Have you ever dreamed about being a successful crime solver? Have you ever envied this old M. Holmes- or dreamed about cracking mysteries like in Criminal Minds?
Well fiction is not so far from reality as police investigators sometimes feel like they are getting nowhere and could make use of some help. As has been shown lately, the input of thousands of individuals could be as good as the one of experts, the so-called Wisdom of the Crowd. But how is this relevant to police investigations? Well, like the FBI did in 2011, investigators can sometimes seek help by crowdsourcing some of their unsolved cases.
On 30th June 1999, the 41-year-old Ricky McCormick was found dead in St Louis, Missouri. While the nature of the death was undoubtedly from criminal activity, two strange coded notes found in his pockets quickly caught the attention of the policemen. Twelve years later, despite the relentless work of the CRRU- the Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit of the FBI- those notes remain a mystery, forcing the FBI to crowdsource the problem on the internet. The collection of solutions presented by the population will be reviewed by the FBI, following a hierarchical system. No reward despite the self-satisfaction and the glory of helping the FBI is offered.
Two years later, the FBI again resorted to crowdsourcing to identify the authors of the horrifying bombing in the Marathon of Boston. An unprecedented number of calls, pictures and help from the population ensued from this open call, leading to a quick arrest of the two terrorists. Following the same lines, numerous cities have developed apps allowing their citizen to report crimes from street disturbance to murders. Continue reading Elementary, my dear Watson.