By far, the best tool a Citizen Detective has is the internet and all the publicly available data at your fingertips. From social media platforms to message boards to public archives, so much information exists that can be used to connect dots.
The best place to start your detective work is to examine the most complete data on U.S. homicides available, The Murder Accountability Project. Here you can navigate to see trends in the types of murders, location of murders, and demographic information on victims.
This site is valuable to test hypotheses about murder suspects that could have been killing for a long time in one jurisdiction or in a variety of locations.
Using an algorithm, The Murder Accountability Project has also developed Murder Clusters. These datasets are capable of identifying serial killers, murdering multiple victims with identical killing techniques within a particular geographic region. This method can be helpful to spot difficult-to-see trends over a span of several years or longer.
While not every case is the result of a serial murderer, identifying patterns and providing new perspectives are some key benefits of Citizen Detective work. Here are other databases that are helpful bookmarks to uncover patterned information:
This site combines public stats and data from the FBI: Uniform Crime Report with the Supplementary Homicide Report. murderdata.org
A database currently consisting of unsolved homicides from 50 Florida counties, 46 U.S. states, and 3 international countries. database.projectcoldcase.org
A volunteer organization devoted to assisting law enforcement in solving cold cases concerning unexplained disappearances and unidentified victims from the U.S. and Canada. www.doenetwork.org
What’s next? Stay updated on cases that matter to you, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and share information. Like our friend, Andrea Cipriano of The Crime Sheet says: “You don’t need a badge to be a detective.”
Let us know what cases are you following. We’re visualizing cases daily and we need your input, insights, and interests.