Opinion: Delta’s approach to homicide investigations proving highly successful

Delta is a safe community. One of the safest in our province. But we do have our share of violent crime that requires significant resources to bring incidents to a conclusion and hold offenders accountable.

The Delta Police Department has investigated nearly 30 homicides since 1990. The last one was in 2016, and that case is currently before the courts. And while thankfully extremely rare, homicides are the worst of the worst crimes, requiring the requisite resources to bring offenders to justice and give the family of victims some sense of closure. 

Homicides happen in a wide range of circumstances, from intimate partners to gang conflict; each homicide is unique and often complex. I recently wrote about the growing complexities of policing, which includes navigating the criminal justice system. Bringing a file to court involves countless hours of investigating and preparing evidence. Because the burden of proof required to convict a person of murder is that of one beyond a reasonable doubt, a significant level of resources goes into an investigation.

So how do we manage highly complex investigations that bring the demand of near perfection?

Delta police, like most other police agencies, adheres to a model for serious crime investigations called Major Case Management (MCM). MCM was developed to create systems and best practices across major investigations, increasing the likelihood for successful outcomes.

Within MCM is the “Command Triangle” which includes a team commander, a primary investigator and a file coordinator. The Command Triangle is designed to be the driving force that advances an investigation, reduces errors, encourages team work and, most importantly, creates continuity.

Homicide investigations are very different than what you might see on Netflix. While there might be a few recognizable techniques, like an undercover operation, the reality is typically more mundane. These investigations require countless hours of examining and organizing evidence, writing warrants, waiting for DNA results, managing witnesses and preparing submissions to Crown counsel.

Everything has to be done in a timely manner, but there are also times when an investigation can stall for weeks, months and even years. And sometimes months of work can be thrown out because evidence takes the file in a totally different direction. 

Solving a homicide is a career highlight for most investigators and here in Delta we have had incredible success. We don’t consider a case solved until a suspect is convicted in court – and over the last 30 years we’ve had a 75 per cent success rate.

As I mentioned earlier, every homicide is unique and complex, and gang murders often have a lower solve rate. This is not necessarily because we don’t know who did it. Often we do, but there may be insufficient evidence to charge because those involved won’t speak with police or suspects disappear or meet another fate. As a result the case will never be considered cleared because we won’t close a file without a conviction.

Delta may be a smaller community within Metro Vancouver, but our team of highly trained investigators has an enviable and proven track record. Be assured, should they be needed they will turn over every stone, employ a vast range of techniques and work countless late nights to keep our community safe.

© Delta Optimist