Investigative Steps

The following investigative steps are those that DPS typically undertakes when responding to a reported incident. These steps are meant to illustrate the investigation process, and may vary in different cases depending on the unique facts and circumstances of particular cases.

  1. Responding officer arrives on scene to meet with and interview the reporting party
  2. Depending on the nature of the incident, the patrol Sergeant and a Detectives may be called to the scene to investigate the incident further
  3. The responding officer will assist those who are injured, obtain enough information to determine if/what crime was committed, secure any evidence, locate/separate/briefly interview witnesses, and apprehend a suspect if still on scene
  4. If necessary, the responding officer will call for additional assistance
  5. If the reported incident occurred in a physical location, DPS officers and detectives will typically conduct a door-to-door canvass of the area surrounding the scene to include the path of entry and egress of the perpetrator
  6. If available, review University CCTV footage
  7. As the investigation progresses, detectives will often re-interview the victims and witnesses to glean addition information
  8. In addition to the follow-up interviews, detectives speak with and interview other parties as information is learned
  9. If a suspect/responsible parties is identified, the subject is interviewed Depending on the nature of the incident, the subject may be subjected to criminal prosecution and/or conduct violation
  10. In all reported incidents the cases are worked aggressively until all leads are exhausted. This means there are no further known witnesses to speak with, all recorded video has been reviewed, all relevant evidence has been collected and nothing further can be learned from the scene.

Investigative Challenges

Despite the efforts taken by DPS to solve each case, there are numerous obstacles and hurdles that hinder investigations, including:

  • Delays in reporting
    • Physical evidence is lost
    • Witness recollection is distorted
    • Ability to locate and apprehend the responsible parties is drastically reduced
    • Unrelated witnesses go unidentified as they leave the area after the incident without meeting with law enforcement.
  • Lack of an eyewitness to the incident or other related problems associated with witnesses
    • Perpetrators commit acts at times and locations when others are not around.
    • Multiple witnesses describe the same incident and the surrounding circumstances differently. This makes it difficult to determine a direction at the beginning.
  • Suspects use the cover of anonymity to commit acts.
    • There are numerous, easy to use methods available to someone to hide their identity and cover their online footprint (i.e., phone/text apps to mask number, proxy and dark web to mask IP address, pseudonymous email addresses)
    • Perpetrators use the cover of darkness to conceal themselves and their actions.
    • Perpetrators commit crimes in areas where they know there are no cameras.
  • Lack of evidence
    • Many areas/scenes are not covered by closed circuit television cameras.
    • Typically, scenes do not include physical evidence such as fingerprints.
  • Legal limitations
    • If an act does not rise to a crime, DPS is limited in scope and may not be able to pursue the incident as far as it can with criminal conduct.
    • NY State Law prevents peace officers, such as DPS, from undertaking certain functions which are granted to police officers. One such ability is the ability to apply for and execute search warrants which many times are required to further an online investigation.  In these cases, the investigation is reliant on external law enforcement agencies.