Visual Investigative Analysis
By Rick Weber
Visual Investigative Analysis (VIA) is a case management technique used
to DEFINE and GRAPHICALLY LINK TOGETHER the events of an investigation in
the order of their occurrence. In addition to this description, you may
view an illustration of how VIA works and/or an
example of an incident charted with VIA. A VIA charting of a bombing incident is also available.
It differs from a simple time line in that the VIA chart is event-driven,
rather than restricted to a particular time frame. However, the time line
is a necessary element to a proper VIA chart.
The advantages of a VIA chart are that it simplifies complex cases, improves
the manageability of investigations, prevents duplication of investigative
effort, and expedites court trials.
VIA is a simple tool, which utilizes index cards to show the pertinent
events in an investigation.
It can be used almost anywhere, and is not dependant on computer software
or data bases to be used successfully.
Each activity or event has a beginning and an end. Index cards, placed
in linear format, show events occurring in chronological order. A time line
is maintained below the main event line to reference what time and date
a particular event occurred.
The index cards are connected by lines for simplicity, and to keep continuity
in events relating to a single suspect, or to a series of related events.
The main event line concerns the subject of the investigation. For example,
in an arson case, the target building is the main event line. Everything
happening concerning that building (purchase of insurance, installation
of alarms, the arson itself, etc.) will be shown on index cards on the main
Parallel activity occurring away from the main event line is shown on
parallel event lines. Those events which begin away from the main event
line and end on the main event line are said to MERGE. An example would
be the building owner being advised of the fire at his residence and then
coming to the fire scene.
Conversely, an event beginning on the main event line and ending away
from it is said to BURST from the main event line. An example is a janitor
or caretaker locking up the building and then going home.
A properly constructed and maintained VIA chart will enable task force
members, other investigators, supervisors, and prosecutors to be up to date
with the important developments of a case, its progress and trends, as well
as the areas where further investigation is needed without having to review
interviews, reports, investigative notes, etc.
VIA is most appropriately used in complex investigations, where there
are many events, mostly circumstantial evidence, or multiple suspects.
Reprinted with permission from the author.