September 06, 2012 -- Cutting-edge mapping technology could help Australian detectives breathe life into the nation’s unsolved crimes, according to the ex-criminal profiler who used the software to help catch notorious US serial killer Robert Ben Rhoades.
Mike King was part of the investigative team that captured the truck-driving murderer, who was eventually convicted of four murders and suspected of committing up to 300 others.
Now a law enforcement expert with global Geographic Information System (GIS) giant Esri, Mr King said GIS technology was instrumental in identifying the killer.
“Rhoades’ anonymity and constant movement made him extremely difficult to link to his crimes,” Mr King said.
“His victims were found hundreds of miles apart – sometimes dumped on the other side of the country from where he first picked them up.
“We used advanced GIS technology to map his driving patterns and pit stops, the locations of the victims' bodies, and information from missing persons reports.
“This helped us determine Rhoades’ whereabouts at the time of murders and how far he was capable of travelling in a given period of time, enabling us to ascertain which crimes he was a suspect in.”
Mr King is in Australia for the Ozri 2012 geospatial conference in Sydney this week – an event that has attracted more than 500 GIS professionals from Australia, the Asia Pacific and the United States.
During his keynote address, Mr King said geography was essential in better understanding the probabilities amongst the possibilities when identifying suspects.
“Often, investigators concentrate on the ‘usual suspects’ within a jurisdiction where the crime occurs,” Mr King said.
“With the ease of mobility in today’s world, prudent enforcers must look beyond local borders for others who could match the peculiarities of the crimes they are handling.
“GIS technology gives an insight into behaviour and provides valuable circumstantial evidence which assists in arrests and convictions.
“This methodology has been helpful in countless other cold cases and murders being solved in the United States and throughout the rest of the world.”
Mr King's distinguished 28 year history in law enforcement includes a Utah Attorney General’s Office Chief of Staff post and stints with the FBI and Harvard University.
He has also appeared on US and international news and talk shows, and is renowned for solving the ‘oldest and coldest case in history’: the assassination of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1340 BC.
Mr King said he would be advising several Australian law enforcement agencies on how GIS technology could help them crack their own unsolved crimes.
“While GIS technology is already employed by many of the world’s leading law enforcement agencies – such as New York and Los Angeles Police Departments – its use in solving cases is still relatively new in Australia,” Mr King said.
“However, the technology should be an integral component of every police department’s investigative tool-kit and can certainly help solve cases here, particularly those involving missing persons.
“It brings more clarity to crime-solving because analysts are able to draw links between the geography of crimes, killers and victims, and link it with behaviour patterns and other historical data."
Hosted by Esri Australia, the market leader in Australia’s $2.1 billion spatial industry, Ozri 2012 is the largest GIS conference in the Asia Pacific.
The conference finishes today.