The role of the media in cold cases

Dr Xanthé Mallett1Dr Justin Ellis1
University of Newcastle, NSW

A case is classed as ‘cold’ when the police have exhausted all investigative avenues currently available; the case remains open and will be periodically reviewed, but without an injection of information, these cases are particularly hard to solve.  The older the case, the more difficult a resolution can be.  When a case remains open, the burden on the family is huge, this stands for long-term missing and unidentified deceased cases, as well as murders that remain unsolved.

In today’s hyper-connected world, the media – and specifically social media – can have an important part to play in generating leads, in both current and cold cases.

In the 12 months to June 2019, Queensland Police Service converted 100 Facebook posts into intelligence reports that were then further investigated.  In addition, 18 Twitter posts were immediately escalated to urgent 000 assist requests, showing the power of social media to inform the police as to current situations that need attention and avenues of potential investigation.

There is a flip side, however, in that the police are also having to deal with a trend of people posting about crime or potentially illegal activity onto social media platforms first, without contacting the police directly.  Consequently, instead of social media being a back-up for police forces, it is increasingly becoming the primary tool by which some people are reporting crimes or providing intelligence.

This presentation will review the role of the media in cold cases, and will include discussion around the police’s use of media platforms to generate and manage information.


Dr Xanthé Mallett Bio to come

Dr Justin Ellis  is a lecturer in Criminology at the University of Newcastle and a member of the Institute of Criminology, Sydney Law School. His research examines the impact of digital technologies on public trust and confidence in institutions with a current focus on police and minority communities. His scholarship has been published in high-ranking internationally peer-reviewed journal Policing and Society and award-winning anthropology publication Kyoto Journal. Justin has over five years’ experience researching and lecturing in Criminology at three universities – the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales and University of Technology, Sydney.

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