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Criminal Investigation

Midterm Essay CJ21-Criminal Investigation Professor Yocum September 28th, 2010 Throughout the years the type of crimes and amount of crimes committed has changed significantly and has played a major role in the American society. What is crime? As defined by Frank Schmalleger (2007) “crime is a conduct in violation of the criminal laws of a state, federal government or a local jurisdiction where there is no legally acceptable justification or excuse” (p. 7).

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Criminal investigators have the responsibility of pursuing new ways to create a safer environment for the community in which they serve by gathering and analyzing evidence found at a crime scene. It is very important to understand the methods, mindset and sources of information behind an investigators strategy towards the ultimate goal of a successful prosecution of an offender. What is the scientific method? The scientific method consists of six different aspects; first one needs to identify the problem through examination.

Secondly, one should form a hypothesis about what has happened from what they may know about the victim or what they have been able to gather from witnesses. Thirdly, collect data through observation and experimenting by this I mean to search for relevancy of a suspect’s background and witness statements. Next we need to compare the hypothesis and data compiled by evaluating the evidence found. If the data supports the hypothesis then a search for additional evidence may be needed. Lastly, one should draw a conclusion based off of all the evidence found; if there is probable cause this then would justify an arrest.

As a part of the scientific method, the method of inquiry consists of two general ideas; reconstructing the past and discovering or creating new knowledge, this is done through observation. Some questions may derive from that including who, what, where, when, why and how. By answering these questions it helps an investigator to identify a suspect of a crime. An investigator must maintain a certain mind-set to fully conduct an investigation; the optimal investigative mind-set provides foresight and perception to an investigator.

The investigative mind-set is a doubt or uncertainty. On the other hand, the optimal mind-set of an investigative manifest is to “put beyond doubt or question” (www. dictionary. com). There are a number of sources of information available to assist criminal investigators in their efforts to prosecute an offender . However, there are three primary sources which take precedence, and these sources are people, physical evidence and records. As an investigator conducts his investigation he would learn that people retain a great value of information from what they see, hear or witness.

For example, a bank robbery in which someone has witnessed, an investigator would obtain detailed information about what that person observed. Although it may sometimes be difficult to identify those who may have insight, it is the investigators responsibility to motivate an individual to divulge such information. On the other hand, physical evidence is an object which can be found at or near the scene of a crime. Physical evidence may not always be easily found, but more than likely without the suspects knowledge there is some form of evidence left behind.

For example, at the scene of a murder, there may be no signs of a forced entry or weapon found at the scene and no apparent signs of a struggle. However, clenched in the hand of the victim are follicles of hair and with this physical evidence an investigator is almost certain to have collected the most important evidence of the crime. Another form of physical evidence is a record for example; a car can be connected to someone through establishing who it is registered to by communicating with the department of motor vehicles.

In earlier years records were stored using only paper, but with the advances in technology records nowadays are stored electronically. Records can be obtained in several ways, but ultimately they all provide the information needed to conduct an investigation. A successful criminal investigator is one who is organized and understands the process in which to gather pertinent evidence needed to apprehend a suspect. Through specific methods, a firm mind-set and valuable sources of information this can prove to be effective.

Although crime will never seize to exist through persistent efforts of criminal investigators and other law enforcement we can reduce the amount of crime committed on an everyday basis.

References Osertburg, J. W. & Ward, R. H. (2007) Criminal Investigation, Fifth Edition: A Method for Reconstructing the Past. Schmalleger, F. (2007) Criminal Justice Today, Ninth Edition: An Introductory Text for the Twenty First Century. Manifest. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http:// www. dictionary. reference. com/browse/manifest


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