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SIO Corner: House-to-house enquiries

This week we look at how to plan, and conduct an effective House-to-house enquiry.

In this series, we preview sections of Blackstone's third edition of the Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook. This book provides invaluable insight about the essential skills and responsibilities that a senior investigating officer needs to manage serious crime investigations, from the initial response through to crime scene examination and investigative strategies. PoliceOracle.com readers can enjoy a 20 per cent discount on the book with our special offer code at the end of the article.

H-2-H is a useful tactic used in nearly every major crime investigation, but to be effective must be conducted methodically, thoroughly and without undue delay. In a high proportion of cases a victim is known by the offender and resides within close proximity to the place where the offence occurred. It is always feasible that a H-2-H enquiry may uncover such an individual.

Location parameters 

An SIO needs to be familiar with geographical locations in order to set realistic and relevant parameters for the H-2-H enquiries. It is best practice to visit, walk around and view the surroundings at key locations. If a H-2-H Manager is appointed, they should accompany the SIO/DSIO during the process. Each road, street, house, flat, business premises, or other building and premises of interest needs to be identified and duly included. Areas where people are known to ‘sleep rough’, gather frequently or congregate at should also be considered.

A good street map is ideal for marking on the boundaries of H-2-H parameters, which can later be registered as a ‘document’ on HOLMES. This is preferable to attempting verbal or written descriptions of the chosen areas and can be linked to a policy entry explaining the reasons why the strategy is being used. Natural boundaries can help set parameters, such as roads, rivers, walls, paths, railway lines and major roads. 

Large areas should be divided into zones or phases in order of priority (phase 1, 2, 3, etc). This helps the teams that are conducting the enquiries to understand what the most important areas are to meet the SIO’s objectives and allocate time and resources accordingly.

To help determine parameters, good use should be made of all available intelligence and information. Local officers, PCSOs, special constables, etc and members of the community (ie community intelligence) who may have specific local knowledge can also contribute, which adds qualitative detail to the task. Looking at a map or location does not always provide sufficient local information to work with,for example knowledge oflocal shortcuts, meeting places orlocations where vehicles and stolen cars are abandoned. Other resources, such as Geographical Profilers8 can also be considered to help determine parameters and priorities.

Fast-track H-2-H enquiries

A valuable tactic is to conduct early and/or initial H-2-H enquiries (often called ‘flash’ or‘hasty’H-2-H) during the ‘goldenhour(s)’. Officers canbe quickly directed to addresses within the line of sight or hearing of crime scenes. Even if specific parameters have not been determined, it is still a means of quickly obtaining general investigative material to generate early lines of enquiry. Accurate records need to be kept of any premises visited or persons spoken to, including negative responses. This is always best supported by full H-2-H when resources allow. 

About the authors

Former Detective Superintendent Tony Cook was a career detective and senior investigating officer with Greater Manchester Police until he retired in 2009. He is currently a PIP Level 3 and 4 Regional SIO Advisor with the National Crime Agency.

Andy Tattersall, formerly Detective Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police on the Force Major Incident Team, retired in 2007 after 33 years' service and became the first ever Support Staff SIO in charge of a new Homicide Support Unit.

Blackstone's Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook is designed specifically to meet the quick-reference needs of any officer conducting a serious investigation. The only portable step-by-step guide to the processes and actions involved in the role of a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), it explains all the relevant procedures and instructions integral to the position in a clear and accessible style.

Buy directly from the Oxford University Press website and enter the discount code ALPOLORH14 at the checkout to receive an exclusive 20% discount on the Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook.

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