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Investigators are important in unravelling crime, enforcing the law and ensuring prosecution of those who engage in criminal activities. Criminal investigators and special agents are tasked with the responsibility of investigating crimes and bringing to book those that instigate crimes.


Criminal investigation is a dangerous, challenging and demanding job that requires patience, analytical skills and attention to details. Though regarded as part of law enforcing agency, criminal investigators and special agents work closely with other agencies to undertake intensive investigation on crimes with an aim of finding solutions to them. In the paragraphs below, we explore how investigators work to unravel crime.

Difference between Criminal Investigators, Crime Scene Investigators and Special Agents

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A criminal investigator’s assignment is usually confused with famous crime scene investigators. However, the work of crime scene investigators varies in that they are responsible for examining scenes of crime with the aim of acquiring physical evidence. Usually, the evidence is evaluated to establish possible linkage between the crime scene and the suspect. On the contrary, criminal investigators have the responsibility of probing cases of crime intensely with the aim of resolving them. These investigators have to get enough proof in order to prosecute a suspect with the help of eye witnesses, physical evidence and other sources available. Special agents are investigators or detectives in a given area such as county, state or federal government.

How Criminal Investigators and Special Agents work

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Both criminal investigators and special agents work together to unravel criminal cases for purposes of prosecution. In many cases, special agents are also criminal investigators and both engage in carrying out intense investigations to resolve a criminal case. Criminal investigators and special agents are considered part of the law enforcing officers. They engage in challenging and dangerous jobs with criminal cases ranging from domestic violence, arson, stalking and fraud to assault, murder, robbery, terrorism, burglary and narcotics among others. Majority of investigators work from law enforcing establishments such as airport and campus police departments, sheriff’s office, state, tribal  or city police departments or  attorney general. Criminal investigators and special agents have the choice of working at federal levels such as Immigration and Customs, Drug Enforcing Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Environmental Protection Agency or Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Investigation process of criminal cases


Though criminal investigators and special agents involved in diverse working environments, the investigation process they use is more or less similar. Basically, each investigation begins with development of a map showing how the investigation would be carried out. This is followed by authentic gathering of information; the assessment of physical proof or evidence and analysis of facts are a crucial part of the information gathering process. There are other information sources that have to be examined including suspects, witnesses and any other source of information that investigators find useful in resolving a criminal case. Published reports must also be examined carefully. Such include reports on medical examination, crime lab, and reports from the police, existing records as well as any other files that are relevant to the case.

The next step after systematic data collection from different appropriate information sources and evidence is analysis of all available information.  The process of analysing this information enables investigators build their cases. Verification of information is also an important part of the analysis process to ensure all data collected is accurate and correct. In some cases, surveillance is necessary and so investigators are at liberty to undertake surveillance. In addition, investigators have the capacity to get search warrants in order to conduct searches on particular item in a property which helps a long way in terms of solving criminal cases.

Upon arriving at conclusion and with sufficient proof to prosecute a suspect, investigators move on to request for the arrest of the suspect or better still, they go ahead and make the arrest by themselves. From here, investigators work closely with the attorney to prepare the case for coming trials in court. In the course of trial, investigators may be called upon to testify and make available statements about the case before a court of law. To be successful, it is important for investigators to maintain files of all their cases. Such files together with written reports must be as accurate and detailed as possible because they contain findings that could be presented in a trial court as evidence.

Security for Criminal Investigators and Special Agents

Due to the danger associated with their jobs, criminal investigators and special agents carry and use firearms in the course of duty as an element of their job description. Depending on the nature of cases assigned, investigators work on them alone or with a partner. Most cases require investigators to closely work with other law enforcement branches. The duration in which a case is resolved varies from several weeks to a number of years; some cases may go unresolved. Working hours for investigators are challenging with many working forty hours in a week, sometimes even more depending on work demands. Even though investigators have rotating shifts, they considered to be on a 24 hour call.

What women agents bring into the Criminal Investigation Process

Women have a different set of analytical skills from men. For successful investigation, teams of both female and male are necessary; there are investigations that simply need a female agent.  In the course of investigations, female witnesses may be prepared to only speak to fellow women. There are times that women would blend much better in surveillance exercises.  In addition, women bring in distinctive communication styles and needs which when combined with women’s sensitivities to other people help create special agents that can organize and gather information in ways that men simply may not.


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They possess a wide range of skills including interviewing, data collection, investigating and use of lie detectors. Criminal Investigators and Special agents use these skills to carry out their work; they investigate a range of criminal activities and provide proof to courts of for prosecution of criminals.