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A Criminal Investigation is the process of discovering, collecting, preparing, identifying and presenting evidence to determine what happened and who is responsible. It is a reconstructive process that uses deductive reasoning, a logical process in which a conclusion follows from specific facts. From specific pieces of evidence, investigators establish proof that a suspect is guilty of an offence. (Hess & Orthmann, 2010)
In this assignment I’m going to provide a clear understanding of an appropriate investigative approach toward theft form residence.
Theft form residence in other countries is also known as a Burglary. This kind of crime is considered to be one of the most important crimes worldwide, since it is also one of the most common forms of criminal behaviour. The definition of burglary is defined by each state’s criminal code and it various from one code to another, although some commonalities exists and are generally reflected in the elements of the crime. Burglary is committed when a person, knowingly breaks, or remains, in a building or structure belonging to anther for the purpose of committing a crime therein. Burglary is referred as a crime against the dwelling that is violated and there is no need of direct violence towards any occupants.
The public regards theft as a major crime problem since for many persons it is a traumatic event when they realize that someone unknown to them has invaded their privacy of their homes and personal belongings and stolen their possessions. Burglars are most often to choose suitable targets like elderly persons, women who live alone. Perpetrators often ransack rooms to look for valuables and make it difficult for victims to establish what is missing. Their targets are cash, televisions, computers, radios, jewellery, guns, tools and several household goods that either they use for their personal needs or to sell them. Theft from residence occurs mostly when most persons are away from their residence. Very often burglars main victims are those people that uses the same routine day to day and so that certain time is more susceptible to burglary due to the routine absence of residents like going work, shopping, mass etc.
Burglars are either to be amateurs or long time professionals. The amateurs are usually to be unskilled and they learn by trial and error. They easily make mistakes and eventually are caught by the police, although once convicted they gain experience and learn from the trade ones. More experiences burglars are more trained, they may have more lookouts who are in communication through mobile or even radios and often a getaway vehicle is used and usually close to the burglary site. Most burglars’ motives are drug related and monetary.
Approaching on the scene of crime
Investigation initiates from that moment that the police receives the phone call. Reports can be received by the victim itself, neighbour or anyone else that may have noticed or suspected any different movements or noises. One should be very cautiously due to the fact that the crime could have occurred any time and perpetrators could still be inside premises or nearby. Investigators should be on the alert for any persons fleeing the area, suspicious or well known persons that are known by the police and suspicious vehicles. The first officer to respond a burglary call is usually the patrol division officer. Officers should first determine whether a crime is currently in progress. When a crime is still being carried out, officer must call for more help in order to prevent the escape of the suspect/s. On the way to the scene of crime officer should approach the burglary location without warning emergency lights or siren. After arriving one can observe certain reliable indicators that a burglary has been or still being for example open doors, windows.
The first attendant officer should immediate preserve the crime scene, in order to maximise forensic opportunities due to the fact that there is few amount of time before the evidence will be contaminated. The crime scene should be secured and the victims are to be escorted to an area not part of the investigation and it is to be made sure that victims don’t touch anything.
The Preliminary Investigation
Preliminary investigation is of utmost importance, although some investigators tend to simply skip the necessary steps of a preliminary investigation due to the fact that theft from residence are seen as being high-time investment for low results awards. The preliminary investigation should start by obtaining information about the type of structure which has been burglarized. It has to be established the time, date, the whereabouts of the owner, points and methods of entry and exit, however it is important to determinate who the occupant of the residence burglared is and where they were at the time of the offence, the time they left the residence, if all doors and windows were properly locked and if any visitors have been recently been there.
Burglar can gain access by forced open a door or a window by means of tools, by break out or cut a small pain of glass in order to unlock a door from the inside. It is important to discover what type of tool was used and how the perpetrator had gained entrance. When no signs of forced entry are found it may indicate that burglar entered through an open or unlocked door or might possess the key of the residence. The next step for an investigator to carry out the preliminary investigation is to search, collect and preserve evidence. Great care must be taken when searching for evidence. The point of entry is usually the area which has the most evidence. When walking around the scene one must use extreme caution. Search must start from near where the perpetrator entered. One must locate where items were disturbed or removed. After the search, it has to be determinate the type and amount of loss with complete description. An important step in the preliminary investigation is the Modus Operandi. The identifications of a unique modus operandi are essential in investigating burglary due to the fact that most burglars commit a series of burglars using the same patterns. One should look for the time of day, location, type of methods used to gain entrance, type of vandalism, things stolen for example cash only or jewellery and any particularities of the offence. Such patterns can tie and lead several burglaries to one suspect. Preliminary investigations also include interview the victim, and any witness available, enquiring with neighbourhood for witnesses and the identifications of CCTV cameras. A sketch of the scene of crime and a list of property stolen could also help toward the investigation.
Some might think that when it comes to deal with the crime of burglaries, there are few witnesses but in actually there might be more than one believes. Police tend to miss and to try to locate witnesses. Witnesses are very important in the process of solving crimes and they have very often been the key persons in such situations. Eyewitness are those who can provide a detailed account of the circumstances which otherwise would be lost and weaken the evidence. One also has to bear in mind that there may be instances where their evidence could also be unreliable.
Although the testimony given by eyewitnesses has often been criticised it has always been given weight by Judges and Juries in a court of law. When a burglar is committed, police should investigate immediate the area and look out for a potential witness that can identified or can develop a description of a suspect.
Domestic burglary scenes are visited by SOCO in order to maximise forensic opportunities. When searching for physical evidence at a burglary scene it will also require the help of the victim who can easily identify what has been moved and what items does not belong to the owner. Forensic recovery includes the photographing of the crime scene and the discovery of physical evidence that may include fingerprints, footprints inside and outside the house for example below windows, fibers, hair, tire prints, tool marks, tools, and broken glass and paint chips and even personal items such as discarded cigarette butts. Often times burglars tend to drink and eat whatever is at hand in the kitchen of the burgled home and therefore they also leave traces of DNA on a bottle or cup.
As stated by Mairs (1930), fingerprints are considered to be accurate and valuable marks in the process of identifying a human body due to the fact that the patterns and characteristics of the fingerprint are unique. They are the most common form of evidence that can be found in a scene of crime. Trace evidence can establish a link between the perpetrator and the scene of crime. The Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) is a great advance in scientific criminal investigation and it is possible to search criminal record for a single latent print. A latent fingerprint is the type of fingerprint that most of the time is found in burglary, which gives a positive clue to the offender’s identification and conviction (Horhan, 1991). The classification of fingerprints is important because these are filed and can be retrieved by the investigators when there is need to make identifications (Cunliffe et al. 1980).
A case where it is clearly shown the importance of fingerprint was held in America State v Connors. The experts produced photographs at court showing fingerprints of a perpetrator upon a balcony of a residence that has been burgled and in addition the experts testified that same fingerprints found at the crime scene matched those of the perpetrator. The accused has been found guilty of committing the burglar (Horgan, 1991).
Fingerprints are not always enough to support evidence in certain criminal cases. A marked example of this is the case of Il-Pulizija (Spettur Keith Arnaud) vs Victor Degabriele. Mr Degabriele was accused of theft from residence of Mr Nazzareno Mercieca from Xghajra. Although a fingerprint elevated from a box that had contained a watch which has been one of the stolen items had matched with the left hand thumb of the accused, the court decided that due to the principle of “in dubbio pro reo” the court is of the opinion that the legal prosecution had not met the required evidence requested by law.
It was decided that Victor Degabriele was not guilty of charges issued.
Shoes and shoe marks are also common physical evidence that can be found in a scene of crime. If collected, properly analyzed and recorded can yield to important investigative data. Shoe footprint can provide unique wear patterns that can be compared with a suspect’s shoes. Shoe print can indicate whether the suspect was running, walking or even if it was carrying something heavy, if it was familiar with the area or unsure of the terrain. The pattern, size, personal characteristics and coincidental characteristics can make a shoe mark unique.
LeMay (2006, p.42) stated that dust impression can be made when a person with dust on their shoes walks on a surface, thereby transferring the dust from their shoes to the surface they step on. Shoe marks are to be photographed and latent fingerprint lifters are used to lift shoe impressions from smooth surface.
In a Maltese case, Il-pulizija (Insp. James Grech & Insp Fabian Fleri) vs Silvio (Saviour) Pace, in which case, Silvio has been found guilty of burglarise two different residences in different time and dates. Investigators sustained their case with the help of shoe marks which were found in both burglarise homes and after a search in his residence the shoe was found and it resulted that such shoe marks belongs to the accused. In fact Silvio Pace had admitted the charges and he was send to prison for 32 months.
Another possible evidence that can be found in burglarise offence are tyre marks which can be located around the burglary scene. Tyre marks can show the approximate speed, direction and even the manufacturer and year the tyres were made.
Tools and Tools marks: The most common means used to gain entrance in a residence is the use of tools. Common tools that are used in a burglary are screwdrivers, glass cutter, vice grips, pry bars, picks and augers. Tools and Tools marks are important items of evidence. Most burgles use the same tool over and over again to gain entry in residence and this will lead to leave behind characteristics striation marks that can connect one burglar to another. Locard’s principle of exchange every contact leaves a trace came in force when tools are used to force open a door or a window by means of tools.
When a burglary occurs and in the process the burglar smashes a window pane, unknowing, this has attracted physical evidence upon oneself. Traces or fragments of chipped glass or paint stick to clothing and shoe soles. These constitute importance physical evidence. When forensic experts collect this evidence on the crime scene and this is confronted to traces found on the suspect it would therefore be confirmed that the suspect had been on the crime scene.
In certain residences one can found safes to protect their valuables. Burglar’s can either carried away or demolished safes. Safes have safe insulation which can also leave traces and fragments on clothing, shoes and even on tools the offender used. These fragments are very often even deposited in the vehicles that have been used for the crime. These can also be detected and matched.
Another evidence that is becoming important in burglaries is the DNA. When a burglar gets cut while breaking into a structure, trace of blood can be elevated and therefore can be analyzed for DNA.
A burglary investigation involves several stages like investigating the scene of the crime, collecting and preserving and available physical evidence, interviewing potential witnesses, using informants, examining records, tracing property and identifying suspects. A successful case will depend frequently on the investigator’s ability to handle clearly unrelated pieces of information in an analytical way. As stated by Clarke (1992) and Forrester et al. (1988) in order to deter the burglar, there should be more effective policing and enhanced situational prevention.
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