In this first blog of 2019, I will be answering a question I received from a student:
"How and why are crime scenes secured?"
Crime scenes are preserved so that evidence/material discovered at that scene is protected before it's lost or destroyed. Crime scenes can be very chaotic and the number of professionals entering that scene (first responders, EMTs, forensic personnel, detectives, news personnel, coroner) can very well lead to evidence being kicked or destroyed. So to avoid all this, first responders will tape off the scene to establish:
- the boundaries of the crime scene
- limiting access to the crime scene by unauthorized personnel
- keeping a log of all those who enter and exit the crime scene
- developing a timeline of the events related to the those entering/exiting the scene
Once the crime scene investigator arrives, he/she must document/record the following:
- time and date of arrival to the scene
- address of the scene
- specific weather conditions, temperature, lighting conditions
The crime scene investigator will also (this is a an abbreviated list):
- ask questions to first responder
- discuss scene with detectives
- determine crime scene conditions prior to event
- develop investigative plan and establish scene limits
- plan for initial walk-through
- conduct actual investigative process (scene documentation via diagramming, photography, evidence collection, processing, etc).
Properly securing and preserving the integrity of the scene can have far reaching consequences if not done correctly--investigative processes can be placed into doubt, evidence can be contaminated, and the chain of custody can be doomed from the start.
Remember, you only have one chance to get it right, so do it right the first time. If you need an example of how a case can go wrong from the start, just read about the JonBenet Ramsey Case. Take note of all the errors related to this case by reading "A Look Inside the Mistake in JonBenet Ramsey Investigation" which you can find here.
Welcome to 2019!