed?
- How many interviews have been conducted?
- What evidence has been recovered?
By applying analytics to activity based investigations, an agency can visualize the investigations and enable an agency to view case management in a new way.
Delving Deep Into Case Activity
By applying Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, case activity can be viewed on a map, which provides information about where evidence was collected, where canvasses were completed, location of victims and suspects, location of cameras and much more. By visualizing case or investigation activity and its structured data, it is possible to create investigation timelines that show how a crime and the resulting investigation have progressed.
Lastly, activity based and incremental documentation give an agency the ability to monitor and track key performance indicators either on daily briefing reports or centralized command dashboards. Information such as the number of wanted posters produced, number of interrogations conducted, number of successful undercover operations completed and more can all be tracked and displayed.
Investigators can increase their efficiency when the proper tools are provided, and they no longer run the risk of losing handwritten notes and notebooks. The ability to record information while it’s fresh is a huge benefit to both investigators and supervisors for day-to-day operations and case review.
Better organize your investigations with ShotSpotter Investigate, smarter case management software for law enforcement.
About the Author: With more than 30 years of IT experience, Dan Leston has dedicated the last two decades to designing, developing and supporting mission critical law enforcement systems for the New York Police Department. As a trusted partner to the NYPD, Dan has worked closely with the agency to deliver records management and case management solutions.