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Homicide investigators: Is your investigative arsenal incomplete?

20 Jul 2017 7:28 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

By Tom Joyce, NYPD Retired Lieutenant Commander of Detectives, Vigilant Solutions VP of Business Development

Recently, I met three registrants at the International Homicide Investigators Association National Symposium in Orlando who didn’t know what LPR was. What is LPR? Or is it ALPR? Or is it ANPR? If you work investigations you should know this – LPR stands for license plate readers (and the industry accepted acronym is LPR).

Granted one of these individuals I met was retired and his last patrol vehicle was a gelding, but the other two were active. They have the responsibility of conducting death investigations, ultimately, homicide. With that responsibility, they may levy the charge of murder on someone someday, a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

Oath of best practices

In 2000, I attended the NYPD homicide course and had the privilege of meeting and listening to Vernon Geberth of Practical Homicide Investigation. Commander Geberth requires that all class attendees take an oath, part of which reads, “Practitioners must be prepared to use tactics, procedures and forensic techniques in their pursuit of the truth: and then follow the course of events and the facts as they are developed to their ultimate conclusion.” All of his attendees should adhere to that oath.

What does this oath have to do with LPR? There are detectives, investigators and analysts that are not up on the latest and greatest best practices and tools to assist their criminal investigative process.

LPR is one of many technologies and tools that all investigators must know about. For example, how many detectives know what DNA stands for? And what is a loci? I fear how many may respond to these questions, knowing that too many won’t know what these terms mean. And that’s disappointing to the profession.

Professional responsibility

Who is responsible for ensuring that detectives have the best tools and technologies available in their toolbelts? The detective? Yes. The Squad Commander? Yes. The agency they work for? Yes. Everyone who oversees investigators (including the investigator) is responsible for knowing current leading practices and applying those practices in their jurisdiction.

As an active member of the IHIA Advisory Board, I met with incoming President Paul Belli and first Vice President Greg Esteban. They are committed to providing their membership with the best training possible at their national symposiums and regional training sessions. However, only a small percentage of investigators are taking advantage of this training.

Leveraging LPR analytics

As I advocate for you to expand your knowledge about the tools that are available to advance your investigations, I’ll explain why every homicide investigator needs LPR in their investigative arsenal.

LPR’s true power comes when it is coupled with analytics for investigations. Think about this: a high amount of crimes involves a vehicle in some capacity – either the vehicle was used in committing the crime, was driven to and from the crime scene or perhaps a witness was in a nearby vehicle. 

Here’s what that means for you: If you can locate a vehicle of interest, you are likely on your way to developing leads and solving crimes. LPR and analytics help you locate that vehicle and complete the investigative triangle of person, location and vehicle. Find the vehicle and you can use your resources to connect that vehicle to a person or even a location, such as crime scene.

So, detectives, please ask the boss to nurture your growth as an investigator, push your agency to get you trained and scream as loud as you can for the technology you need. Provide use cases and examples about how the technology is being applied in other agencies. If you need some examples, contact me and I’ll give you a ton. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to do your job – in fact, it’s your obligation to the communities you serve to make sure you have what you need to effectively do your job.

About the Author

Tom Joyce, NYPD Retired Lieutenant Commander of Detectives, Vigilant Solutions VP of Business Development. Tom is a retired member of the NYPD in the rank of Lieutenant Commander of Detectives. He commanded the NYPD Cold Case Squad upon his retirement and additionally held many other roles within the detective and organized crime bureaus. Tom often lectures on various subject matters relating to Homicide Investigations and has published numerous articles on criminal investigations. Tom is currently a member of the International Homicide Investigators Association’s Advisory Board.

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