Investigative Approaches: Proactive and Reactive

CJ 266-01

Purdue University Global

In order to go into the types of approaches and sources that can be utilized in order to try and identify the offender, it must first be established how a serial killer is defined by law enforcement. A serial murderer is an individual(s) who kills 3 or more victims with time in between each kill to allow for a ‘cooling off’ period. This is opposed to a mass murderer, of which the individual(s) commits a series of murders with little to no cooling off period in between, an example of such would be that of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who walked into their high school and murdered twelve students and one teacher, injuring 21 others and exchanging gunfire with police before turning their guns on themselves and committing suicide .

An example of a serial murderer would be that of Gary Ridgeway, otherwise known as the Green River Killer. Ridgeway claimed to have killed as many as 60 women who were known to be prostitutes over a twenty-year period. He has since been convicted of 49 murders and is serving a life sentence in Washing State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington .

Now that it has been established what a serial murderer is, it is now time to discuss the proactive and reactive approaches to investigating crime. Reactive approaches to investigation are exactly what the name implies, that is to say, that they are employed as a reaction to a crime committed, as opposed to proactive approaches, which are employed in order to prevent crimes before they occur .

Reactive approaches would include that of immediate calls for service after an incident has occurred, follow up investigations of the incident and routine patrol routes. As this is, as the name implies, a reactive approach, this would involve the police cordoning off the scene of the crime, locating evidence such as blood droplets and fingerprints, searching for visual evidence such as CCTV footage, and interviewing witnesses in an effort to identify the suspect.

Proactive approaches to crime would be when the law enforcement agency takes the initiative to seek to actively prevent crimes from occurring: This can be done through the evaluation of crime trends in specific areas, otherwise known as crime analysis. An analyst can look through crime reports, calls for service records, and even census records in order to evaluate the crimes committed in the area, their prevalence, the approximate times in which most crimes occur, and identify possible solutions to combat the crimes .

Such solutions could involve hot-spot policing, where the affected areas have been identified and patrol routes have been established to prevent further crimes and to also try to capture the offender, community-based policing, where the law enforcement agencies get the public actively involved in crime prevention by discussing facts of the case with the media in an effort to catch the offender and empower the public to prevent further crimes from happening, and sting operations such as having an undercover officer pose as a prostitute as a lure for a killer .

Having established what the two approaches to investigation are and what they entail, it is now time to discuss the types of sources available to law enforcement personnel in the pursuit of information in order to identify and apprehend the suspect. There are several such sources that are available to law enforcement, some of which involves the identification of biological evidence. The purpose of these sources is to facilitate communications and investigative efforts between agencies .

One source of information is that of the CODIS database (Combined DNA Index System). This database is utilized when biological evidence such as blood or spermatozoa is found at the crime scene, the DNA is extracted from the evidence and uploaded to the database: This ensures that the DNA evidence is able to be matched to an offender, if there is an existing record via criminal DNA records, or that the DNA can be linked to other cases, even if they are outside of the jurisdiction .

Another source of aid to investigators is that of The Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG). This is a group of special agents and support personnel that provide support and expertise in critical operations, such as bomb threats, hostage negotiations and even criminal profiling which can help to assist local law enforcement in the identification and possible apprehension of the offender. In the case of an offender holding an individual hostage, this group can be called upon to provide expert negotiation tactics, as well as analyzing and determining important factors of crime scenes which can then be created into a profile .

Another source of information for law enforcement would be that of the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which collects data on crimes committed throughout the nation and publishes the information yearly. The importance of this source is that it can help to identify crime trends, view the escalation or decline of crimes over the course of the years, and it can inform the public of the crimes committed within a geographical location, be it at a city, county, state or national level .

In this essay, there has been a discussion of the differences between a serial murderer and a mass murderer. There has also been a discussion about what reactive and proactive approaches to investigation are, and what types of responses are included within both of these approaches. There has also been a discussion of a select few sources that are available to law enforcement personnel, their purpose, and their importance to an investigation. There are many such sources available which can help the investigator during the course of their investigation, even though only a few were described. In the end, it is up to the agency involved in an investigation what techniques and sources with which they will employ in order to conduct their investigation.