Do I mean time in fact or fiction?
I have written about reasons why we need amateur detectives in real life as well as in detective novels. Now I will look at the different perspectives amateurs have from the police when it comes to the question of time.
Is crime-solving time limited?
I suppose you will agree that time is important for anyone solving any crime and especially for serious crimes. You may know that the police believe that the first hour is the most important and then the first twenty-four hours. Criminals can destroy evidence. Physical evidence can be lost or damaged naturally or accidentally. If out of doors, the weather can wash away clues. Some people keep CCTV footage for only short times. Memories are best when fresh.
Detectives should not waste time
You will probably agree that the CID should make the most of the first hour and the first twenty-four to secure evidence and follow up leads as quickly as possible. They are likely to be in a far better position than any amateur in that respect.
How is the pressure of time a bad thing?
There is a lot of pressure to solve a case in that first twenty-four hour period. If the police identify a prime suspect by then, it is likely that all attention will focus on that person. They are not likely to follow other lines of enquiry beyond that point. This is even more true where the press are taking an interest. A press-release saying, ‘we’re following a number of leads’ is not what anyone wants. There is a strong incentive to ‘wrap the case up’ – which is not the same as solving it.
What is different about an amateur’s time?
Amateur detectives rarely have arbitrary timescales imposed upon them and don’t have the press to worry about. They may need to solve a case before a wrong conviction occurs, but the deadline will be the date of the trial, or of the appeal, not the next press conference.
What about cases that take a very long time?
Some cases take years to solve. Others are re-opened after several years, either because they were not closed in the first place or because of allegations of a miscarriage of justice. Cold case reviews work on a different timescale and will be the subject of another blog.