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Digital Transformation of Cold Case Reviews: Prevalence, Challenges, and Benefits of Just Resolutions

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2022
12 pages

This in-brief is the first in a series of a three-part series, and it focuses on the importance of the cold case review process and how the potential impact that digital transformation may have on that process.


This in-brief is the first in a three-part series that highlights the potential value, approaches, and considerations for digitization of cold case files to facilitate the review process; the authors’ specific focus was on sexual assault and violent crime cold cases, but the technology may also be applied to other types of cold case files. This paper focuses on the importance of the cold case review process and the potential impact of digital transformation on the review process. The in-brief’s objectives are to provide a background on the prevalence of cold cases as well as the benefits and challenges faced with their resolution; emphasize the role of advanced forensic testing in achieving just resolutions for cold cases; and to demonstrate the benefits of implementing digitization and artificial intelligence (AI)-based text analysis to the overall cold case review process. Key takeaways indicate that cold cases of violent crimes are a common challenge in criminal justice, with low clearance rates and an accumulation of unresolved cases; criminal justice professionals’ abilities to address cold cases may be limited by availability of resources and case-specific information; advances in forensic testing, the development of new information, societal or external pressures, and agency-based re-examination may lead an MDT to revisit a case; case reviews are resource-intensive processes which may be streamlined through the digitization of case files and the implementation of AI-based text analytics tools; digitizing paper case files can facilitate secure data storage, access, and sharing; and text analytics tools have the potential to aid in automated searches, identify linkages within a case or across cases, and facilitate objective investigations.

Date Published: November 1, 2022