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The_Ink_Goddess
10-31-2013, 02:32 AM
Cases being considered "cold" officially in the sense that they are inactive and detectives are taken off them. Everything I'm getting off in the Internet elsewhere is basically saying that "there is no definite time limit" - which I completely understand, but I have NO IDEA whatsoever what kind of time scale we'd be looking at, and the cold cases mentioned on the web have been cold for 20+ years.

So - when do detectives get moved off and start working on other cases, etc.? I know that the case is never closed unless somebody is prosecuted for it, but when is the case considered unofficially cold?

The case in this story is a huge media sensation, due to the gory nastiness of the crime and the beauty of the young girl murdered. But there are no new leads, it's not moving forwards and everyone's kind of treading water with the case, even the media are losing interest. How long would be plausible for this investigation to go on before the resources are scaled back?

Thank you!

robjvargas
10-31-2013, 02:42 AM
I don't think detectives, as a rule, are ever moved off a cold case. I'm thinking of the ones I've seen on 48 Hours and like programs. The detective never seemed to give up.

A case goes cold when there are no more investigative leads to follow. But if anything comes up, I think the original detectives are put on it.

It just drifts to the bottom of their inbox. Sort of.

vagough
10-31-2013, 03:28 AM
Hi Goddess --

I've been attending a Citizens Police Academy course here in Virginia (USA). Two weeks ago, we had a presentation by cold case homicide detectives. In our jurisdiction, the Cold Case Squad gets cases when the investigating detective either retires or wants a fresh set of eyes on the case and the evidence. Otherwise, the investigating detective keeps the case. Of course, there could be different practices, given the different countries involved.

Hope this helps!

cornflake
10-31-2013, 08:12 AM
Cases being considered "cold" officially in the sense that they are inactive and detectives are taken off them. Everything I'm getting off in the Internet elsewhere is basically saying that "there is no definite time limit" - which I completely understand, but I have NO IDEA whatsoever what kind of time scale we'd be looking at, and the cold cases mentioned on the web have been cold for 20+ years.

So - when do detectives get moved off and start working on other cases, etc.? I know that the case is never closed unless somebody is prosecuted for it, but when is the case considered unofficially cold?

The case in this story is a huge media sensation, due to the gory nastiness of the crime and the beauty of the young girl murdered. But there are no new leads, it's not moving forwards and everyone's kind of treading water with the case, even the media are losing interest. How long would be plausible for this investigation to go on before the resources are scaled back?

Thank you!

This could depend on department, etc., but in general, in relation to what I know, people aren't moved off cases unless there's a reason to do so (like to let someone else take over specifically or for misconduct or conflict or something). There'd be no official or unofficial 'ok, Sue, you're off that case,' just because there wasn't anywhere to go with it, if she was working it correctly.

Sue will investigate the case and talk to people and either get somewhere or exhaust her resources and run into only dead ends. If the latter happens, well, she'd still keep in touch with the victim's family, check up on any lead that comes in, think about it, do anything that might connect stuff, etc. She's going to have other stuff to do and new cases coming in and she'll work on what she has that can be worked.

There's currently controversy in NYC over scaling back resources - though it's a different type of case entirely. The resources you're talking about are a couple of detectives who already have a bunch of stuff to do. They'll just do what they do and follow what they can.

I mention the case in NYC - search 'Avonte' if you're interested, and it'll likely pop up - because it's generating controversy over the allocation of serious manpower and resources on a case that's basically growing cold. It's a very sad case of a 14-year-old, non-verbal autistic boy who ran out of his school (he was known to run off and was apparently supposed to be watched for that) one afternoon three weeks ago and hasn't been seen since. He's on surveillance cameras in and around the school running out of his classroom and then running outside down the street and that's it. The police have done a ton, as has everyone. Lots of volunteers, rallies, posters everyplace. The City and police have searched the subway system (he's known to have a thing for trains) repeatedly, sent out police vehicles playing his mother's voice on loudspeakers trying to draw him, nothing. The commissioner took flack from the family for saying it was unlikely he'll be found alive at this point, and there's been discussion about scaling back the search.

[Redacted]
10-31-2013, 09:02 AM
Depends on the case. A misdemeanor in CA has a statute of limitations of one year. Meaning that the state has one year from the discovery of the crime to arrest someone. Most felonies have a SOL of three years. Some more serious ones have longer statutes, child molest cases have a range of confusing SOL's. once the statute is reached, the case is over. Regardless of evidence at that point.

Murder, obviously, has no SOL. So the case would normally be considered "cold" when all of the currently available leads have been followed to no avail, and the lead detective believes there are no other avenues to investigate at this time. Generally his or her Sgt and probably LT have reviewed the case and agree with this assessment. The case is no longer being investigated actively though it may come up for periodic review. This could be a month or two or a couple years, it all depends on the facts of the individual case.

The case would still be assigned to the original detective in many cases though departments with "cold case squads" may treat it differently.

WeaselFire
10-31-2013, 04:59 PM
Everything I'm getting off in the Internet elsewhere is basically saying that "there is no definite time limit"
For once, the internet is right.

Cases go cold when there is no further evidence or leads to follow. Could be a week, could be years. Some cases go ignored (residential burglary under $1,000 is basically a report and not much more). Some, like a multiple homicide, string of robberies or a child kidnapping, may stay hot for years. They are higher priority.

So, since your question has no answer, what is the reason you asked it? What do you need to have happen in your story?

Jeff

jclarkdawe
10-31-2013, 05:21 PM
Further complicating this is lot of cases end up in a technical limbo, where they are still open, but can't be prosecuted. I had a client who got busted for burglary. Plead to about 10 burglaries by the time we got done. Kid probably did in excess of 500. Rest remained open, but weren't worth prosecuting.

Or police establish who did it, but don't have sufficient evidence to prosecute. Had a client for whom the police had a wonderful witness. Who died. And they didn't have enough other evidence to get the case going. Another where a client rolled on another criminal. Problem was my client was completely unreliable. And the police couldn't put together any other evidence. Shame as my client was going to get quite the deal.

So sometimes cases go into a dead end, where they're not cold, not active, just not going anywhere.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

robjvargas
10-31-2013, 05:49 PM
;8509558']Depends on the case. A misdemeanor in CA has a statute of limitations of one year. Meaning that the state has one year from the discovery of the crime to arrest someone. Most felonies have a SOL of three years. Some more serious ones have longer statutes, child molest cases have a range of confusing SOL's. once the statute is reached, the case is over. Regardless of evidence at that point.

Murder, obviously, has no SOL. So the case would normally be considered "cold" when all of the currently available leads have been followed to no avail, and the lead detective believes there are no other avenues to investigate at this time. Generally his or her Sgt and probably LT have reviewed the case and agree with this assessment. The case is no longer being investigated actively though it may come up for periodic review. This could be a month or two or a couple years, it all depends on the facts of the individual case.

The case would still be assigned to the original detective in many cases though departments with "cold case squads" may treat it differently.

I forgot about Statute of Limitations. But I don't think that's a cold case. I think they close it at that point.

The_Ink_Goddess
10-31-2013, 11:15 PM
For once, the internet is right.

Cases go cold when there is no further evidence or leads to follow. Could be a week, could be years. Some cases go ignored (residential burglary under $1,000 is basically a report and not much more). Some, like a multiple homicide, string of robberies or a child kidnapping, may stay hot for years. They are higher priority.

So, since your question has no answer, what is the reason you asked it? What do you need to have happen in your story?

Jeff

Firstly: thanks to everybody for your wonderful help! Reps all around, as always.

I asked it because my main character's dad is a homicide cop who becomes obsessed with a murder, which has gone cold, because he thinks it's the work of a serial killer. No serial killer has yet materialised (though the hunch is correct, it hardly matters). Her dad's been in denial for some time about the coldness of the case. I need something to happen which makes it clear that it IS considered cold, and he can no longer pursue it. Maybe his boss strategically putting him on another case which will require most of his attention?

jclarkdawe
10-31-2013, 11:50 PM
He'd be assigned other cases with higher priority. Boss would wonder why the newer, higher priority cases aren't being dealt with. It's up to him to balance workload versus having a life.

I know one detective that has invested 5 hours per week into a case for 20 years now. It's on his time, explaining in part his divorces and the fact his kids never saw him. Near as I can tell he works, keeps his house up, and works on this case. He's a good cop and his present cases are done well. But this one dominates his life, and is worth more then anything else. Every so often his buddies can entice him with fishing trips, maybe twice a year. And he feels guilty about wasting the time.

Now he's looking forward to retirement so can spend more time on this case.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

melindamusil
11-01-2013, 01:40 AM
I need something to happen which makes it clear that it IS considered cold, and he can no longer pursue it. Maybe his boss strategically putting him on another case which will require most of his attention?


He'd be assigned other cases with higher priority. Boss would wonder why the newer, higher priority cases aren't being dealt with. It's up to him to balance workload versus having a life.


So the "thing" that makes it clear that it's a cold case could be something like getting written up by the boss for not adequately completing his job, or getting demoted, or even getting fired.

jclarkdawe
11-01-2013, 02:17 AM
So the "thing" that makes it clear that it's a cold case could be something like getting written up by the boss for not adequately completing his job, or getting demoted, or even getting fired.

Unless he's brain dead, he's going to get hints way before then. It's hard to say exact numbers, because different cases always have a different level of complexity, but let's say a detective normally has thirty active cases. He's got to balance time and effort on each case with results. Let's say he can spend two hours on one of two different cases. Case one, two hours and he might have enough to prosecute. Case two, and he's going to be doing some searching that's not likely to pan out. Where should he put his efforts?

I'm simplifying here a lot, but being a detective is like a lot of jobs. You get assigned work, and balance what you can get rid of versus what needs long-term effort but needs to be done versus what needs a crap load of work but isn't likely to go anywhere. No one likes not getting their work done, but most people learn how to balance work versus the rest of their life.

Even when detectives are assigned to a priority investigation, it doesn't get rid of all their other cases. And all the other new cases that are coming in. Finite resources have to be balanced no matter what it is.

On TV, notice how little of a detective's day we actually see. He or she might be devoting a lot of time on the crisis de jour, but he or she is going to also being dealing with all his or her older cases as well as the newer cases that walk through the door. Big departments might be able to dedicate officers, but smaller departments always have new work coming in that has to be dealt with.

One way to realize a case is going down in priorities is when you no longer can get overtime authorization.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

melindamusil
11-01-2013, 03:29 AM
JCD is actually probably right. Not a LEO, but I remember reading (in reference to FBI agents), usually about 1/3 of their cases are in active investigation. Another 1/3 are moving through the court system. The final 1/3 are technically still active, but there are no current leads and they usually don't take up much of the agent's time.

I could come up with a dozen fictional ways to solve the OP's issue, but in real life, it probably wouldn't work so neatly.

The_Ink_Goddess
11-01-2013, 04:37 PM
He'd be assigned other cases with higher priority. Boss would wonder why the newer, higher priority cases aren't being dealt with. It's up to him to balance workload versus having a life.

I know one detective that has invested 5 hours per week into a case for 20 years now. It's on his time, explaining in part his divorces and the fact his kids never saw him. Near as I can tell he works, keeps his house up, and works on this case. He's a good cop and his present cases are done well. But this one dominates his life, and is worth more then anything else. Every so often his buddies can entice him with fishing trips, maybe twice a year. And he feels guilty about wasting the time.

Now he's looking forward to retirement so can spend more time on this case.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Thanks guys. I get what you're all saying - the way I currently have it 'solved' in my WIP, bearing in mind what everybody here has said, is that he gets assigned another BIG case that will require a lot of attention. The MC points out (and he knows) that he can still spend time on this other case, so the character crisis has shifted slightly from "I'm off the case" to "the case won't get as much of my time, people have lost confidence in me, it's likely to remain totally dead and I'm disillusioned."