Journal of Criminal Psychology

Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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Latest documents

  • Cold case investigation the doctor and the detective: bridging the gap between police and academics to solve cold cases
  • Law enforcement and academics working together on cold case investigations: lessons learned and paths forward

    Purpose: The purpose of this study is to outline the specific details and lessons learned during a cold case collaborative effort, which granted graduate students and a professor from the University of South Florida the opportunity to assist Pasco Sheriff’s Office in the investigation of a cold case homicide. Methodology: The collaboration between law enforcement and academics is a new and emerging strategy to investigate cold cases and identify the elusive offenders who committed these crimes. Such collaboration aids law enforcement by obtaining a force multiplier for investigative resources, accessing cutting-edge evidence-based research and cultivating innovative approaches to their work. For academics, such collaboration allows the unique opportunity to engage in translational criminology, which is an important and increasingly encouraged aspect of the field. Findings: In this paper, the authors provide an overview of the process used to study this cold case as part of an experiential academic course, provide evidence-based research findings relevant to cold case investigations and outline the steps for others to replicate the efforts. Originality/value: The authors describe in detail the process used to “work” the cold case, academic research that the authors found useful in understanding and investigating cold cases, important lessons learned and advice for future academics and practitioners who undertake an incredible collaborative effort such as this.

  • The media as an investigative resource: reflections from English cold-case units

    Purpose: The use of the media in live cases has been explored in terms of its use and value to an investigation. However, it is unclear as to whether engaging with the media in cold-case investigations results in a positive or negative reception, and what impact this can have on a case’s possibility for progression. Because of the passage of time and a lack of, or a failed, prosecution means that the approach to media use needs to be different. The purpose of this paper is to explore how the media could be used as an investigative resource for cold cases. Design/methodology/approach: This study is a result of a 7-month observation period with a 2-force collaborative cold-case team in England, and supplemented with interviews with 12 experienced cold-case detectives. Using inductive thematic analysis, the themes identified allow an exploration of detectives’ use of the media and the effect that this has on progressing cases. Further, there is discussion as to whether the media’s involvement is positive or negative. Findings: The overarching theme is that when using the media, cold-case detectives are met with a positive reception and interest. The media can be used to obtain information, particularly in cases with minimal information, and it is important to use murder-anniversaries to obtain help from the public. However, this needs to be a carefully managed strategy as the media coverage can be negative, including inaccurate or inappropriate reporting which can be of detriment to the investigation. Originality/value: To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is the first paper to explore how cold-case detectives have used the media to progress cases, and the findings demonstrate that when the public are encouraged to come forward with information, there is a better chance of case progression. Further research is required to explore how all cold cases can receive appropriate coverage.

  • Benefits of scenario reconstruction in cold case investigations

    Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to propose a methodological approach to increase the clearance rate of cold cases in The Netherlands and to contribute to the development of intelligence-driven criminal investigations in general police practice and within cold case investigations in particular. Design/methodology/approach: This proposal is based on practical investigative experience and academic knowledge. Findings: Reconstructing scenarios helps convert cold case information into intelligence, which is beneficial to law enforcement agencies in terms of time, resources and prioritising cold cases. Intelligence contributes to the formulation of more effective queries and to a more efficient adaptation of new and existing investigation methods, leading to a higher cold case clearance rate. Moreover, scenario reconstruction creates a link between intelligence and investigation, i.e. between science and practice, which adds to the further development of intelligence-driven investigations. Practical implications: When carrying out scenario reconstructions, practical implications are expected, as intelligence products are currently not or barely used in practice and science is not yet embedded in the investigational practice. Originality/value: To move from scenario reconstruction to intelligence-driven criminal investigation, the gap between science and the investigational practice needs to be bridged by persons familiar with both. This study hopes to provide the necessary and relevant impetus to this dialogue.

  • Evaluating the use of data-based offender profiling by researchers, practitioners and investigative journalists to address unresolved serial homicides

    Purpose: The purpose of this article is to improve the use of evidence-based practice and research utilization in the offender profiling process. The use of offender profiling has been met with increasing resistance given its exaggerated accuracy. The “Investigative Journalist/Expert Field Micro Task Force” model, a collaborative method that incorporates offender profiling and is designed to address unresolved serial homicides, is introduced and evaluated alongside recommendations on attaining adherence. Design/methodology/approach: The model was field tested in 17 instances. The measures used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to gauge the usefulness of their case consultations, whether their input helped catch the offender, offer new leads, move the case forward, provide new avenues or give new ideas, were used to evaluate the model. Findings: The model established likely patterns of serial murder activity among strangulations of women in Chicago, Cleveland, and Panama and resulted in convictions of suspects in Louisiana and Kansas City. This model is valuable when used to parse modern-day offenders from those who committed unresolved homicides as the latter display different behaviors that can make investigations difficult endeavors. Results from the field tests mirror those from the literature in that profiling alone did not result in the capture of serial killers. Instead, profiling was used in conjunction with other efforts and mainly as a means to keep the investigation moving forward. Originality/value: Unresolved homicides are at a point of crisis and represent a significant but largely unaddressed societal problem. The success of this model may compel law enforcement to restore faith in offender profiling.

  • Post traumatic stress disorder in incarcerated populations: current clinical considerations and recommendations

    Purpose: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have a detrimental impact on the individual’s ability to benefit from rehabilitative prison-based programmes, and studies have also found that there is an association between PTSD and higher rates of re-offending. Studies have also found that a significant number of cases of trauma and PTSD go undetected and therefore untreated in individuals who are incarcerated. Design/methodology/approach: A literature review was carried out exploring studies that have investigated PTSD in incarcerated populations to identify current clinical considerations and recommendations. Findings: This paper explores the key findings from the literature and highlights the important clinical implications and recommendations. Originality/value: To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first paper focusing specifically on how the findings from the literature can inform clinical practice and also what factors need to be given greater consideration, going beyond the current systematic and literature reviews in the field.

  • Embedding third sector psychology services within the probation environment: an alternative to MHTRs

    Purpose: The use of mental health treatment requirements (MHTRs) has not proven to be successful at meeting the mental health needs of the probation population in the UK, largely through underuse of the requirement or lack of available services. The paper aims to discuss this issue. Design/methodology/approach: This paper investigates a method of meeting those needs without the use of MHTRs by embedding third sector services within the probation environment. Findings: Results indicate a significant impact after a six-month follow-up in symptomology across measures of depression, anxiety, general distress and social functioning; also indicated is a significant result on recidivism, with 74 per cent of participants committing no further offences in the 12 months following treatment. Originality/value: These results represent the only evaluation of embedded, third sector mental health services in a probation environment in the UK, and highlight a further need to embed specialist mental health services within the probation environment and generalise that practice to other forms of service structure and therapeutic methodology.

  • A review and recommendations for the integration of forensic expertise within police cold case reviews

    Purpose: Cold case review teams and the processes that they adopt in their endeavour to solve historic crimes are varied and largely underreported. Of the limited literature surrounding the topic of cold case reviews, the focus is on clearance rates and the selection of cases for review. While multiple reports and reviews have been undertaken and recommend that the interface between investigators and forensic scientists be improved, there is little evidence of cold case teams comprised of a mixture of investigators and scientists or experts. With the growing reliance on forensic science as an aide to solvability, the authors propose that the inclusion of forensic scientists to the central cold case investigation may be a critical factor in future success. The paper aims to discuss this issue. Design/methodology/approach: To support the proposed approach, the authors conducted a review of the current literature seeking insight into the reported make-up of cold case teams. In conjunction with this, the authors reviewed a number of commissioned reports intended to improve cold case reviews and forensic services. Findings: While many of the reviewed reports and recommendations suggested better integration with scientists and external expertise, little evidence of this in practice was reported within published literature. Open dialogue and cross pollination between police investigators and forensic scientists are likely to mitigate biases, inform case file triage and better equip investigations with contemporary and cutting-edge scientific solutions to the evidence analysis for cold cases. Furthermore, with respect to scientists within academia, large pools of resources by way of student interns or researchers may be available to assist resource-sparse policing jurisdictions. Originality/value: To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first peer-reviewed recommendation for the consideration of integrated forensic scientists within a cold case review team. Multiple reports suggest the need for closer ties, but it is the anecdotal experience of the authors that the benefits of a blended task force approach may yield greater success.

  • A timeline toolkit for cold case investigations

    Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to outline a variety of related methods for helping with criminal (cold) case investigations. Despite the best efforts of police investigations, many cases around the world run out of leads and go cold. While many police departments around the world have developed specialist groups and task forces, academics have also been developing new methods that can assist with investigations. Design/methodology/approach: Cold cases, by their very nature, typically comprise incomplete data sets that many traditional statistical methods are not suited to. Groups of researchers have therefore developed temporal, dynamic analysis methods to offer new insights into criminal investigations. These methods are combined into a timeline toolkit and are outlined in the current paper. Findings: Methods from the timeline toolkit have already been successfully applied to many cold cases, turning them back into current cases. In this paper, two real-world cold cases are analysed with methods from the timeline toolkit to provide examples of how these methods can be applied in further cold cases. Originality/value: Methods from the timeline toolkit provide a novel approach to investigating current and cold cases. This review provides academics and practitioners with a guide to begin using and developing these methods and forming successful collaborations with police departments and cold case task forces. The methods are also suitable for wider groups and to use in their investigations.

  • Detection avoidance and mis/unclassified, unsolved homicides in Australia

    Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to begin to explore whether and how the use of detection avoidance (DA) by offenders leads to a so called “dark figure” of unsolved homicides that have been mis/unclassified. Design/methodology/approach: Australian Coronial data and inquest findings are used to examine how DA impacts on determining homicide, and cases remaining unsolved. Findings: Results show DA behaviours perpetrated by offenders may be catalysed by other challenges, and may lead to homicides being mis/unclassified and unsolved. Findings indicate there is a small dark figure of mis/unclassified homicides which eventually become known and investigated as homicides in Australia. The number of unsolved homicides may be greater than official data reveals, due to some cases remaining mis/unclassified. Research limitations/implications: Results are likely to underestimate the prevalence of mis/unclassified homicides due to the invisibility of cases and the difficulty establishing rules to include suspected but unproven homicides. The variable nature and impact of DA behaviours also limits results, along with jurisdictional differences in Coronial data. Practical implications: This discussion explains DA behaviours impact on determining and investigating homicide and the necessity of future research. Originality/value: Mis/unclassified homicides as unsolved homicides have not been discussed previously. This discussion is the first to conceptualise mis/unclassified homicides as a dark figure of unsolved cases, and the first to attempt to gauge the problem.

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