Frontline Detectives

Frontline Detectives

You see, but do you observe?

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A pioneer in forensic science, Dr. Joseph Bell was one of the first doctors to insist his students washed their hands before examining patients. As a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, he was personal surgeon to Queen Victoria, and his Manual of the Operations of Surgery is still in publication today. What set Dr. Bell apart from his colleagues was his ability to use seemingly unrelated information to assist with his diagnoses. One account tells the story of Dr. Bell diagnosing a patient with a rare disease not normally found in Scotland shortly after meeting the patient. When asked how he was able to make such an extraordinary diagnosis without examining the patient more closely, he pointed out the man’s style of dress and other observations of the man to support his reasoning. His diagnosis was correct.

If you are thinking to yourself that Dr. Bell sounds a lot like a famous fictional detective, you’d be right. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired by his old friend and mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell, when creating the character of Sherlock Holmes. While we may not think of it in this context, the power of observation and deductive reasoning is a critical skill when providing service to our customers, such as confirming a person’s identity or determining the sobriety of a driver.

This edition of MOVE extends this challenge to consider the role we can play in tackling human trafficking and online car sales fraud. As members of the motor vehicle community, we often have more direct contact with members of the public than any other government agency. This affords us an opportunity to observe the demeanor, words and actions of a spectrum of people who may not otherwise be on the radar.

While very few of us will ever achieve the observation skills of Dr. Bell, we can learn the telltale signs of people suffering from human trafficking or victims of fraud. A customer may mention their excitement in finding a great deal on a vehicle, which just seems too good to be true. A customer may display concerning behaviors, which leads you to believe someone else has the customer in their control. While we need to be sure we are not putting ourselves in danger, having the opportunity to provide information and assistance may be critical in saving someone from becoming a victim.

The hurdles victims of these crimes face in putting their lives back together can be overwhelming. AAMVA and many other government agencies provide a wealth of information and guidance on combating human trafficking and fraud. Our direct contact with the residents of our respective jurisdictions makes us a vital link in ensuring people have access to this information. Observing our customers, and listening closely to what and how they speak can make us more effective in preventing more victims. Will you be the next Dr. Bell?

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