It seems like everyone loves an unsolved crime. Television shows such as Unsolved Mysteries, Cold Case Files and America’s Most Wanted, as well as a host of others, crop up on a regular basis remain popular partly because, deep down, human beings seek social justice for the wrongs committed. Cases that go unpunished remain on our minds longer.
Across the country there are hundreds of thousands of unsolved crimes and cold cases. They seem to sit on the shelf year after year, gaining little or no momentum and growing colder by the day. Private investigators have proven to be very valuable in assisting clients in these cases and often shed new light or bring a differing perspective; bringing these cases back out into the open breathes new life into them.
There are far too many police departments overloaded with crimes to investigate and unfortunately, there is often simply not enough manpower or time to devote the necessary resources to some unsolved cases. This is not to say that police departments do not care about justice or seeking the truth, they do… but budget constraints, lack of manpower and heavy caseloads necessitate focusing more effort on current cases and less on those that seem to have gone cold. Momentum understandably slows down as law enforcement investigators are assigned and reassigned to other cases, some more pressing than others.
A private investigator can devote a great deal of quality time to re-investigate and closely scrutinize all aspects of a given case. Investigators are often hired to widen theories, identify new leads in the case, interview or re-interview witnesses, and interface with law enforcement.
With expertise, private investigators can take an unsolved crime or a cold case file and scour it with fresh eyes and new perspective. With new insight they can then begin to follow the evidence, across typical jurisdiction-limits, setting aside any preconceived notions and allowing the evidence to tell the story.
Private investigators can assist by revisiting officer narratives and reports, re- interviewing witnesses, family members and police officers to compare what each person has to say. Tips and leads are sometimes ignored during an initial investigation or can become overlooked or dismissed as unimportant. The odds of resolution decrease each day that passes and the longer the investigation goes on. Uncovering new leads, reviewing the existing work conducted by law enforcement often offers fresh leads on a cold case.
During a cold case investigation, private investigators should focus on gaining as much publicity and exposure as possible in order to develop new leads and tips. Even though publicity fades over time, the savvy investigator, through the help of the media, can keep the case alive or bring it back to life.
Contrary to popular television shows, law enforcement personnel respect professional private investigators. It is important for the private investigator to treat law enforcement personnel as partners in their investigative efforts… we are all working toward the same goal! Always work in full cooperation with law enforcement and never approach a cold case as trying to “fix” the case, or “accomplish what they could not.” Approach a cold case investigation as a contribution; shedding new light and providing new dimensions of understanding to any unsolved crime is a benefit to the society in which we live.
Andrew Paschen has worked in the court system for the past ten years. He is a future P.I. looking for an agency through which to hone his skills. He can be found on LinkedIn and reached by email at email@example.com.