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Detectives And Criminal Investigators picture    Detectives And Criminal Investigators image

Criminal Investigators are individuals who are responsible for investigating suspected criminal violations of law at the Federal, state, or local levels. Typically, the goal of their efforts is to arrive at a determination of whether there is sufficient evidence to recommend prosecution for an alleged crime. Criminal investigators are employed by a wide variety of law enforcement agencies, some of which have a very narrow scope (e.g., game wardens) and others which cover a far more general set of laws (e.g., a local Sheriff's office). It is safe to say that investigators are needed wherever crimes are committed.

At the Federal level, there are numerous agencies that employ criminal investigators. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as the nation's principal investigatory agency, is responsible for conducting sensitive national security investigations and for investigating violations of hundreds of statutes. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) protects the nation's land and water boundaries and employs investigators to address the unlawful entry of undocumented foreign nationals into the United States and the smuggling of contraband. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as the lead agency for enforcement of Federal drug laws, often conducts complex criminal investigations involving surveillance of criminals and infiltration of illicit drug organizations. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) investigates violations of Federal firearms and explosives laws and also violations of Federal alcohol and tobacco tax regulations. Other Federal agencies which conduct investigations of crime include the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Postal Service, the National Park Service, and the branches of the military.

Responsibilities

In a nutshell, a criminal investigator's job is to plan and execute investigations. A profile of an investigator's daily routine might include interviews with suspects, victims, and witnesses. It might also include gathering evidence and information associated with the crime being investigated. Depending on an investigator's specialty, he/she may focus on cyber-evidence, fingerprints, or DNA. Investigators are frequently required to appear in court to give evidence and/or testimony.

An investigator's responsibilities often depend on for whom he/she works. An FBI investigator will conduct surveillance, monitor court-authorized wiretaps, track the interstate movement of stolen property, examine business records, collect evidence of activities related to espionage, or participate in sensitive undercover assignments. Crime scene investigators will first secure a crime scene using ropes, barricades, guards, or some other means before conducting a search for all objects that might be considered evidence. They then collect this evidence and properly package it, and follow up by writing detailed reports, preparing accurate sketches and diagrams, and using professional photographic techniques to record the crime details.

A summary of the responsibilities of a typical criminal investigator might include any or all of the following:

  • Determine scope and direction of investigations
  • Obtain and verify evidence
  • Observe suspects
  • Interview witnesses
  • Examine records to piece together information
  • Prepare detailed reports
  • Collaborate with other agencies to exchange information and coordinate activities
  • Provide court testimony
  • Analyze evidence in laboratories or in the field
  • Perform undercover assignments
  • Perform surveillance using authorized techniques such as wiretaps

Job Characteristics

The working conditions for a criminal investigator are largely dependent on where and for whom the investigator works. Investigators who work for local law enforcement agencies usually work 40-hour weeks, although paid overtime is common. In this type of setting, there is frequently a requirement to work weekends, holidays, and nights. Crime scene investigators in particular are expected to respond to emergency calls whenever necessary 24 hours a day. Investigators who work for Federal agencies are often required to travel extensively, many times on very short notice. Some investigators employed by agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol work outdoors in all kinds of weather and occasionally endure rugged terrain for long periods of time.

Most criminal investigator work requires at least some degree of physical activity. A typical investigator can expect to do at least some amount of kneeling, stooping, reaching and/or climbing. Many types of investigators are required to carry firearms and are authorized to use them in performance of their duties. Investigator work can often be dangerous and stressful. In addition to the threat of confrontations with criminals, investigators need to be prepared to deal appropriately with a number of other potentially dangerous situations.

Criminal investigators must be detail-oriented and thorough. Most of them are required to be physically fit and some of them must be qualified to operate firearms. Investigators must be able to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing. The need to provide court testimony and to accurately document the details of an investigation makes effective communication a principal attribute of the job.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), job employment is expected to grow at a faster rate than the average for all occupations. Heightened security concerns, a steady increase in litigation, and proliferation of criminal activity at all levels will fuel this job growth. A notable trend helping boost the demand for investigators is the proliferation of Internet-related crime such as identity theft, spamming, e-mail harassment, and illegal downloading of copyrighted materials. On a larger scale, a growth of worldwide financial activity will increase the demand for investigators to control internal and external financial losses and to deal with financial crime.

Criminal Investigator Training, Certification, and Licensing

Each agency has its own set of educational requirements and qualifications for the job of criminal investigator. Generally speaking, most employers look for a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject such as criminal justice administration or police science. This is especially true at the Federal level. Advancement in the profession will often require more than a bachelor's degree, and specialties such as cybercrime will require coursework in relevant topics such as information technology (IT). The best course of action for a prospective criminal investigator is to contact specific agencies with whom employment is desired in order to establish exactly what their requirements are.

Most careers in criminal investigation do not require certification, although certification is always helpful in terms of both gaining employment and also performing the job well. One example of an available certification in the field is the Board Certified Criminal Defense Investigator (or CCDI) credential, awarded by the Executive Council of the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council. The CCDI designation is awarded to professional criminal investigators who have met the requisite training and experience requirements as outlined by the Council. These include a combination of experience (proof of a minimum number of comprehensive assignments), coursework, and/or the ability to pass a written test. The International Association for Identification (IAI) offers a certification for crime scene investigators which can be earned at three successive levels: Certified Crime Scene Investigator (CSI), Certified Crime Scene Analyst (CSA), and Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst (SCSA).

Resources

Major Employers

Criminal investigation is a diverse and wide-spanning field, with a broad base of employers. These employers are both public and private and exist on a number of levels. At the private level, most investigators are either self-employed or work for investigation and security services. Most investigators are employed at the public level and work for local, state or Federal law enforcement organizations. Roughly half of the publicly-employed investigators work at the local level, and about one third of them are employed by the Federal government.

Schools for Detectives And Criminal Investigators are listed in the column to the left.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Detectives and Criminal Investigators jobs , as of 2015

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hoover 230 $65,000
Birmingham 230 $65,000
Montgomery 200 $57,900
Mobile 170 $43,230
Huntsville 130 $72,950
Foley 70 $48,540
Fairhope 70 $48,540
Daphne 70 $48,540
Decatur 60 $44,470
Oxford 30 $51,050
Jacksonville 30 $51,050
Anniston 30 $51,050
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 60 $121,540
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Tucson 1840 $77,210
Mesa 1750 $73,440
Scottsdale 1750 $73,440
Phoenix 1750 $73,440
Douglas 1030 $77,210
Sierra Vista 1030 $77,210
Yuma 660 $77,220
Flagstaff 70 $68,210
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 210 $43,740
North Little Rock 210 $43,740
Little Rock 210 $43,740
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 4100 $113,910
Long Beach 4100 $113,910
Los Angeles 4100 $113,910
San Diego 3400 $84,000
Carlsbad 3400 $84,000
San Bernardino 1060 $87,750
Ontario 1060 $87,750
Riverside 1060 $87,750
Arden 1040 $77,870
Arcade 1040 $77,870
Roseville 1040 $77,870
Sacramento 1040 $77,870
Hayward 750 $114,270
Oakland 750 $114,270
San Francisco 750 $114,270
Fresno 250 $80,350
Bakersfield 230 $82,450
San Jose 200 $96,330
Sunnyvale 200 $96,330
Santa Clara 200 $96,330
Stockton 100 $83,920
Lodi 100 $83,920
Thousand Oaks 90 $120,090
Oxnard 90 $120,090
Ventura 90 $120,090
Vallejo 50 $77,600
Fairfield 50 $77,600
Redding 50 $92,700
Modesto 40 $74,970
Arroyo Grande 30 N/A
Paso Robles 30 N/A
San Luis Obispo 30 N/A
Santa Maria 30 $101,110
Santa Barbara 30 $101,110
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Aurora 1100 $87,180
Lakewood 1100 $87,180
Denver 1100 $87,180
Colorado Springs 160 $65,380
Greeley 60 $65,570
Pueblo 50 $64,550
Grand Junction 50 $72,950
Boulder 40 $71,010
Fort Collins 40 $73,190
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
East Hartford 390 $78,190
West Hartford 390 $78,190
Hartford 390 $78,190
New Haven 240 $79,170
Stamford 180 $84,660
Bridgeport 180 $84,660
Norwalk 180 $84,660
Waterbury 50 $71,150
Danbury 30 $71,710
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Miami 2140 $92,850
Fort Lauderdale 2140 $92,850
West Palm Beach 2140 $92,850
Tampa 970 $67,630
St. Petersburg 970 $67,630
Clearwater 970 $67,630
Sanford 470 $54,700
Kissimmee 470 $54,700
Orlando 470 $54,700
Jacksonville 420 $57,180
Tallahassee 330 $56,230
Fort Myers 220 $47,410
Cape Coral 220 $47,410
Winter Haven 150 $49,630
Lakeland 150 $49,630
Palm Bay 150 $49,980
Titusville 150 $49,980
Melbourne 150 $49,980
Ocala 130 $50,750
Brent 130 $70,890
Ferry Pass 130 $70,890
Pensacola 130 $70,890
Gainesville 110 $49,690
Daytona Beach 100 $47,790
Ormond Beach 100 $47,790
Deltona 100 $47,790
Bradenton 100 $57,550
Sarasota 100 $57,550
North Port 100 $57,550
Panama City 70 $54,700
Port St. Lucie 70 $75,640
Destin 50 $62,630
Fort Walton Beach 50 $62,630
Crestview 50 $62,630
Vero Beach 40 $48,300
Sebastian 40 $48,300
Sebring 30 $43,810
Marco Island 30 $45,860
Naples 30 $45,860
Immokalee 30 $45,860
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Roswell 1740 $49,050
Sandy Springs 1740 $49,050
Atlanta 1740 $49,050
Brunswick 150 $123,300
Macon 140 $47,580
Savannah 120 $63,160
Valdosta 70 $39,720
Albany 70 $42,410
Gainesville 50 $44,480
Warner Robins 50 $45,630
Dalton 40 $41,200
Clarke County 40 $46,090
Athens 40 $46,090
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 370 $95,530
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 180 $63,100
Pocatello 30 $58,950
Coeur d'Alene 30 $60,750
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 190 $87,440
Rockford 120 $83,390
Peoria 50 $71,600
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Carmel 600 $68,100
Anderson 600 $68,100
Indianapolis 600 $68,100
Fort Wayne 70 $50,870
Goshen 60 $50,220
Elkhart 60 $50,220
Kokomo 30 N/A
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 150 $74,390
Des Moines 150 $74,390
Cedar Rapids 50 $96,520
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 210 $68,270
Topeka 190 $45,740
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fayette 70 $99,440
Lexington 70 $99,440
Bowling Green 40 $49,380
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Metairie 460 $88,540
New Orleans 460 $88,540
Baton Rouge 400 $53,160
Thibodaux 170 $45,790
Houma 170 $45,790
Lake Charles 160 $44,440
Bossier City 160 $55,220
Shreveport 160 $55,220
Lafayette 140 $34,530
Alexandria 100 $46,520
Hammond 40 $36,100
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Portland 180 $61,810
South Portland 180 $61,810
Bangor 50 $53,070
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson 500 $96,760
Columbia 500 $96,760
Baltimore 500 $96,760
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town 60 $77,580
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dearborn 1010 $83,940
Warren 1010 $83,940
Detroit 1010 $83,940
Lansing 140 $66,130
East Lansing 140 $66,130
Wyoming 140 $76,170
Grand Rapids 140 $76,170
Flint 70 $75,450
Ann Arbor 60 $83,210
Kalamazoo 50 $70,140
Portage 50 $70,140
Battle Creek 40 $57,330
     
Metro Area (Minnesota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester N/A $55,640
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jackson 330 $44,940
Gulfport 170 $59,500
Pascagoula 170 $59,500
Biloxi 170 $59,500
Hattiesburg 30 $43,880
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jefferson City 190 $39,510
Springfield 80 $96,530
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Billings 60 $77,220
Missoula 40 $85,390
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 30 $37,460
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 360 $81,900
Henderson 360 $81,900
Las Vegas 360 $81,900
Reno 160 $80,030
Carson City 40 $67,930
     
Metro Area (New Hampshire) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Manchester 70 $83,590
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Trenton 300 $91,370
Atlantic City 130 $85,320
Hammonton 130 $85,320
Vineland 60 $87,930
Bridgeton 60 $87,930
Ocean City 50 $91,670
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Las Cruces 620 $77,220
Santa Fe 60 $49,990
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Niagara Falls 720 $79,120
Cheektowaga 720 $79,120
Buffalo 720 $79,120
Troy 710 $83,700
Schenectady 710 $83,700
Albany 710 $83,700
Rochester 330 $75,940
Syracuse 250 $81,890
Binghamton 100 $72,910
Rome 90 $81,650
Utica 90 $81,650
Watertown 80 $77,220
Fort Drum 80 $77,220
Glens Falls 60 $58,360
Kingston 50 $73,770
Elmira 30 $69,530
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Raleigh 460 $56,390
Salem 220 $45,440
Winston 220 $45,440
High Point 190 $51,030
Greensboro 190 $51,030
Asheville 170 $47,190
Fayetteville 140 $47,460
Chapel Hill 140 $48,030
Durham 140 $48,030
Wilmington 140 $48,100
Jacksonville 120 $56,050
Morganton 100 $42,980
Hickory 100 $42,980
Lenoir 100 $42,980
Greenville 70 $47,420
New Bern 30 $43,550
     
Metro Area (North Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bismarck 70 $57,020
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbus 610 $59,050
Elyria 410 $71,350
Cleveland 410 $71,350
Akron 140 $57,700
Toledo 120 $58,490
Dayton 120 $74,310
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 430 $64,060
Tulsa 130 $68,650
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salem 120 $57,940
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 560 $74,900
Harrisburg 240 $71,200
Carlisle 240 $71,200
Wilkes 80 $75,220
Hazleton 80 $75,220
Barre 80 $75,220
Scranton 80 $75,220
Reading 70 $74,580
Erie 70 $75,170
Hanover 50 $73,270
York 50 $73,270
Lancaster 50 $73,900
State College 30 $69,980
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 580 $42,740
Carolina 580 $42,740
San Juan 580 $42,740
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbia 350 $53,830
Anderson 150 $48,730
Mauldin 150 $48,730
Greenville 150 $48,730
North Charleston 120 $107,810
Charleston 120 $107,810
Florence 70 $38,540
Sumter 40 $35,410
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rapid City 60 $62,220
Sioux Falls 50 $87,750
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Murfreesboro 430 $57,700
Franklin 430 $57,700
Davidson 430 $57,700
Nashville 430 $57,700
Knoxville 170 $60,280
Jackson 50 $49,400
Johnson City 30 $64,170
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Worth 1950 $67,270
Arlington 1950 $67,270
Dallas 1950 $67,270
El Paso 1790 $77,220
Houston 1770 $71,150
Sugar Land 1770 $71,150
The Woodlands 1770 $71,150
Round Rock 1500 $58,560
Austin 1500 $58,560
New Braunfels 1400 $68,960
San Antonio 1400 $68,960
Mission 1260 $77,210
McAllen 1260 $77,210
Edinburg 1260 $77,210
Laredo 1160 $77,220
Brownsville 830 $77,230
Harlingen 830 $77,230
Corpus Christi 280 $71,030
Lubbock 220 $55,270
Beaumont 120 $54,130
Port Arthur 120 $54,130
Tyler 90 $50,550
Temple 70 $42,260
Killeen 70 $42,260
Amarillo 70 $52,330
Waco 70 $52,350
Longview 60 $44,710
Midland 60 $73,870
San Angelo 60 $81,890
Abilene 50 $44,230
Victoria 50 $46,020
Sherman 40 $57,640
Denison 40 $57,640
Bryan 30 $43,340
College Station 30 $43,340
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 210 $71,100
Clearfield 100 $56,050
Ogden 100 $56,050
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 100 $77,270
Burlington 100 $77,270
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 480 $66,710
Lynchburg 150 $60,320
Roanoke 130 $74,860
Blacksburg 130 $80,870
Christiansburg 130 $80,870
Radford 130 $80,870
Charlottesville 100 $83,270
Harrisonburg 40 $56,670
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bellevue 1080 $88,360
Tacoma 1080 $88,360
Seattle 1080 $88,360
Spokane Valley 300 $79,540
Spokane 300 $79,540
Bellingham 280 $84,890
Tumwater 200 $53,560
Olympia 200 $53,560
Yakima 80 $54,920
Kennewick 60 $58,700
Richland 60 $58,700
Wenatchee 40 $50,960
Silverdale 30 $126,150
Bremerton 30 $126,150
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Charleston 130 $44,130
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Milwaukee 480 $76,560
Waukesha 480 $76,560
West Allis 480 $76,560
Madison 220 $74,360
Eau Claire 50 $59,100
Racine 50 $65,450
Green Bay 40 $68,110
Oshkosh 40 $73,380
Neenah 40 $73,380
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheyenne 90 $73,210

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Detectives and Criminal Investigators

To find out more about building a career as Criminal Investigators, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Government 103,680 99% $60,780
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.
 
Results:  10
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Programs
  • BS in Criminal Justice in Crime Scene Investigation
  • Liberty University provides a world-class education with a solid Christian foundation, equipping men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for success in every aspect of life.

Programs
  • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration
  • Master - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration
  • CSU Global Campus - FTFYF Programs
Programs
  • Bachelor's (BSCJ) - Forensic Science
  • Bachelor's (BSCJ) - Law Enforcement
  • Bachelor's (BSCJ) - Generalist
  • You’re serious about success. With your busy schedule and the desire to move your career forward, you can earn an accredited associate, bachelors or master’s degree at a pace that works for you anywhere, anytime, 24/7.

    At AIU, the Serious U, you can get started to get ahead.

Programs
  • Degree - Criminal Justice: Corrections
  • San Joaquin Valley College - A Private Junior College.

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Salida
Request Info
Programs
  • M.A. Forensic Psychology
  • Psy.D. Clinical Forensic Psychology
  • Pursue a certificate, master, or doctorate degree in Psychology at The Chicago School for Professional Psychology.
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Irvine
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Programs
  • Criminology and Emergency Response Management
  • You can get started on a new career with Institute of Technology.

    For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please visit our website at www.iot.edu/disclosure

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Clovis
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Programs
  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice/Homeland Security
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • See What’s Possible When You Earn a Degree at Florida Tech 100% Online

Programs
  • Criminal Justice
  • Turn your talents into a career at nationally recognized and accredited Platt College.
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Riverside
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Programs
  • Criminal Justice (9-Month Diploma Program)
  • At UEI College, we want you to succeed. We’re like a family and we want you to be a part of it.

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Fresno
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Programs
  • Master of Criminal Justice
  • Earn a highly respected online degree from Boston University
CityTownInfo Career and College Resources

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Detectives and Criminal Investigators.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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