Criminal Investigation

Richard H. Ward

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online April 2011 | | DOI:
Criminal Investigation

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Criminal investigation as a discipline within the fields of law enforcement (criminal justice) that focuses on the solution of crime at the local, state, and federal levels of government, within defined jurisdictional areas that may overlap. A crime is based on a legal definition prescribed by a governmental entity, such as a state legislature or the US Congress. The field of criminal investigation encompasses a number of cognate areas that begin with the report or suspicion that a crime has occurred, an initial or preliminary evaluation to determine that a crime has occurred, and generally an assignment to an investigator, who may be a police officer, a detective, a special agent, or other investigator, depending on jurisdictional entity: police department, prosecutor, or federal agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Secret Service, or one of more than a hundred federal agencies with some form of jurisdictional responsibility for conducting criminal investigations. Rapid advances in science and technology have changed the role of the criminal investigator dramatically, leading to much higher degrees of specialization than in the past, including but not limited to such areas as forensic accounting and fraud; cyber-crime, Internet stalking and child pornography; human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children; homeland security, terrorism, and international organized crime; and theft of art and cultural objects. These types of crime have also resulted in changes to the organizational structure of larger law enforcement agencies as new units have emerged. In the past, criminal investigation units normally assigned detectives to crimes against property (e.g., burglary and robbery) and violent crimes (e.g., homicide, sexual assault). Today, specialized units frequently utilize investigators who have a much narrower perspective and particular expertise. Closely related to these areas has been the role of the private sector in criminal investigations. Most large corporations now have investigative arms that focus on criminal activity within and against the organization. Additionally, the tools, both human and scientific, have placed greater emphasis on the role of the crime laboratory (forensic science) and the utilization of technology in support of the investigative function. Perhaps the best example has been the use of DNA analysis. Advances in crime analysis using sophisticated software—such as relational databases and geospatial programs—have contributed to developing patterns, identifying suspects, and linking common elements of criminal activity. Other advances in technology, such as social media, the use of drones, and digital photography and imaging are examples. Many of these techniques are under judicial examination, particularly in the areas of surveillance, interviewing and interrogation, and analytics. Court decisions and changes in procedural aspects of criminal investigation and forensic science have also led to criticism of many past practices in such areas as interagency cooperation, evidence collection and analysis, interviewing and interrogation, electronic surveillance, and political and media influence.

Article.  11502 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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