In Brief: Internet-based criminal investigations and their accompanying success are often still measured against conventional investigation standards, with origins that date back to 1829 when England's Parliament passed the Metropolitan Police Act. Today, a successful criminal investigation considers the following criteria: (1) a logical sequence is followed, (2) all available physical evidence is legally obtained, (3) witnesses are effectively interviewed, (4) suspect(s) are legally and effectively interrogated, (5) all leads are thoroughly developed, and (6) details of the case are accurately and completely recorded (Gilbert, 2001). While law enforcement professionals are not bound by these existing criminal investigation standards, it has been demonstrated that when these standards are followed, the result is an increase in successful criminal prosecutions.
Successful investigation of hate, bias, and terror offenses in an Internet environment requires law enforcement professionals to blend conventional and new technology strategies.
However, the strategies law enforcement professionals implement during Internet-based investigations are different and continue to emerge as technology evolves. The extraordinary development of the Internet over the past few years has fundamentally changed the way in which criminals commit crimes and law enforcement professionals conduct criminal investigations. It is incumbent upon law enforcement personnel to implement creative and progressive investigative strategies to meet the challenges that Internet-based investigation creates.
This paper includes a comprehensive guide that investigators can use when examining Internet-based hate, bias, and terror crimes. Focus is on questions that must be asked, key decisions that must be made and proper procedures that must be followed when seizing electronic evidence (see Figure 1). In the early stages of the investigation, it is important for law enforcement personnel to recognize indicators that may suggest a hate, bias, or terror crime. Indicators that need to be considered include the following: Is the victim a member of a targeted class? Are the victim and offender from different groups? Were bias-related objects, items, or symbols used during the incident?
As the investigation progresses it is important for the investigator to recognize the subtle differences between Internet-based and conventional investigation search, seizure, and collection approaches regarding incriminating evidence. The investigator needs to understand statutory privacy protections afforded to individuals by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (1986) legislation. Investigators should understand the different legal requirements for obtaining subscriber or content information as well as clearly understand and remain up to date with emerging Internet-focused legislation, criminal court case law, and technological advances concerning Internet-based criminal investigations.
|Has an internet hate, bias, or terror crime occurred?||
|Where and when did the offense occur?||
|Who were the participants in the planning and execution of the offense?||
|Are there witnesses to the offense?||
|Is there evidence of the offense?||
|In what manner or by what method was the crime perpetrated?||
|Is there an indication of guilt or innocence to aid in a just solution to the case?||
Figure 1—A Guide to Internet-Based Hate, Bias and Terror Investigations
The United States Department of Justice provides investigators with valuable information pertaining to the legal search of computers and seizure of electronic evidence in the March 2001 publication, Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigation.
(Selected citations only)
Research Paper Author: Rick Putnam—2004 AIM Graduate, Detective Sergeant, Investigative Services Bureau, Springfield Oregon Police Department
Abstract: This study examines the investigative strategies law enforcement professionals are implementing to meet the challenges of Internet-based hate, bias, and terror crimes. Internet-based strategies are compared to conventional hate, bias, and terror investigative strategies already in use by law enforcement. The result is the design of a comprehensive guide for law enforcement personnel to use when investigating such crimes, including specific key questions to ask, decisions to make, and procedures for seizure of electronic evidence.