Using Murder Data to Help Justice Professionals Work Cases & Solve Crimes

Using Murder Data to Help Justice Professionals Work Cases & Solve Crimes
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Resources
Recorded on: 2019-05-21
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Using Murder Data to Help Justice Professionals Work Cases & Solve Crimes
Unit 2 Workbook: Using Murder Data to Help Justice Professionals Work Cases & Solve Crimes
Unit 3 Recording: Using Murder Data to Help Justice Professionals Work Cases & Solve Crimes

The Murder Accountability Project (MAP) is a non-profit initiative from experts in the field of investigations, criminal justice and the media to bridge the gap that prevents the successful resolution of murder cases. Currently, MAP is the most comprehensive database of more than 752,000 homicides dating back to 1976 in the US. It is an interactive repository that equips users with the ability to gain access to numerous reports and find patterns and other insights which can turn into investigative leads.

Two of MAP’s founders joins this Justice Clearinghouse webinar to discuss in detail the MAP and its online interactive resource. Thomas Hargrove is a retired investigative journalist and White House correspondent. His interest in tracking unsolved crimes drove him to develop an algorithm that can recognize patterns in murder cases highly probable to be serial killings. Meanwhile, Eric is a retired homicide detective and is an FBI crime analysis expert assigned at its Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP).  He also holds a Master of Science degree from Virginia Commonwealth University with a dissertation titled “Observations on the Serial Killer Phenomenon.”

Together, they provide an overview of the MAP and the capabilities of their interactive website. Some of the things they covered on this session are:

  • What the Murder Accountability Project is, its mission, accomplishments, as well as the data accessible through the MAP website and their motivation to make this information public.
  • The Uniform Crime Report live demonstration that shows an overview of homicide numbers, clearance rates, and year-on-year trends based on different fields available.
  • The Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) which provide a detailed account for each case through the search fields.
  • A live demonstration that highlights SHR’s power to find similar cases through advanced search filters which enable investigators to recognize patterns, and gain insights and leads.
  • The SHR’s benefit, level of data accuracy, and its limitations due to missing, non-updated, and erroneous data reports.
  • The SHR’s analytics capabilities that can assist in resolving cases, allocating resources and developing a statistical profile of offenders
  • The mathematical algorithm, SPSS syntax, and cluster analysis results that are central to the Murder Accountability Project in its ability to identify patterns that would otherwise not be distinguished using investigative procedures alone.
  • Numerous case studies that exhibit how SHR cluster analysis is applied to recognize murder patterns and is able to resolve murder cases in different locations as Ohio, Indiana, and Chicago.
  • Questions and clarifications raised during the Q&A concerns:
    • How the database deals with missing data.
    • Comparing reporting behavior between large cities and smaller towns.
    • Determining if cases are not included in the database.
    • Inclusion of homicides on tribal lands data.
    • Using the algorithm for other countries.
    • The number of active serial killers in the US.
    • Reporting between the local and federal jurisdictions.
    • The R statistical program being used.
    • SOP involved in approaching law enforcement regarding a potential serial murder.


Audience Comments

  • “I appreciate their work and the database is a magnificent idea. I hope more officers use it!” –Alexia
  • “Fantastic program. I had no idea MAP could do this. Unfortunately, it must be one of the best kept secrets that shouldn’t be.” –Milton
  • “Finding out that there are open source options for stats. analysis programs and that their website has built-in analytical features that will filter and compile data for export. The information regarding the UCR, SHR, and the reporting compliance issues across the country (not just at the local level) was also incredibly insightful.” –Alana
  • “I was not familiar with MAP, and I am extremely impressed by its capabilities. As a LE grant manager, this kind of data is invaluable in making case statements to support grants that will provide additional LEO staff or tools they need to solve these crimes.” –Julia
  • “I suspect many detectives are so busy with their cases that they don’t have time to look into / learn about / research these other types of investigative tools.” –Heather
  • “I like adding the “one more question” aspect. Thinking about the psychology behind it. I could apply this thinking to not only homicide cases but sexual assault and other cases with a bit of paraphrasing. The presenters are truly dedicated and well versed. Engaging!” — Nancy
Additional Resources
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