The Clock is Always Running. What Would You Achieve By Producing Better Evidence Sooner?

The difference between “just in time” and “a day late and a dollar short” is sometimes a matter of seconds, at other times measured in days, weeks, months and years. Knowing which clock is running – and the consequences of its ticking – can be the difference between lives and property lost or saved and money and manpower deployed effectively or squandered.

Consider the active shooter. With such high impact incidents typically lasting only minutes – every second that the attack is denied or delayed, and that an effective response is sped up, is a second where a person is either killed, injured or rescued. The ability of civilians in a school, mall, theater or other public space to move quickly and effectively from danger, and for police to rapidly execute an effective response to an active shooter significantly impacts the number of people who live and die. The quality of planning, training and supporting technology play a direct and obvious role.

Less direct and obvious – but undeniably related to who lives and dies over time – are forensic backlogs. The days, weeks, months and years that a DNA sample, a recovered weapon, a seized hard-drive or a dangerous counterfeit pharmaceutical wait in cue in a backlogged forensic lab are days, weeks, months and years that the murderers, rapists, robbers, burglars and narcotics traffickers who cannot be convicted without such evidence remain at large and repeat their crimes.

As successful as law enforcement nationwide have been at controlling violent and non-violent crime in the last twenty years – using both modern methods and technologies and approaches that involve little or no technology at all – case clearance rates remain stubbornly low for all crimes. From the roughly one in three homicides that go unsolved to the roughly six of seven burglaries where a perpetrator is never indicted, often the critical differentiator in solving a case and taking a criminal off the street is both a department’s ability to produce high quality evidence, AND their ability to do so quickly.The same can be said for the corporate track record in prosecuting fraud – where an estimated seven (7) cents on the dollar simply disappears from shareholder value.

For forensic evidence in the criminal context, when tied to speedy-trial rules or statutes of limitations, the ticking clocks are again direct and obvious. Likewise, identifying the people and circumstances of a crime or civil fraud as early as possible in an investigation can be the difference between a path to indictment being a warm, well-lit trail or one that is cold and closed.

Any unnecessary time it takes for outmoded, outdated technologies and processes – be it an hour here and a day there that adds up to weeks, or a week here and a month there that adds up to years – perpetuates a snowballing problem. At worst such wasted time drives DNA, computer forensic and ballistic labs to be dysfunctional and a “day late and a dollar short” as a standing operating procedure. At best, such labs struggle to handle the highest priority cases as they tread water in constant triage mode. Wherever labs are inefficient (or simply understaffed or equipped), the departments that they serve do not live up to a fraction of their potential in controlling crime. No matter how low the UCR numbers may go, today’s unsolved case is tomorrow’s crime complaint.

The vendor community has no lack of solutions to collect, analyze and present evidence better, faster and cheaper. DNA forensics in the field – long needed and envisioned – has become technically viable and should be rapidly adopted. Having your detectives review seized phones and hard drives with a single login (and, just as importantly, no need to be a “techie”) is now available to departments willing to invest the time and money in mining this evidence for prosecution and intelligence. As with other emerging technologies there’s wheat, chaff and changes in laws, processes and protocols that can be just as important and challenging to adapt as the substance of what the technology actually does.

In any and all cases the critical question isn’t only “what could my department do to control crime and protect the public if we produced better evidence?” but “what could we do if we produced better evidence sooner?”

VRI can help you produce better evidence sooner with both proven and emerging technologies and methods.

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