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Effective investigation should focus on criminal profilers

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Added 23rd July 2018 12:53 PM

We have been too slow to realise how strongly crime levels are dictated by temptation and opportunity.

Effective investigation should focus on criminal profilers

We have been too slow to realise how strongly crime levels are dictated by temptation and opportunity.

Richard Musaazi

Crime has been with us since Adam and Eve. Surprisingly, God did not spot the solution. Rather than punishing the miscreants, it might have been better if he had put the forbidden fruit higher up the tree.

We have been too slow to realise how strongly crime levels are dictated by temptation and opportunity.

Forensic technicians should be encouraged to shed more light on a pattern of behaviour when investigating an incidence. In one of his basic principles of forensic science, French criminologist Edmond Locard, said, "Every contact leaves a trace."

However, the term "trace" is no longer explicit to physical and biological traces. It also includes digital ones where cyber or virtual contacts (emailing, Skyping, surfing the net, and so on) leave digital imprints. These comes in the form of an IP address or the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) of a mobile phone.

The work of forensic technicians has so far been overwhelmed. Their jobs involve identifying, collecting and analysing such traces to find out if they map to a suspect in a particular investigation.

Human nature remains constant from one generation to another. But situations change. Therefore, it is those evolving situations that largely determine how much is stolen, how many people are assaulted and how many citizens get killed.

My message is this… if you want to cut crime, spend more time on low-hanging fruits. By seeing crooks as the big issue, you tend to not notice the importance of immediacy. Moreover, listen to us and move beyond forensic reports and testimonies in courts of law. Furthermore, we now live in a world engulfed with increasing security challenges, terrorist attacks, kidnappings, murders and repeated security breaches in what was once assumed secure places, such as airports.

I look to criminology for answers. In recent high-profile shootings there are plenty of clues. You have the crime scene, the victim's body, bullet cases, witnesses, work colleagues, friends, family members and suspect vehicles. There are various things that you think would lead you to a killer. For example, DNA testing forensic pathologist, etc. But, what was discovered were a lot of political diatribe and pseudoscience.

In my view, all murder cases have one thing in common. No matter how complicated or seemingly obvious a case may be, good investigators will always approach the investigation in a similar methodical way.

Get these essential steps right and the murder case is solved…

1 - Nail down the timeline: The timeline is vital for every murder investigation. Getting it right can open as well as close avenues of investigations.

2 - Follow every lead: Keeping an open mind about the causes and possible perpetrators of a crime is fundamental to an investigator's success.

3 - Treat everything as evidence: Everything at a crime scene including a victim's body to the position of all the things surrounding them can be considered evidence.

4 - Persevere: Time can be a major factor in solving murders. We all know the rule about the first 48 hours being the most important.

If a forensic technician who examined personal items collected from a kidnapper further investigated such items - with those of other kidnappers - they could potentially detect certain patterns. This method could help prevent the occurrence of further kidnapping.

Likewise, imagine if a forensic technician investigating the suspected death of a child wandering with a digital device, were able to build a hypothesis relating to the device. They could then consult with engineers to further research the matter and come up with extra measures for product safety.

It is my opinion that the current policing and legal mindset needs to change and support criminal profilers. Also, for forensic technicians to go beyond the standard work on traces. They should be encouraged to investigate patterns or potential patterns across these traces.

Such inquiries will prompt collaborative work with criminologists, engineers, social psychologists, educators, police, intelligence departments and policymakers. The aim of everyone involved would be to find out how to prevent the occurrence or minimise the recurrence of an incident, crime or attack.

It is about time that criminal profilers and scientific curiosity for pattern identification leads proactive conversations across various fields and disciplines to ensure safety, security, protection, prevention and justice.

Conventionally, forensic science and forensic medicine have been perceived as sciences associated with crimes, deaths, disasters, disputes and offences. The time is now for forensics to be accepted as a science for life and for cherishing life.

Twitter: @musaazi22

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