Serial Killer Hunting: Part One

Last week, the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff's Office (JDPSO) launched this website to attract more publicity regarding an apparent serial killer that is active in their jurisdiction.

Authorities believe the offender is known to the community, and with the site, detectives hope the public will provide leads that can help stop this dangerous assailant.

Other law enforcement agencies including the Louisiana State Police and the FBI have been assisting in the investigation.

I commend Sheriff Ricky Edwards and his staff with their innovative efforts in gaining public support. The most difficult challenge for a police or any website is not getting people to initially visit, but making them want to come back regularly.

In my opinion, the JDPSO's website is constructed for one-time visitors. It has some details of the crimes, a list of victims, and photos, but really nothing to entice citizens to return to the website.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions to improve their online crime-fighting effort:

1) Use a Liaison
Use a volunteer to act as a liaison with the public and the police. This person should not be someone who is a victim's relative, but a person who will keep the case's web page updated through a blog or regular posting section. Also, the liaison could receive information from persons afraid to use the direct contact to police.

2) Add a Discussion Component
Create an area that allows participants to discuss the case or use some existing discussion board and link to it from the site. I think that these discussion boards can result in people, who are afraid to talk directly to police, leaving bits of information that can be used as leads.

3) Add a Question/Answer Feature
Allow the public to ask questions either through the liaison or directly to an agency representative (something like Detective Brown will respond to submitted questions twice per month and the answers will be posted online) to maintain publicity in the cases.

4) Provide More Reader-Friendly Details
The "More Information" page on the current website needs to be broken into multiple pages. Each point on the list could be modified to a few words and then linked to additional details. As it appears now, I think the list is too long and I would guess that most folks will either skip the section or simply just scan it--missing the important details there.

Note: I plan to send this information directly to the JDPSO in a letter format.

I'll finish my thoughts with a second post next time, and pass along what talented blogger JJ recommends that the agency do to improve the website (JJ has done great website work on the Ray Gricar missing person case).


Meadowlark said...

My only complaint (and it isn't even really a complaint) is that the Q&A feature just encourages the armchair-detective to ask "Did the detectives think of THIS" ala Nancy (dis)Grace. Which drives me bananas. Everybody thinks they're frickin' CSI.

But you're right... getting the public more involved is important.


Slamdunk said...

Good point ML. When authorities solicit the public's help, they are going to get the good (new leads), the bad (what I see on television is 100% factual), and the ugly (you police suck).

As with a press conference, any question submission that the response would hamper the investigation or is well silly, I am sure they would use one of the standard police answers as a response.

When faciliting an effort like this, I think it is important to have thick skin--one good lead can make it all worthwhile.

J. J. in Phila said...

First, outstanding job, Slamdunk.

Second, through the Gricar case, I am aware of solid leads coming the armchair detectives. Two possible clues were developed by people reading about the case and sending out the information.

More might have, but I know of two.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Is there any concern about copycats?

JennyMac said...

Hopefully this initiative helps... it will hopefully garner valuable interest and not too many clowns walking about trying to solve crimes like the game Clue.

and Meadowlarks comment about Nancy disGrace made me laugh.

Slamdunk said...

Good question Katherine. I am not certain what concerns the investigators have against inciting copy-cat crimes, but with any high profile case, there is a chance. Obviously, if all this attention was on a less than serious crime like mailbox bashing or something, copycats would be more likely to partake in a copycat offense as opposed to murder.

Authorities will keep numerous details to themselves and will be able to compare it to evidence at any new crimes that occur.