I have just returned from a tour of two Police Ranges and a Commissionerate. The tour was for an assessment of effectiveness of the police hierarchy in the districts in detecting crime. So the focus was on the yet unsolved serious crimes of murder and dacoity over the last two years.
It was an interesting tour for me as I am a pattern spotting person. It helps me see evolving new features and also to get a bird’s eye view on the problem. So what kind of patterns are emerging in these crimes?
One impact clearly seen is that of the hugely increased mobility of people. A great thing-this improved human mobility-but the fallout on the crime of murder is in the far flung location of unidentified dead bodies. In the past, murder was usually a local or near local crime. But this crime is no more a local problem. The Sheena Bora case is a well known example.
During my visit too, a check on dead bodies which had been identified later, showed murders or motives for murder originating in far away places-the most distant originated in Tamil Nadu-a distance of more than 1200 kms from Maharashtra!! This particular case was a clever piece of investigation but clearly, murder is no more a local problem like in the good old days. With ease of movement because of good road length across the country and also due to bettering of peoples’ overall financial status , it has become easy to transport the crime of murder across long distances and make it nearly impossible for police working in geographical silos of police stations, to be able to trace the identity or origin of the murder using prevalent techniques. Of course the picking up of clues from the spot remains the essential step for investigation, but what should be the newer way to look at solutions for this crime?
Currently, the real and effortfull activities by police to trace the identities of such victims is limited to neighbouring police stations. Some tick box efforts are made to catch the attention of the state CID which maintains state wide data of crime and criminals. But due to this factor of mobility, the newer need is for aggregation of data on recorded missing persons, at the SP, Range IG, State CID and finally at the national level, since the murdered individual is likely to have been recorded as missing somewhere far away from where the body is found. There could also be a focus on analysis of cellphone data dumps from telecom towers around the location of murdered bodies so that any outsiders visiting the area could be identified and investigated. IT, including investigation software which picks out patterns, is the only way forward for this. Matching computerised data on missing persons with the murdered victim’s description is one of the features of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network which is currently under various stages of implementation across all states in India. But this feature is hardly ever used.
A refreshingly different view might emerge from a time series analysis of this type of problem, for identifying patterns. From the locations of the body of victims of all murders in a district, what is the dispersal in geographical distances of the motive/place of murder, what is the density pattern regarding location of dead bodies along roads in a district, is there any pattern in the manner of disposal of the dead body and the distance to the place of origin of the crime, and so many such analytical questions can show up patterns regarding disposal sites and inform on the probable sq km area to vigorously search for unknown victim’s identity, as also reveal information to take preventive steps for improving police vigil on specific patches of road.
The ideas emerging from this are on the increasing need for computerised crime data, its useful aggregation and pattern analysis to solve the crimes of the future.