For those of us who have watched shows like CSI or Law and Order, detectives and investigators always dramatically enter and exit a crime scene where a grisly offense has been committed. Yellow “POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS” tape extends in all directions and it’s very clear that the crime scene is very serious business.
In real life, a crime scene is a dramatic and important part of investigations and analysis of crimes. Here, evidence for murder, rape, burglaries, and other law-breaking incidents are gathered and it’s important that the scene stay intact and that the integrity of that evidence be kept intact so that any police, detectives, lawyers, and others involved in justice, can do their jobs.
So just how do those at the scene of the crime work to preserve a crime scene?
Keep It Clear
On some crime shows, it seems like there are dozens of people on the scene: police, family, medical examiners. The reality is that the more people who are present, the more possibility for contamination at the scene. Every new person brings with them things that weren’t there when the crime was committed.
One of the basic tenants to keeping a crime scene protected is restricting it to the absolutely essential personnel. Crime scene detectives need to keep a full and accurate log of who is present and should also set up a central exit and entrance location.
Be Wide Awake
Crime scene investigators need to be hyper diligent in their detail gathering. They are collecting anything they find including fingerprints, shoes, fibers, blood, saliva, hair, and more. Nothing can be missed and anything can be a clue. They are also responsible in collecting details in the form of interviewing witnesses or recording other non tangible details such as the condition of structure, smells, and lighting.
Think Outside the Box
While the immediate scene – the exact place where the crime was committed – is the most important, it can also be beneficial to search the surrounding area. Places like the driveway, garage, parking lot, street, and yard can all be valuable places to search for evidence. Establishing that those areas are also protected under the crime scene agenda is important in preserving the evidence of the entire scene.
The job of crime scene preservation can be a lot more involved than any TV show could make it appear. It’s an important scientific responsibility and the first step in the journey to help solve a crime.