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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Williams

Determining the motive within the investigation

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Swiss Detective Agency, Private Investigatior Switzerland, Swiss Security Solutions, Private Detective Agency

The answer to the question of why, in conducting investigative actions, the investigator inevitably faces the intriguing, but also controversial question of the perpetrator's motivation. The motive, therefore, is a logical reason or motive that is at the very core of the crime or misdemeanor committed. In order to adequately determine a motive, investigators must have above-average insight into people’s motivation and general patterns of behavior. However, there are certain limitations that investigators must keep in mind. An example of an easily recognizable motive is the need of the addict for money with which he will buy substances to satisfy his habits. This can easily lead him to steal money belonging to the company. In this case, it is an obvious or applied motive. The reasons why a person initially started using narcotics would require a much more detailed investigation of the motives, but they are more in the sphere of interest of the psychologist or psychiatrist than the investigator.

The nature of motivation

The second dimension of motive determination can also be problematic. It is an analysis of the final value of the motive in relation to the investigation itself. For example, the authors Brandstatter and Hyman in their work "Fundamentals of Law Enforcement" state that for the successful conduct of criminal proceedings it is always necessary to determine the motive for committing a crime. In addition, they believe that establishing the motive can be the first effective step in establishing the identity of the perpetrator or the innocence/guilt of the suspect. Understanding the motives behind a crime is almost always a necessary prerequisite for successful prosecution. Although the emphasis on motive may also be questionable in the context of the crime of theft because some people simply cannot give a satisfactory explanation as to why they committed it.

On the other hand, experts also state that determining the motive can be an effective first step in uncovering the identity of the culprit. The answer to the question of why can lead us to the accompanying answer to the question of who. Authors Brandstatter and Hyman state that “motives are often determined by determining who benefits from committing a crime,” which also means that the question of who can lead to the answer to why.

Types of motivation: desire and need

Given that there is a clear and emphasized value for investigators in the private sector in determining the motives of perpetrators, investigative actions with this goal can also be used in the framework of investigative or apprehension strategies. Psychologists cite three motives as reasons for committing crimes: need or desire, rationalization, and opportunity. Motives that fall into the category of need may have their roots in a problem that a particular individual treats as unsolvable. It can be of a financial nature, with causes in a tendency to gamble, drug and alcohol addiction, living beyond one's own means, or additional expenses such as the expenses for the treatment of sick family members. An individual can also be driven by antagonism towards the company in which he works and expresses a desire for revenge due to the impossibility of gaining promotion or hostility towards superiors. It can also be a matter of mere psychological reasons such as kleptomania. Some people steal to help others, while others steal to compensate for their own stressful and unpleasant life experiences. Finally, a person may choose to steal only because he wants something he cannot otherwise afford.

Rationalized motives

A criminal who rationalizes the commission of criminal offenses manages to convince himself that, for example, theft in itself is not a bad thing. The most common reasons for rationalization include justifications such as that a stolen item would be thrown away anyway, that it is a loan, that a person is underpaid and that he only takes what belongs to him, etc. Likewise, the perpetrator may present the crime to himself as a crime that everyone else would commit and that there is no need to refrain from committing it, and that it is justified because the owner of the company has enough for himself anyway. Either way, the sources of rationalization for the motives for committing crimes are virtually inexhaustible.

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