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The Vidocq Society is named for Eugène François Vidocq, the ground-breaking nineteenth century French detective who helped police by using the psychology of the criminal to solve "cold case" homicides. Vidocq was a former criminal himself, and used his knowledge of the criminal mind to look at murder from the psychological perspective of the perpetrator. At meetings, Vidocq Society Members (VSMs) listen to local law enforcement officials from around the world who bring in cold cases for review.
VSMs are forensic professionals; current and former FBI profilers, homicide investigators, scientists, psychologists, prosecutors and coroners who use their experience to provide justice for investigations that have gone cold. Members are selected by committee invitation only, pay a $100 annual fee, and commit to attend at least one meeting per year.
The Society was formed in 1990 by William Fleisher, Richard Walter, and Frank Bender. It solved its first case in 1991, clearing an innocent man of involvement in the murder of Huey Cox in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Vidocq will only consider cases that meet certain requirements: they must be unsolved deaths more than two years old, the victims cannot have been involved in criminal activity such as prostitution or drug dealing, and the case must be formally presented to them by the appropriate law enforcement agency. The Society does not charge for its services, and pays for the travel expenses of the law enforcement agents who come to present cases.
The Society was chronicled in a 2002 episode of The New Detectives entitled "Collective Justice", and was also a plot point in the finale of the 2007–08 season of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2010 it became the subject of a book, The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo. In A Question of Guilt, a book in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Mystery series, Nancy Drew and Frank and Joe Hardy, working on opposite sides of the same case, approach the Vidocq Society for help.