Making sense of evidence

Software support for crime investigations


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Project description


Crime investigation is a difficult and laborious process that is prone to error and the costs of mistakes can be high. This project will develop software support to tackle two problems that often occur in complex criminal cases: lack of overview of a mass of evidence by initial investigators and lack of transparency of case files for subsequent investigators, prosecutors and fact finders.

A demonstrator prototype will be developed of software with which crime investigators can visualize and analyse their reasoning about a case. Such software will support investigators in seeing patterns, discovering new relationships or inconsistencies, and identifying missing evidence. It will also enable subsequent investigators, prosecutors and fact finders to gain a better understanding of a case. The software will be built as an extension to evidence data modelling software currently used in six Dutch police regions. The effects of the software on an investigator's understanding of a case and the quality of file transfer will be measured in detailed user experiments.

The software will be based on recent insights that the only viable manner in which police investigators can structure the gathered information is through stories about what happened, linked to the available evidence and hypotheses with evidential arguments. These insights will be further developed and made precise by clarifying how stories can be anchored in the available evidence by building arguments with general knowledge. Thus the necessary theoretical foundations will be provided for software that is theoretically sound and respects the practical constraints of crime investigation.