How Police Decide What Is Worth Investigating?
The Challenge Police Face With Scams:
As any scam victim knows, the local police (or even national police) can be very reluctant to investigate these crimes. Some local police don’t even want to take a police report (though they will take “informational reports” if a victim insists).
Primarily, this is due to their ignorance about the best practices associated with these crimes and support for the victims.
There is a reason for this and it involves a Law Enforcement process known as “Solvability.”
When a police report is taken, several factors known as “Solvability Factors” go into deciding if a case will be investigated or even followed up on.
After all, why should the police waste precious resources on unsolvable crimes? Even if everything is known, some cases remain unsolvable by their very nature.
There are a number of reasons why local police may be reluctant to investigate online scams. One reason may be a lack of resources and training to properly investigate and prosecute cybercrimes. Additionally, online scams often cross jurisdictional boundaries, making it difficult for a single agency to investigate and prosecute the crime. Furthermore, many online scams originate from outside the country, making it even more difficult for local law enforcement to investigate and bring charges against the perpetrators. Additionally, some police officers may not understand the technical aspects of online scams and may not know how to properly gather evidence and interview victims.
However, we disagree. There is much that local police can do, including recover the victim’s money.
But it is important to understand their decision-making to try to find reasons why they should help.
What are Solvability Factors that the police use to decide to green-light police investigations into these crimes?
Solvability factors are criteria that law enforcement agencies use to evaluate and prioritize criminal cases, and are used to determine whether a crime will be investigated and/or solved. Some of the solvability factors that police use to decide whether to investigate a crime include:
These are the Solvability Factors that determine Police Investigations:
- Quality of evidence: Police will prioritize cases where there is a large amount of evidence that is likely to lead to a conviction. Most scam victims come in very disorganized and it makes it hard for the police to understand the crime.
- Is a suspect known: In the case of online scams – do you have a REAL identity or just fake names. If a suspect has been identified, the police will be more likely to investigate the case.
- A reliable witness with factual information regarding the crime: In the case of scams that is the victim – though sadly not all victims are reliable.
- Witness cooperation: Police are more likely to investigate cases where witnesses are willing to come forward and provide statements or testify in court.
- Is there a description of the suspect that is adequate to separate the suspect from others?
This is where hard data comes in – real photos or videos that are truly of the scammer. Rarely do victims have hard-data.
- Is there a possible location for the suspect?
Most victims have (at best) a money transfer address, not an actual location for the real scammer.
- Can the suspect be identified using photo images, line-up, etc.?
This assumes that you have a real photo of the scammer – unless you have also seen a real-time video with audio you just don’t know. Scammers use stolen photos like toilet paper, and nothing they say can be reliably believed.
- Has the victim or witness seen the suspect before or since?
In the case of scams, the answer is generally NO since scams are often conducted by gangs, organizations, or teams. You could see a hundred fake identities using the same stolen photo and there is no reason to believe it is even the same group of scammers.
- A vehicle with a known license plate, make, model, color, identifiers, etc.: Even if you see a photo of a vehicle on a social media profile how do you know if belongs to the scammer? Remember stolen photos?
- Is stolen property traceable through a known serial number, owner-applied marks, damage, or unique description: This assumes the property is where the police can get to it – this applies mostly in the case of Money Mules. However, now with cryptocurrency scams, the money is traceable and recoverable.
- Community impact: Crimes that have a significant impact on the community, such as violent crimes or crimes that are affecting a large number of people, will be given a higher priority. With online and phone scams it impacts virtually everyone in their community, they just do not understand that.
- Is there a distinct pattern or method (“M.O.”) linking the suspect to multiple crimes?
Here the problem is that there are just too many criminals doing exactly the same thing. It is institutional. It is international. It is global. There are over 100,000 professional scammers working at any time now.
- Is there usable physical evidence such as DNA, fingerprints, surveillance video/photos, etc.?
This is always no. Not even the Bank Transfer, MoneyGram, or Western Union information is reliable since the money can be picked up by anyone, including by fake names. Even phone numbers are not reliable in an age of forwarding internet phone numbers, and burner phones. Forget about emails, scammer burn through millions of them.
- Was there a limited opportunity for the crime that would eliminate other potential suspects?
Again, there are 100,000 other scammers out there!
- Is the crime or the suspect within their jurisdiction?
These are almost never within the Police’s jurisdiction, and almost never even in that country!
- Available resources: Police departments have limited resources, so they will prioritize cases based on the availability of officers and other resources.
- Probability of success: If the police believe that they have a good chance of solving a case, they will be more likely to investigate it.
These Solvability Factors allow Police Departments around the world to use their resources efficiently.
When you look logically at the problem from the Police’s point of view, almost no online crime is solvable at the local police level, and most do not even at the national level.
Sadly, this is the reason why you receive the response you get when you ask for local police help.
It Is Still Vitally Important That You Report These Crimes To Your Local Police
This enables several beneficial processes and results:
- You obtain a police report which can be used for insurance claims (if applicable), and any possible tax deductions (where applicable).
- It enables the possibility of recovering your money.
- It allows the locality to fully understand how many of these crimes are happening, and they get reported up through to the national level.
- This helps pressure politicians to enact new laws and treaties to better address these crimes.
- Local communities frequently have crime victim assistance and support services that you can take advantage of after you file a report.
It also legitimizes your experience as a crime in the mind of your friends and family. This will help change the way people view you and will aid in the support structure that will help you to recover.
At this stage, we are in a transition period where there used to be little that our police can do, and you can see why they limit their resources and attention to these crimes. But the more they are reported, and the more experience everyone has, the more it will be addressed. Today, there is much that the local police can do – see here.
So always report these crimes to your local police.
Where To Report?
If you lost money: the way to report this is first with your local police – they are your first responders, then always report all scams to the FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?orgcode=SCARS and to SCARS at www.Anyscam.com – optionally, you can also report to the FBI at www.IC3.gov or 1-800-CALL-FBI. In addition, you can call the Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) Tip Line at 1-866-347-2423
You can find more places to report here.
If you did not lose money just report the fake profiles to Facebook or Instagram, etc.
Do The Right Thing! Report The Crime!
Be Safe Online!