CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION Back
This session provides participants with an understanding of some of the procedures that are employed during a crime scene investigation.
- Exploring: Law Enforcement
- S. Department of Education: Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security
By the end of this session, participants will be able to:
- Explain why it’s important to cordon off a crime scene and to limit the number of people entering the scene.
- Discuss the importance of documenting a crime scene.
- Identify and distinguish between the standard methods of documenting a crime scene.
- Define the chain of custody and explain why it’s important.
- Differentiate between the three types of photographs taken at a crime scene and explain why each is important.
- Apply proper crime scene photography methods to a mock crime scene.
- Describe the importance of taking scaled photographs.
- Explain the importance of taking notes.
- Conduct note taking at a mock crime scene.
- Prepare a rough sketch and explain how it differs from a finished sketch.
- Demonstrate proper evidence collection and packaging procedures.
- (1) computer with internet access
For each group of two or three participants:
- (1) cellphone camera or digital camera
- (3) blank index cards
- (1) Sharpie marker
- (3) evidence bags or blank brown paper bags
- (1) roll of evidence tape (if evidence tape is unavailable, clear packing tape will do)
- (1) 6-inch scale or ruler
- (1) measuring tape
- (1) clipboard
- (1) pencil with eraser
- (1) compass
- (1) note pad
- A variety of proxy evidence items
- “A Visual Guide to Properly Packaging Physical Evidence” (PDF, see below)—one for each participant
See Activity 6 for suggestions of speakers who could attend the meeting or places where participants could visit, and make arrangements as needed.
- “Documenting the Crime Scene” (Evidence Technology Magazine): evidencemagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=184—A good overview of different types of crime scene documentation.
- “A Simplified Guide to Crime Scene Photography” (National Forensic Science Technology Center): forensicsciencesimplified.org/photo/Photography.pdf—This document thoroughly reviews crime scene photography.
- “The Crime Scene Sketch” (Baltimore County Public Schools): bcps.org/offices/science/secondary/forensic/Crimescene%20Sketch.pdf—This document provides an overview of crime scene sketching.
- “Proper Tagging and Labeling of Evidence for Later Identification” (Crime Scene Investigator Network): crime-scene-investigator.net/tagging.html—An overview of the information recorded on an evidence bag and the chain of custody.
Reminder: Any time you use an outside source, be sure you follow the content owner’s or website’s permission requirements and guidelines.
These videos were chosen because they illustrate important aspects of the forensic science discipline being studied in this session. Note: Some of the content in the case study is geared toward a mature audience. Advisors should review these videos before showing them to ensure that they are age appropriate for the post.
- “Crime Scene Investigation Techniques” (LoneStar Ranger Academy): youtube.com/watch?v=tqtS4wMfZYo—Overview of crime scene investigation.
- “Crime Scene Investigation and Evidence Collection” (Indianapolis–Marion County Forensics Laboratory): youtube.com/watch?v=ur1GxXZGnNI—Overview of crime scene investigation.
- “X Marks the Spot: Behind the Scenes With Forensic Scene Investigators” (West Midlands Police): youtube.com/watch?v=wri9LXFBBnA—A crime scene investigator processing a mock crime scene.
- Forensic Files: Dinner and a Movie (FilmRise): youtube.com/watch?v=Zt7Yrq-CenY—Case study.
- “Matthew Welling Trial” (saukvalleynews): youtube.com/watch?v=8cDHzS3fBMU—A crime scene investigator testifying in court.
The following link is to a website that contains information about crime scene investigation. This would be a good resource for Advisors to review if they would like to go into greater depth on this topic.
- Crime Scene Investigator Network: crime-scene-investigator.net/—An in-depth resource for all things related to crime scene investigation.
Make sure you add time in your activities for viewing and discussing videos with the Explorers. These videos are currently not built into the session plan so you will need to choose those that best complement your activities and plans for this topic.
Text in italics should be read aloud to participants. As you engage your post in activities each week, please include comments, discussions, and feedback to the group relating to Character, Leadership, and Ethics. These are important attributes that make a difference in the success of youth in the workplace and in life.
Say to Explorers: The work of crime scene investigators is of critical importance. These people are the link between the crime scene and the crime laboratory. Their ability to do their jobs directly affects the evidence that is examined at the forensic science laboratory. The crime scene investigator has several primary tasks: evidence recognition; crime scene documentation, which involves taking digital images, making notes, and sketching the crime scene; and evidence collection and packaging. Each of these tasks is very important and requires considerable knowledge, skill, and attention to detail. Crime scene investigators have to be flexible and be able to work as part of a team. They also have to be able to communicate their work and their findings to a jury and answer questions posed by attorneys. Finally, crime scene investigators need to have a strong, resilient personality. They will regularly encounter unpleasant situations involving extreme violence.
To provide more background to the Explorers, show one or more of the four videos listed under “Websites” (or other similar videos).
After Explorers have conducted Activities 1-6, debrief as a large group.
- In groups of two or three, have Explorers conceptualize a crime that could have taken place at the post’s meeting location.
- Based on the nature of the crime scene, have one person in each small group come up with three pieces of associated physical evidence. Some examples are:
- Chewing gum—DNA
- Soda can—fingerprints
- Bloodstain—transfer pattern
- T-shirt—hair and fiber
- That person should place each piece of evidence into the mock crime scene according to the scenario he or she invented. He or she should be able to explain how each piece of evidence is connected to the mock crime scene.
Documentation Through Note Taking
As the other members of the small group walk through the crime scene, they should take detailed notes describing the scene. At minimum, these notes should include the following: ? Date, time, and location of the crime scene ? Location of physical evidence, time it was discovered, by whom it was discovered, and how and by whom it was packaged and marked ? Any other relevant information (condition of the scene, temperature at the scene, lights on or off, unusual smells, etc.)
Documentation Through Photography (Digital Imaging)
Tell Explorers: There are three types of photographs taken at crime scenes: overall, mid-range, and close-up/examination-quality photographs.
Explorers should follow these procedures to take photos of the crime scene:
- Using your cellphone or digital camera, take all three types of photographs of the scene in its natural condition; no scales or evidence markers are added to the scene at this point.
- Then fold three index cards in half crosswise and number them 1–3; write the numbers as large and bold as possible so that they can be seen in the photographs.
- Place an evidence marker next to each piece of evidence and take all three types of photographs again.
- Place the 6-inch scale next to each piece of evidence and take close-up photographs; be sure to fill the frame of your phone or camera with the evidence item and scale.
Documentation Through Sketching
Show Explorers the video “Crime Scene Sketch” (David Spencer): https://vimeo.com/45223797.
Then, using the rectangular coordinate system, have the groups draw a rough sketch of their mock crime scenes, being sure to include the following:
- Dimensions of the crime scene
- Drawings of significant items in the crime scene (furniture, television, doors, windows, etc.)
- Measurements of evidence from fixed objects
- A legend
- Compass heading designating north
Evidence Collection and Packaging
With the Explorers, review the PDF document titled “A Visual Guide to Properly Packaging Physical Evidence.” Then have Explorers follow these procedures:
- Unless you have actual evidence bags, you will have to write all of the required information on the front of the bag.
- Follow the steps outlined in the document for each piece of evidence.
- After the evidence has been collected, give the bags to a second party and fill out the chain of custody.
Show Forensic Files: Dinner and a Movie (listed under “Videos”) to the Explorers and discuss how careful investigation helped solve the crime.
Speaker or Visit
If possible, make arrangements for one of the following activities in order to provide Explorers with a real-world look at the profession of forensic science.
- Arrange for a visit to a police department that has a crime scene investigation unit. Ask for a tour of the crime scene investigation vehicle.
- Attend a local trial where a crime scene investigator will be testifying.
Some sample questions are below. They are designed to help the participants apply what they have learned to their own interests. You are welcome to use these questions or develop your own questions that relate to your post or specific focus area.
- Discuss the possible consequences of not properly securing a crime scene.
- Why is it important for the crime scene investigator to know as much about the case prior to entering the scene? From whom do you think they’ll get this information?
- List each type of documentation and explain why each is important.
- Describe the importance of the chain of custody and some potential problems that could arise from its improper maintenance.
- What physical and emotional challenges does this type of work present?
- How does what you’ve learned in this session differ from the crime scene investigation or forensic science shows you see on television?
ADVISOR AND OFFICER REVIEW
After the meeting, address the following:
- Identify what was successful about the meeting.
- Identify what needed improvement.
- Schedule an officer and Advisor planning meeting to prepare for the next post meeting or activity.
All content is copyright Christopher Bily, Next Generation Forensic Science Initiative, West Virginia University. Used with permission.
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