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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 event line.

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.

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