Thursday, July 24, 2014


Factors In Becoming A Victim

An important aspect of investigating a violent crime is an understanding of the victim and the relation that their lifestyle or personality characteristics may have contributed to the offender choosing them as a victim. People have the right to live how they wish - as long as they do not harm others - without becoming a victim. Yet the fact remains, that to understand the offender, one must first understand the victim.

Victims are classified during an investigation in three general categories that describe the level of risk their lifestyle represents in relation to the violent crime that has been committed. The importance of understanding this in an investigation is directly related back to the level of risk to the offender during the commission of the crime. This information is important to the investigation to better understand the sophistication or possible pathology of the offender.

High Risk Victims

Victims in this group have a lifestyle that makes them a higher risk for being a victim. The most obvious high risk victim is the prostitute. Prostitutes place themselves at risk every single time they go to work. Prostitutes are high risk because they will get into a stranger's automobile, go to secluded areas with strangers, and for the most part attempt to conceal their actions for legal reasons. Offenders often rely on all these factors and specifically target prostitutes because it lowers their chances of becoming a suspect in the crime. Therefore, in this example, the prostitute is a high risk victim creating a lower risk to the offender.

Moderate Risk Victims

Victims that fall into this category are lower risk victims, but for some reason were in a situation that placed them in a greater level of risk. A person that is stranded on a dark, secluded road due to a flat tire, that accepts a ride from a stranger and is then victimized would be a good example of this type of victim level risk.

Low Risk Victims

The lifestyle of these individuals would normally not place them in any degree of risk for becoming a victim of a violent crime. These individuals stay out of trouble, do not have peers that are criminal, are aware of their surroundings and attempt to take precautions to not become a victim. They lock the doors, do not use drugs, and do not go into areas that are dark and secluded.

Below is a list of variables that should be included when gathering information on a victim

  • Gender & Age
  • Personality
  • Lifestyle Habits
  • Reputation
  • Risk Level
  • Leisure Activities
  • Relationships: social, sexual, family
  • Dating/Sexual Habits
  • Family/Marital Status
  • Employment/Income
  • Friends/Enemies
  • Life Insurance?
  • Medical History
  • Physical Handicaps
  • Mental Stability
  • Mode of Transportation
  • Education
  • Alcohol/Drug Use?
  • Likes/Dislikes/Fears
  • Previous Victim?
  • Criminal History?
  • Victim's Reaction to an Attack - Passive/Aggressive?

After all information has been gathered, a timeline of events leading up to the crime should be created to better understand how this specific individual became a victim of a violent crime.

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Criminal Investigations & Methods to Achieve Justice

What is a Criminal Investigation?

A criminal investigation is an official effort to uncover information about a crime. There are generally three ways that a person can be brought to justice for committing a criminal act. First, and usually the least likely, the individual is driven by their conscience to immediately confess. Second, the perpetrator is caught in the act. Third, and most common, a criminal investigation identifies the guilty party to the crime, after which he or she may confess or be convicted by trial.

When a crime has been committed, investigators have two primary concerns: who committed the crime and what the motive was. The reason why a person breaks a law is called the motive. The motive isn't always known after identifying the perpetrator in a criminal investigation. Sometimes the motive is suspected or known and used to catch the criminal. This is often true with crimes such as kidnappings and murders. Notes or other forms of evidence are sometimes left behind at a crime scene that help reveal the culprit and why the crime was committed.

Methods to Achieve Justice

Investigators may use a variety of methods to conduct a criminal investigation. They may use scientific techniques such as fingerprint and ballistics analysis, and even canines. A controversial method of investigation is the use of informants. Many people disagree with this practice because these individuals are generally criminals who are looking to get out of trouble or to reduce their punishments. It is therefore argued that they can be influenced to say or do whatever will please those investigating the case.

Some cases require investigation techniques that demand specialized knowledge or training that the investigators or colleagues may not have. This means that criminal investigators may have to employ others to help them. This is especially true with deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing. Although this technique is common place in to d
ay's criminal investigations, it is often performed by third-parties.

A criminal investigation does not always yield results. Sometimes suspects are accused only for it to be determined later that they are not guilty. At other times, an extensive criminal investigation may not produce any suspects. This can mean that no one will be punished for the crime that was committed.

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA

Friday, July 18, 2014

Interviewing Suspects

Successful Interrogation Techniques

The successful interrogation of a suspect is mostly about psychology and quick thinking. You shouldn't try to interrogate anyone if you lose your nerve or have a prejudice as to the innocence of the person. Be calm and try to find the truth, not to prove you're right in your suspicions.

Criminal investigators interview suspects in order to establish guilt and apprehend criminals involved in all sorts of crimes. Investigators use many different interviewing techniques to establish the guilty party, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. The use of these techniques depends on the type of crime, the age and gender of the suspect and other factors. Good investigators know how to assess the situation and use the most effective technique to achieve their goals. 

Narrative Technique

This technique is quite straight-forward and is used in a variety of different interviewing situations by investigators around the world. The technique involves letting the suspect tell his side of the story without any interruption from the interviewers. The suspect may be asked to repeat the story as many as three or four times in order to establish consistency, or lack thereof, in the story. The investigator may listen to the story, verify facts or inconsistencies and then re-interrogate the suspect. 

Reid Technique

The Reid Technique is often criticized for convincing innocent suspects to admit crimes of which they are not guilty, but it is generally seen as an effective investigatory model. The technique involves a non-accusatory interview followed by carefully phrased behavior-provoking questions. The interviewer approaches the suspect in a non-confrontational, understanding way in order to make the suspect feel comfortable to the point that they acknowledge and admit the crime. A series of nine steps known as the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation are used to bring the suspect to confess the crime. The focus of the Reid Technique, a registered trademark of the law firm John Reid and Associates, is on eliminating innocent suspects. 

Bluff Technique

The bluff technique is an effective way of scaring guilty suspects into admitting the crime. The interviewer tells the suspect that there is unequivocal evidence of guilt, that, for example, a reliable witness saw them commit the crime or that his or her fingerprints have been found on the murder weapon, even though this information is unsubstantiated. This tactic essentially scares the suspect into admitting his or her guilt. In essence the interviewer approaches the suspect by saying "we know what you did, now just admit it," and the suspect cracks. If the suspect is innocent, he will maintain his disbelief at the given facts.

Steps To A Successful Interview / Interrogation:

1. Start the interview with a light conversation during which you will be able to establish the character of the questioned person. This may involve their occupation, musical preferences, family, etc. During this preliminary conversation, look for signs that the person is nervous and scared, prone to bragging, confident or not. Mark their level of intelligence and adapt to it.

2. Abruptly switch to the subject of the questioning. Be sure to notice the interviewed person's reaction. Remember that in 9 out of 10 cases the first impressions are the most correct.

3. Let the interrogated person tell you their story without interrupting them. Look for inconsistencies. Being too detailed often shows the person has prepared themselves for questioning and has had the time to make their story up.

4. Have another person enter the room shortly after the interviewed person has finished their story. Your associate must pretend to say something in your ear. Give the interviewed person a short look and excuse yourself.

5. Return in about 15 minutes. At this time, the suspect should be worried as to what has happened during your absence.

6. Take a few seconds during which you rearrange things on the table/desk, sit quietly, or scribble something on a scrap of paper. Then proceed to ask the suspect about the inconsistent points in their story.

7. Ask for details. Some questions, like the color of a hit-and-run vehicle are easy to answer and the suspect saying they do not remember is an obvious attempt to conceal something. Likewise, it would be unusual in most instances for the interrogated person to have seen or remember the license plate number, so answering this question would show them having thought the whole thing over.

8. Combine real questioning with irrelevant questions, leading the suspect into believing you have something on your mind.

9. Look for signs the suspect is lying. These may include crossing their hands (defensive position), sitting on the edge of the chair, too relaxed posture, tilting their head to one side, looking up as they think of the answer.

10. Frequent use of expletives like "honestly", frankly, etc. shows that the suspect is lying. People who believe in what they say do not appeal to the listener's trust.

11. Ask the suspect a question, the answer to which you already know. This way you can see whether they're willing to correctly answer your questions.

12. Be careful about the details. Avoid mentioning details about the crime. Try to get the suspect to tell you something about the crime scene that isn't public knowledge and only the perpetrator would know. Get them to give details away that reveals them as the person who committed the crime.

13. Remember that most people lie when questioned. But it doesn't mean they're a criminal. 

Tips and Important Facts
  • Be calm. A show of aggressiveness will only make your suspect refuse to talk to you.
  • When you find a major inconsistency in the suspect's story, don't be too quick to point it out. Let them build the rest of their story on a false premise.
  • A person looking down while thinking of the answer shows they're trying to remember, whereas looking up means they're just making it up at the moment.
  • Answering a question too soon means the suspect has made the story up. If they are telling you the truth, it should take some time for them to remember the details.

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA