Forensic Horsemen help catch Ahmad Khan Rahami

On Saturday, September 17, 2016, Ahmad Khan Rahami, unleashed a wave of terror in Seaside New Jersey at a Marine Corp 5K run, which culminated at night with two pressure cooker bombs in Chelase, New York City. Rahami had the City on edge as the NYPD and the FBI looked to put pieces of the puzzle together. Rahami wasn’t done. Early Monday morning, curious onlookers discovered a knapsack full of pipe bombs at a train station in Elizabeth, NJ.

What initially looked like a chaotic scene on E23rd Street and 6th Avenue quickly turned into a treasure trove of physical and forensic evidence for investigators. There were several keys to the unfolding investigation and a blueprint for future terrorism investigations:

A rapid response to secure the crime scene. It cannot be stressed enough – the faster uniformed officers respond to and safeguard the scene, the higher the likelihood of solvability. Police departments must invest in the training for patrol officers on what to do and what not to do at a crime scene.

Investigators conducted a Surveillance Camera Canvass in and around the area immediately, which led to the identification a suspect within a short amount of time – even though the media and the public were unaware of this at the time. Surveillance Cameras are one of the 3 Forensic Horsemen, along with Cellphone Records and Internet Records, which help today’s investigators solve crime faster, reducing the chance of further victimization.

The use of social media by law enforcement to broadcast the photo and pedigree information of Rahami and using one main number for tips through Crime Stoppers. Using only one Tip Line reduces confusion for the public and ensures a more seamless sharing of intel.

Collaboration with the public. Because law enforcement was able to spread the word through social media, it enabled an army of ambassadors to share the information. This high alert status of the public, had everyone super vigilant, which ultimately led to Rahami’s capture.

The capture of Rahami was a classic case of good old fashioned police work, while embracing new technologies. But this case proved so much more. Without the public’s assistance, this case could have gone on a lot longer. There is more to be done to improve criminal investigations. Police administrators must concentrate on getting more tablets and smartphones into the hands of detectives at the crime scene. Social media canvasses, finding clues and witnesses in real time at the scene is of paramount importance.

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about what else he was planning.

Khan pleads not guilty