CRG 43/13-14: Investigating serious violent crime: what works, what doesn't and for what crime types?

Serious violent crime is a persistent and significant criminal justice issue (see Eisner, 2003; Fuller, 2013; Truman, Langton, & Planty, 2013; Wallace et al., 2009). In 2003 and 2008, the Australian Institute of Criminology delivered a clear message: despite the relatively low number of incidents compared to non-violent crime, serious violent crime offences account for a substantial portion of the costs of crime in Australia (Mayhew, 2003; Rollings, 2008). Moreover, a number of scholars have demonstrated a decline in police clearance of serious violent crime over recent decades (Horvath et al., 2001; Litwin & Xu, 2007; Riedel, 2008). Although investigation and responding to serious violent crime are core components of police work, the evidence-base for police investigative techniques for serious violent crime lacks the level of evaluation and synthesis seen for other policing interventions which have been predominantly assessed according to their impact on general crime and disorder.

This systematic review aims to redress this imbalance by conducting the first ever systematic review focusing on the effectiveness of techniques that police use to investigate serious violent crime. Our review examines the evidence on police investigative techniques for serious violent crime to determine what works, what doesn’t, and for what crime types. Specifically, we systematically evaluate the impact of police investigative techniques on key police outcomes in the context of serious violent crime: offender identification, arrests, elicitation of confessions, convictions and case closure.