We've all heard the saying, "guilty by association," right? Despite what the defense lawyers may say, this saying holds a lot of truth in police work. Just as police officers have a network of contacts and informants, most criminals have a network of people's lives they affect, both for the good and the bad. For example, a local drug dealer will have people who like him (buyers) and people who would love to get him in trouble (competitors or people he's ripped off). Can we use this to our advantage as police officers? You bet.
There are a lot of great ways to use the power of association in your investigations. We'll take a look at three of the best ways to use this information to your advantage in this month's column. Remember, you're only limited by your own imagination in how to use these little tidbits of information.
Locating the Bad Guy
The easiest and most common way associates are used in police investigations is to locate suspects. While this seems like routine information that everyone knows, only a few people put it into practice in each department. Every day people go looking for suspects at their own homes or address of record, ignoring the wealth of information they have in their own department's network right at the police station. Do we really think suspects give their correct address to the police?
As soon as you have developed a suspect in your case, try running his name through your in-house system to see where he's been contacted in the past. Many times this will show addresses he likes to hang out at, giving you a list of places to start your search before even leaving the PD. It will also show you who he likes to spend time with and who he's been arrested with in the past. This information can be invaluable during the course your investigation, and can help link suspects together.
Also, don't forget to check with officers who work the beat or area your suspect lives in. They may know some up-to-date information they've heard from their own sources on where that person's been or what he's been up to. This information doesn't always filter around a police department, so ask for it. Send out an e-mail or check with your beat teams in briefing. You'd be surprised at the information most of your fellow officers have accumulated in their daily travels.
Put Him on Notice
Once you start knocking on the doors of everyone he's ever been associated with, your suspect will quickly figure out he's a wanted man. This can be good in a lot of ways. First, he may be familiar with the system and just walk into the police department to give you a statement. Many times, this will happen if it's a smaller crime or a crime for which he wants to give his side of the story. This works especially well in domestic violence cases, where the suspect will want to exonerate himself by explaining he was actually the victim, regardless of what the evidence shows.
Checking with his buddies usually gets him bragging about what he did, too. This is great for the investigators, because when one of these friends gets caught in trouble of his own, he'll quickly spill the beans about what his buddy told him to try to get out of his own jam. This can help verify events and/or dates of the crime, and can also get you an updated location of where the suspect has been staying. It can also lead to the recovery of stolen property, as your suspect's buddy will usually be more than happy to tell you where the loot is stashed if he thinks he's getting a break.
If you find where your suspect is staying, you can use his paranoia to flush him out. Try calling the residence and ask for the suspect, or tell them the police are on the way. Pose as a housekeeper if he's in a hotel room, or another public service employee if he's in a house. Tell him you're towing his car or something similar to get him outside. This will usually get your suspect to either run out of the house to escape, or to come outside to investigate what's going on. Once he's in public, he's all yours.
Linking Suspects in Your Crime
Another great use of the power of association is linking multiple suspects to one crime. If you had a local business burglarized, and you have a suspect in mind, try running his name to see who his buddies are. Many times these will be more suspects in your crime, and their contact info gives you a great place to start your investigation. Sometimes the group has even been arrested for the same or similar crime in the past, making it a much stronger case.
Try using the power of association in every investigation you conduct. It's a great tool, and just another way information can help you make a better case in your investigations.