Processes used to Investigate Property Crimes
According to the Uniform Crime Report of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, there are about 9,767,915 cases of property crimes reported in America annually (Greenberg, 2010). For purposes of getting justice for victims, there should be an effective and elaborate process for investigating these crimes. The following steps and procedures highlight the processes that police officers should use to investigate property crimes
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- Document crime scene and protect it from tampering
- Single out witnesses and take their statements
- Provide details of possible suspects and broadcast their details, to the public
- Identify the points of entry, exit, and flight from the crime scene
- Examine and document the force used by suspects to enter a property or vehicle
- Identify positions of broken glasses
- Check associated surface areas for traces of blood or fingerprints
- Check for tool marks or the tools used to force entry
- Check for gas cans or other items used as accelerants in arson cases
- Check all areas for other points of contact with the suspect
- Identify what was stolen or damaged
- Identify possible beneficiaries of the crime
- Exercise diligence at the crime scene and identify possible evidentiary avenues
- Recognize that most officers may only have only one shot at processing a crime scene before it is compromised
- Make sure that all evidence collected from the crime scene is available for analysis (Orthman & Hess, 2013).
Providing a Detailed list of Stolen or Lost Property
A detailed description of the property is a key consideration in crime scene investigations, especially when coming up with plans to recover the damaged property. In light of this fact, officers should:
- Prioritize properties that are serialized for purposes of recovery
- Document all serialized stolen property on the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database
- Be detailed when describing the non-serialized property. Do not forget to include defects and unique identifiers
- If possible, get photos of stolen property
- Share information about stolen properties on the roll call for at least three days (Dutelle, 2016).
Consider Alternative Investigative Avenues to Identify Suspects
- Evaluate if the property crime was similar to other crimes in the area
- Check existing reports and conduct interviews for cases of suspicious disturbances, property theft, and damage incidences
- Check records at local pawnshops to investigate whether the stolen property was sold there, or not
- Conduct a neighborhood canvas to find out if there are cases of unreported incidences of property crime, or if there are possible witnesses
- Find out what known informants know
- Check local impound shops for stolen property
- Check if there are surveillance cameras that could have filmed crimes
- Share all information gathered with specialized investigative units (Orthman & Hess, 2013)
Debrief Arrested Persons with Information about New Crimes
Debriefing arrested persons with information about crimes is an effective way of gathering intelligence. Officers should note the following factors when gathering such information
- After arresting offenders for their crimes, ask them about other possible crimes in the area – ask specific and open-ended questions
- You may find that getting offenders to give you information may be a difficult thing to do, but with persistent behavior, some of them would do so
Apply Technology to Your investigations
Since technological items are increasingly sophisticated, it is important to use them when investigating crimes against property. As such, officers should understand the following:
- Many technological items could be easily tracked via GPS
- Some technology-based companies offer tracking devices for stolen items or property
- Some technologies do not only help recover stolen property but also lead people to the suspects
- Read publications that are designed for consumption by law enforcement officers, such as PoliceOne and MacNewsWorld, which update law enforcement officers about new technology to recover stolen property and track suspects
Comprehensively, the sheer volume of property crimes in modern society makes it difficult for law enforcement officers to investigate them. However, officers need to do quality investigative work. Relative to this assertion, Greenberg (2010) says,
“Proper crime scene documentation, evidence collection, detailed report writing, information sharing and the use of technology in furtherance of an investigation are steps each of us can take in an effort to determine who’s responsible for committing property crime(s) and aid in property recovery” (p. 6).
By following the above-mentioned investigative processes, all concerned parties in an investigative process should feel that the officers have conducted sufficient investigations.
How does Investigating Crimes against Property differ from Investigating Crimes against People?
The process of investigating crimes against people and crimes against property differs on the premise of the evidence collected. The table below highlights these differences
|Crimes against Property||Crimes against people|
|The investigation process may not necessarily involve people as victims||Investigation process involves people as victims|
|Investigation process often does not provide for emergency care||Investigation process provides for emergency care|
|Investigation process does not always involve securing the crime scene||Investigation process often involves securing the crime scene|
|Investigation process does not always involve the use of biological evidence||Investigation process almost certainly involves the use of biological evidence|
Physical Evidence Present at a Burglary Scene
The rule of thumb in most types of crimes dictates that the best evidence is close to the burglary scene. Indeed, Dutelle (2016) says the best evidences of burglary crimes emerge at the point where a suspect gains entry to the crime scene. The most common methods of entry are through windows or doors. Officers are encouraged to document any other method used to gain entry into the crime scene.
They are also encouraged to check other doors and windows (other than those used by the offender) because burglars often try to gain access to homes through several points of entry before finding the right one (Dutelle, 2016). After determining this fact, officers should look for all possible places that a suspect visited while committing the crime. This means that they should find out where missing, or disturbed, items were located. Thereafter, they should check for evidence along the routes of possible points of entry to the location of the items.
According to Fisher and Fisher (2012), fraud refers to the use of trickery to gain financial or personal benefit. Other researchers say fraud often involves the pervasion of truth to gain a personal advantage (Orthman & Hess, 2013). People and businesses are the main victims of fraud
What Type of Fraud is the Most Prevalent in my State?
Identity theft is the most common type of fraud in my state. According to Orthman and Hess (2013), identity theft refers to the use of a person’s identity to commit a fraudulent act. Here, offenders often steal personal information from different sources, including stealing such information online, stealing someone’s wallet, and sifting through people’s trash to get important information to impersonate victims. However, the most common causes of identity theft in my state have occurred when criminals steal people’s credit card information. Such cases have often involved criminals approaching a victim face-to-face, through phone conversations, or through virtual communication.
Elements of Arson and Its Different Degrees
Samaha (2016) defines arson as the act of deliberately burning, or charring, property. Orthman and Hess (2013) adopt a slightly different definition by saying arson is the malicious burning of property for criminal intent. According to common law, authorities could define an act of burning property as arson if it satisfies four key elements.
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The first one is the presence of malicious intent where authorities have to ascertain that the arsonist committed the crime maliciously (Samaha, 2016). The second element of arson is burning. It states that an arsonist should cause damage to property through fire. The third element is satisfied when the damage to property destroys a dwelling. The last criterion is satisfied when the act of arson destroys the property of another person. In other words, an act of burning property is not arson if the property damaged belongs to the person who started the fire (Samaha, 2016).
Degrees of Arson
There are different degrees of arson, depending on the circumstances that characterize the act. For example, different states define the degrees of arson depending on whether people were in the building at the time of the offense, or whether the arsonist committed the fraud for personal, or business, gain (Orthman & Hess, 2013). The different degrees of arson appears below
First-degree Arson: This type of arson attack often occurs when a person sets a building ablaze when it has people inside
Second-degree Arson: Second-degree arson attacks often happen when people set buildings that have no people on fire
Third Degree Arson: Third-degree arson attacks often occur when people set fire to open spaces, like fields or vacant lots
How common is Arson in your State?
Arson is not a common crime in my state because most properties are securely guarded. Furthermore, the high levels of security in my state and the harsh punishment associated with arson attacks act as deterrents to the arsons
Indicators and Evidence of Explosives and Bombings Investigations
Explosive and bombing investigations have different indicators that include the following
- Presence of powder at the scene
- Presence of device fragments
- Presence of a motive
Generally, explosions and bombs cause characteristic damages to nearby surfaces. Molted irregular appearances, characteristic clubbing damage to textiles, and the presence of micro craters on metal surfaces are other indicators to look out for in explosives and bombing investigations (Orthman & Hess, 2013).
In bombing investigations, the lead investigator should create an evidence processing team. This team should analyze the pattern of damage at the scene of the explosion because this process may help to locate the original point of impact. Experts should collect all bomb fragments and possibly reassemble them to find out the type of bomb used in the attack. Nonetheless, important types of evidence that all investigators should look out for include detonators, wires, timers, and batteries.
Dutelle, A. (2016). An Introduction to Crime Scene Investigation. New York, NY: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Fisher, B., & Fisher, D. (2012). Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation. New York, NY: CRC Press.
Greenberg, M. (2010). Investigating property crimes: A checklist for success.
Orthman, C., & Hess, K. (2013). Criminal Investigations, 10th Ed. London, UK: Cengage Learning.
Samaha, J. (2016). Criminal Law. London, UK: Cengage Learning.