The Vidocq Society is a private organization of forensic professionals and criminal investigators based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Named after Eugène François Vidocq, a 19th-century French criminal who later became a private detective, the society aims to assist law enforcement agencies in solving cold cases—unsolved crimes that have seen little progress for an extended period of time.
Formation and Membership
Founded in 1990 by forensic sculptor Frank Bender, FBI and U.S. Secret Service agent William Fleisher, and forensic psychologist and profiler Richard Walter, the society has grown to include a wide range of members. These professionals range from forensic experts, criminalists, and psychologists to private investigators and law enforcement officers. Membership is selective and by invitation only.
How It Works
- Monthly Meetings: The society convenes regularly to discuss unsolved cases. Meetings often involve presentations of cold cases by invited law enforcement officers looking for fresh perspectives.
- Multi-disciplinary Approach: The Society applies a holistic approach to solving crimes. By bringing together experts from various disciplines, it aims to uncover overlooked details or bring new investigative techniques to bear.
- Consultations: The society also provides consultative services to law enforcement agencies. Their expertise is volunteered, and they do not charge for their services.
Notable Cases and Impact
Over the years, the Vidocq Society has been involved in solving several high-profile cases, and its methods have become a subject of academic research and media coverage. The society’s work has often been cited in criminology and forensic science literature as an effective approach to collaborative problem-solving.
Although not explicitly a subject of major controversy, the Vidocq Society’s operations do raise some ethical considerations. It engages with potentially sensitive information, and its members are bound by an ethical code to maintain confidentiality and integrity in their work.
Scholarly and Cultural References
The society has been profiled in various publications and documentaries. In the book “The Murder Room,” author Michael Capuzzo provides an in-depth look at the Vidocq Society, its founders, and some of the cold cases they’ve helped to solve. He states, “These master detectives ignored the boundaries of jurisdiction, the limits of the law, and the dark despair that said it couldn’t be done, to slay the dragons in the nightmares of the left-behind.”
The Vidocq Society represents a unique model of collaboration in the field of criminal justice, bringing together experts from various disciplines to solve cold cases. While they operate under the radar for the most part, their impact in assisting law enforcement agencies and providing closure to affected families is noteworthy.