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I was attacked a few days ago and was almost stabbed to death. The suspect got away, as the first squad car came. Fueled by adrenaline, I sprinted towards the first squad car to get their attention and lost sight of the suspect, who fled on a bike. The case is now with the detective squad in our area.

I wanted to know what tools do they have at their disposal to work on the case? Could they, for instance, match a cell phone location at some instant in time with surveillance video to pin down the unique identity of this person? He would otherwise be difficult to positively ID, beyond a reasonable doubt. Although if I saw the bike, his eyes, and heard his voice, I feel I would know for sure whether it’s him or not.

I just mainly want to know whether the detectives have much to work with.

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    Sorry for the situation... Where did this take place?
    – Ron Beyer
    Dec 13, 2021 at 3:37
  • Hi @RonBeyer this happened in a big city, on the East Coast of the United States. And, thanks for the kind words.
    – user42134
    Dec 13, 2021 at 3:49
  • Wish we could welcome you on the site for a less serious matter; it would be helpful if you could provide a state since laws governing the investigative and the following criminal procedure will vary state by state as well as interpretation of federal law in state court. Even counties set forth different rules on what they prosecute, for e.g., in California, the DA in the City and County of San Francisco only presses charges if they feel the matter is beyond reasonable doubt, a county over in San Mateo County, DA presses charges not only w/ clear & convincing evidence but even if only +50%
    – kisspuska
    Dec 13, 2021 at 6:19
  • What is "almost stabbed to death"? Is it "stabbed and almost died from the wound", or "almost stabbed, and if stabbed, could have died", in other words, not stabbed?
    – gnasher729
    Dec 13, 2021 at 10:44
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    I’m voting to close this question because this is a question about police forensic techniques rather than about law.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 13, 2021 at 22:09

2 Answers 2

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What tools do they have at their disposal to work on the case?

There's more to investigating an attempted murder than just doing a cell-tower dump and reviewing communications data.

Analysis of information from the victim and witnesses can sometimes result with what some refer to as a jigsaw identification (briefly touched upon here).

As well as the suspect's physical description this information may include, in no particular order, such things as:

  • what type of weapon was used

  • the time of day

  • the use of getaway vehicle / bike

  • the level and type of violence offered

  • the location (e.g. busy street, alleyway)

  • what was said and/or done before / during / after the offence

All this and much more, including similar information from previously recorded offences, can then be analysed by the police to draw up a profile of the suspect in order to focus their enquiries.

If successful, it's these enquiries that will build the prosecution case. Again, in no particular order, they can include:

  • Forensic analysis - as well as the more commonly known fingerprints and DNA, usable trace evidence can come from fibers, blood, hair, paint scrapes: the list is almost endless - but time consuming and expensive, and not always as successful as some TV cops shows make out

  • Public and/or social media appeals for information, House to House enquiries etc to locate witnesses

  • CCTV trawls to confirm (or discount incorrect / false) accounts. Sometimes, depending on the image quality, a biometric picture of the suspect can be created to include or exclude a person of interest.

  • Registered informants and other sensitive sources of intelligence

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Very few

I'm sorry to hear of your situation but it's a better than even money chance that the perpetrator will never be caught.

You say this happened "in a big city, on the East Coast of the United States". Well, New York City is one of those so I'll use their stats for illustration.

I am also unclear what you mean by "almost stabbed to death": were you robbed at knifepoint (Robbery) or were you actually stabbed (Felony Assault)?

If this happened in the week of 29 Nov through 5 Dec 2021, yours was one of 363 Robberies or 386 Felony Assaults in that week alone. Based on 2020 figures, the clearance rates (i.e. when the police decide the case is closed irrespective of the result of any trial) for these crimes were 46.8% and 66.0% respectively. That means that more than half and more than a third respectively of all those crimes in NYC from that quarter remain 'unsolved'. Most of those that are solved is because of an arrest at the scene or within 24 hours of the crime.

If all they have to go on is your verbal description of a stranger, then a) they have very little chance of ever finding them and b) they aren't going to devote many (or any) resources in trying.

Police can and do utilise all sorts of technical surveillance but they have to, for example, know whose phone to get the metadata of. They cannot, due to Constitutional protections, ask the phone company for a list of all the phones that were in a given area at a given time. If they have probable cause to believe that 555-555-5555 was the phone of the perpetrator they can seek a warrant to get the phone company to confirm where it was.

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    I'm not sure about the Constitutional inability to submit a request for all phones in a given area at a given time. Geofence warrants have been used by New York state (harvardlawreview.org/2021/05/…). Now, I doubt the NYC police are going to issue a geofence warrant for a relatively low-priority crime without a lot of corroborating evidence to narrow down the suspect pool. But I see no legal reason that they couldn't. Dec 13, 2021 at 7:22

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