How to Respond to a Crime Scene
When a crime occurs, a crime scene team will be needed where the incident took place. Their job is to is to perform multiple tasks in hope to figure out what happened and identify a suspect. Every task done at a crime scene needs to be done as near perfect as possible, so that mistakes are not made. Also, it is critical that you document all information accurately. These instructions will walk you through the starting point of arriving at the scene of offence to the ending point of leaving the scene.
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Arriving at a Crime Scene
Take initial precautions. As the first responding officer, there are many preliminary responsibilities to keep in mind. Some initial tasks at the crime scene include:
- Self-protection - if a scene looks too dangerous for you, then it may be best to wait for back up. Protecting yourself from harm is necessary. An example could be if you think that there could be bombs or traps around the scene.
- Helping injured people - injured people at the crime scene need to be helped immediately. Basic first aid skills or CPR may be performed depending on the injury. Do not leave a severely injured person unattended.
- Making mental notes - think about what looks out of the ordinary or unusual at the crime scene. Be prepared to make fast decisions on what help you’ll need at the scene.
Secure the scene. It is also the first responder’s duty to secure the crime scene and document all actions taken. To secure the scene, you have to:
- Identify witnesses and suspects. It is crucial to obtain any witnesses at the scene, so they can give a statement. The more information, the better. For example, if you see key witnesses, designate a spot for them to stand and await questioning. Suspects should be carefully supervised in case they try to escape.
- Control the scene. Managing the crime scene is significant. Keeping people from disappearing from the scene is beneficial so that evidence or suspects are not lost. Keeping people, such as news reporters, out of the scene is also necessary for security purposes.
Contact headquarters. The first responder needs to call and update their supervisor or headquarters after the scene is secured. A crime scene team will be sent to the scene to start taking notes.
Preparing Notes for the Crime Scene
Take detailed notes of the scene. You must write down as many detailed observations as possible. As a team member, you should write down:
- Any entries or exits at the scene - you will need to search around the exterior of the crime scene to find entry ways or exits. Doors and windows are the main openings. This should tell you if the suspect had to break in or out.
- Activity - it is important to be organized. Knowing who is working the crime scene and what role they have is efficient. Your goal is to obtain as much information as you can.
Present facts. Telling the truth is required as a crime scene team member. These questions should be answered as truthful and thorough as possible:
- Who, what, where, when, why, and how? Answering these questions gives a starting point to finding possible suspects. You should also write down a description of the victim.
Take pictures at various distances. The camera man is in charge of taking many pictures of the entire scene with different shot ranges. These pictures help prove what was actually at the scene. The three main shot ranges at a crime scene are:
- Overall - an overall shot is a picture taken of a room. It captures mainly everything in the room.
- Midrange - midrange shots are more zoomed in and capture a subject with items around the subject. This could be a body with the murder weapon beside it.
- Close-up - close-up shots capture a smaller object and need a scale. Having scales for close-up shots keep the pictures into proportion.
Take pictures at various angles. Taking different angled shots will give many ways of viewing the scene. Here are some angled shots that should be taken at the crime scene:
- Bird's eye view - this shot gives you an over the top shot of the desired subject.
- Parallel - parallel shots give a straight on view of the subject.
- Slightly angled up or down - angled shots uncover things that might not have been captured yet by the camera.
Record important information on each photograph that was taken. Include the location the picture was taken, the time it was taken, and the photographer who took it on each captured picture.
Taking Video Recordings
Record the entire scene. Take original videos of the scene using the victim’s viewpoint. You should include this in your video:
- Surrounding and exterior - getting video of the surroundings near the crime scene is the first step you need to accomplish. Move to the exterior of the crime scene and take video.
- Interior - every room and corner of the crime scene needs to be videotaped.
Record important information in each video. As with photographing the crime scene, you should include the location the video was taken, the time it taken, and the videographer of the videos provided.
Making Sketches and Diagrams for the Crime Scene
Prepare a rough sketch. The team member who sketches the crime scene needs to make a bird’s eye view diagram. In this diagram, you will need to include:
- Accurate measurements - when you give accurate measurements, the diagram is better understood. Measure doors, windows, furniture, and any other significant objects in your sketch of the crime scene.
- Labels - labeling allows not only yourself, but other people to interpret the sketch the same way. Label everything of importance at the crime scene.
- Location - provide locations in your diagram. Locations tells where items are. Kitchens, bathrooms, the street name, and the city are some important locations to include in your sketch.
- Significant landmarks - it is necessary for you to include landmarks in a diagram to let people know where exactly the scene is compared to other objects. Large trees, utility poles, and mailboxes are considered to be fixed landmarks.
- A legend - create a legend for your diagram to give yourself and others an easier way to navigate the scene.
Prepare a final sketch. The final sketch should include everything in the rough sketch. You must consider the following when preparing your final sketch:
- Drawn to scale - when you draw the crime scene to scale, you give an accurate depiction of the scene. This provides the right proportions.
- Reconstruct the crime scene - your goal is to make a sketch that another person can use to reconstruct the crime scene. Often times, crime scenes will be reconstructed so that they can be evaluated or gone over again.
- Clear visual - your final sketch should be a clean and clear sketch as a final product. This should be easy to look through and have no errors.
Recovering and Collecting Evidence
Record discovered fingerprints in a log. As a team member, you should record fingerprints you find in a log. You can find, analyze, and obtain fingerprints by these characteristics:
- Locate the fingerprints. Dust multiple areas for fingerprints using a magnetic powder or fingerprint powder. ] Another way to locate fingerprints is to use alternative light sources. Different lighting can help you look for fingerprints.
- Distinguish the types of prints. There are three designs you should look for after you have lifted the print - loops, arches, or whorls. However, there are also several different types of each of these three categories of fingerprints. ]
- Know whether you should lift or photograph the fingerprint. When you find a fingerprint, you have to either lift it or photograph it. After powdering the fingerprint, use see-through tape to place on the print and extract it. If you cannot lift a fingerprint, you can only take pictures of it.
Collect samples of DNA if applicable. Your duty is to find anything that links a suspect to the crime. DNA is a very useful tool when trying to find suspects. DNA can be found in many places such as:
- Bodily fluids - main bodily fluids at a crime scene consist of blood, semen, and saliva. Any of these fluids found at the crime scene, if they do not belong to the victim(s), may help you form a possible suspect.
- Hair - if you find hair, bag it up and send it to a DNA analysis lab.
Record physical evidence in a recovery log. You must document items of evidence in a log. Search the entire crime scene for any sort of physical evidence, which may include:
- Murder weapons - be careful when you deal with murder weapons. These weapons range from screwdrivers to automatic machine guns.
- Clothes - clothing that has different fibers, blood, tears, or bullet marks are considered evidence.
- Documents - you should look around for notes, letters, or any piece of writing that looks out of place at the crime scene.
Package and label evidence. There should only be one evidence collector, as this allows consistency. All packaged or bagged evidence must be:
- Sealed - you must seal the opening so that no evidence is lost and/or contaminated.
- Labeled - write your initials, the time the evidence was collected, the location the evidence was collected in, and the date of the collected evidence.
Leaving the Scene
Do a final walk through.As a whole, the crime scene team should do a final sweep of the crime scene. This ensures that no evidence or information is left behind. This also allows for more evidence to be uncovered.
Make sure all evidence and documentation are organized. You should go through the collected evidence, notes, and documentation to ensure that they are labeled and organized. Before leaving the crime scene, make sure all materials are secured and are at low to no risk of contamination.
Video: WSP Crime Scene Response Team
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