Due to law enforcement’s lack of resources and an overloaded workforce, it can get quite difficult to conduct an investigation, process evidence, arrest perpetrators, and close cases as if it’s clockwork. Good thing that there are organizations and think-tanks that volunteer their time and expertise to help improve things when needed. One of these helpful agencies is the Murder Accountability Project (MAP) with its online and interactive repository of case information for homicides across the US. The MAP can help law enforcement gain investigative leads through historical information, insights, and patterns available through the system.
To talk more about this are Eric Witzig and Thomas Hargrove. Thom is a retired investigative journalist and White House correspondent. His interest enabled him to develop an algorithm that can recognize patterns in murder cases that are highly probable to be serial killings – this became the Murder Accountability Project. Meanwhile, Eric is a retired homicide detective and an FBI crime analysis expert who’s been assigned in big cases like Air Florida’s Flight 90 and President Reagan’s assassination.
On this course, Eric and Thom talked about the MAP and the features, functions and the wealth of information that may be obtained from their online interactive resource. Live demonstration of MurderData.org is done as well as a discussion on specifics like:
- An overview of the Murder Accountability Project, its mission and accomplishments.
- The information available through the MAP website and the rationale behind making the information public.
- The Uniform Crime Report clearance data and the per state view that displays topline numbers on homicide rates, clearance rates and bar charts illustrating the year-on-year pattern of cleared versus uncleared cases.
- The Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) that captures pertinent details of each murder case that may be used to:
- See the details of specific cases using its search fields
- Find similar cases using its advanced search filters
- Understand and gain insights on murder patterns
- Develop a statistical profile of offenders
- The value and limitations of the SHR reports, and the caveat when using the SHR data.
- The concept of Linkage Blindness that prevents law enforcement to recognize commonalities in cases and active series.
- How the SHR is used as an investigative tool by employing mathematical algorithms and cluster analysis to identify patterns that would otherwise not be distinguished using investigative procedures alone.
- Case studies that demonstrate how SHR cluster analysis is applied to recognize murder patterns.
- Webinar participants utilized the Q&A segment to understand:
- The reasons for missing data from specific states
- The length of time of an investigation before it is considered unsolved/unsolvable
- Other factors that contribute to the backlog in murder case clearance
- Raising awareness on local clearance rates
- Sharing the MAP data to other law enforcement, investigative and criminal justice organizations