Posts Tagged ‘ Operation Phoenix ’

Operation Phoenix.

THE world’s first online murder database will make it easier for cops to snare serial killers such as Peter Tobin.

Operation Phoenix goes live today across the Strathclyde Police force area.

And it is hoped the web-based system, which identifies patterns and trends, will be rolled out across Scotland next year.

Phoenix has been four years in the making and was developed for just £32,500 by Scotland’s biggest police force and the national Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).

To date, 2277 murders are on the database, dating back to 1940, as well as scores of long-term missing persons.

The Record was the first paper to be briefed on technology that has the potential to revolutionise the investigation of both cold and live cases.

Strathclyde Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Field said: “From an investigative perspective we think we have got something here that is pretty unique.

“As part of the development of Phoenix, we have already identified murders where there are fresh lines of inquiry or opportunity.”

Field, who chaired the working group which created the virtual reference library, would not be drawn on cases where a breakthrough could be imminent. But he said the technology could prove invaluable in hunting down monsters such as Peter Tobin, who committed murders in Glasgow, Bathgate and Kent.

Asked if Tobin could have been caught sooner if Phoenix had been operational, Field said: “Although the system will never actually physically identify an individual as a suspect it will assist in quick identification of links with previous detected and unresolved cases.

“This will identify quickly any possible suspects.”

The top cop added: “It’s about creating a legacy and learning from our investigations.”

Phoenix was inspired by Operation Trinity, a homicide database developed to examine links between a series of unsolved murders from the 1970s, including the World’s End case.

It involved the compilation of data on every female murder in Scotland since 1965.

Since 2008 a dedicated team of Phoenix analysts have created dossiers on 2277 murders.

While all unresolved murders will be fed into the database, details of resolved cases – around 1200 – have only been recorded back to 1995.

Field said Phoenix will save a massive amount of police time and resources.

He said: “If you pick out a murder that is 20 years old and find out who actually worked on it, that will take a month.

“To get that small amount of information there you would probably have to search police officer’s lofts and garages.”

Karyn McCluskey, deputy head of the VRU, said: “For Trinity they had to invite old detectives in to tell war stories because there was nothing written down. That’s why Phoenix is so unique.

“It is cutting edge and it is designed to get an outcome for victims’ families.”

Ms McCluskey said it is also an invaluable tool for crime prevention in that it can be used to identify trends.

She added: “No murder is ever forgotten.

“If you have got a 70-year-old out there who has committed a murder 50 years ago on a 20-yearold female then it is still live and people are still looking.

“The victims are always remembered. The 2277 murders is not a statistic Scotland should be proud of. We must learn from it and do better in future.”

VRU analyst Maighread Townsend said the database includes a complete overview of a crime, with everything from scene pics and CCTV footage to post mortem reports and behavioural information for the victim and offender.

The old database had 48 fields but Phoenix has 358 – and rising.

Maighread said the “golden section” of the database is the action log which contains details of all the decisions – good and bad – taken during the course of the investigation.

Cops can also use mapping software to chart the previous addresses of a suspect and undetected crimes which have occurred nearby.

Officers can then explore coincidences in dates and descriptions.

After every case has concluded full debrief must be held within 28 days to allow key aspects of the inquiry to be preserved while they are still fresh in the minds of those who worked on the case.

Detective Inspector Pat Campbell said the debriefs take the form of an “honest debate” and allow for both best practice and mistakes to be recorded for all posterity.

And since 2009 Strathclyde Police have held 75.

They aim to ensure priceless expertise is not lost when senior officers retire but rather is preserved for future generations of detectives.

Field said: “The loneliest place on the planet is when you are the senior officer in a murder. Phoenix is about giving you support and a virtual critical friend.” Strathclyde Chief Constable Stephen House said: “The message is a simple one.

“We will catch you and you will be brought to justice.”

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I am excited to see how this goes. If it does work as well as they are stating this could be a great asset for law enforcement world wide.

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