Introduction to Criminal Investigations
A criminal investigation is the total law enforcement effort to collect facts. These facts lead to the identification, apprehension, and arrest of an offender. The criminal investigation further organizes those facts in such a way that a successful prosecution may occur. A criminal investigation is therefore:
- A detailed or careful examination of a case. It is also a systematic and thorough attempt to learn the facts about something complex or hidden. It is therefore formal and official.
- An undertaking that seeks, collects, and gathers evidence for a case or specific purpose. Further, it looks for clues and evidence to determine whether a crime has taken place.
Purpose of Carrying Out an Investigation
The purpose of carrying out an investigation is to:
- Look further into information or reports that a crime has taken place or is about to take place.
- Find, collect and preserve evidence.
- Identify and arrest perpetrators.
- Follow up on leads or provide new leads.
- Recover stolen or lost property.
Types of Investigation
1. Proactive Investigations
The law enforcement agency initiates such investigations before the commission of a crime. The law enforcement agency will initiate such an investigation upon upon suspicion that somebody is about to commit a crime.
2. Reactive Investigations
These are investigations of crime events after they occur. The vast majority of investigations are reactive in nature.
3. Covert Investigations
These are investigations in which the subjects are not aware that investigations against them are taking place. Covert investigations employ discreet, legal and professional tactics to discover crimes or potential crimes and collect evidence. When carrying out covert investigations, investigators are bound by the principles of lawfulness, necessity and proportionality. Regulation is important in covert investigations in order to:
a) Ensure that the rights of the suspect are not breached
b) Ensure that the rights of innocent third parties are protected.
c) Ensure that investigators demonstrate utmost integrity in carrying out the investigations.
4. Overt Investigations
These are investigations that take place openly. The subjects are therefore aware that they are under investigation. Further, any devices used to carry out such investigations are visible and obvious to the subjects. Overt investigations also include interviewing the subjects and any other witnesses to discover as much information as possible from them.
Power and Duty to Investigate
The duty of an investigator is not to bolster up the prosecution’s case in order to record a conviction. The duty of an investigator is to bring out the real unvarnished truth in the case. An investigator is therefore saddled with an ethical burden of being impartial. Further an investigator has to observe the highest standards of integrity in carrying out his duties. For this reason, the law usually donates the power and duty to investigate. Usually, the law dictates the extents and limits of the powers and duties donated.
Powers and duties of wildlife crime investigators therefore include:
- Search and entry.
- Use of firearms.
- Seizure of wildlife specimens.
- Erection of barriers across roads.
The Investigation Cycle
The investigation cycle is the progression of activities or steps from the inception to the conclusion of an investigation.
The investigator may get information from various sources. These include reports from the public and other law enforcement agencies. They also include intelligence sources or results from a previous investigation. Once the investigator gets the information, he will make a preliminary inquiry from the available sources. These sources include the person reporting or the people in the area where the crime has taken place.
The investigator will then plan the investigation. He will decide which technique or techniques to use based on the nature of the crime. Further, the investigator will take into consideration the place where the crime took place. He will also plan the number of personnel needed to carry out the investigation and the equipment needed.
The investigator will go to the scene of the crime and collect any evidence. He will also collect data, information and clues relating to the crime. This includes interviewing witnesses and suspects, collecting exhibits, taking photographs and sending exhibits for expert analysis.
The investigator will then analyze all the information collected to see the broader spectrum of the crime. This analysis will also help the investigator to see how each player, including witnesses and suspects, relate to the crime.
The investigator should then connect the dots and answer the following questions:
- What happened?
- When was the crime committed?
- Where was the crime committed?
- Who committed the crime?
- Why was the crime committed?
- How was the crime committed?