Crime Scene Management

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CRIME SCENE MANAGEMENT by MELCON S. LAPINA, MSCrim 4th Place, Criminologists Licensure Board Examinations October 1996, Manila melcon s. lapina


Objectives Upon completion of this module, the students should be able to Demonstrate an understanding of the twelve steps of crime scene management by identifying unique characteristics of each step. Practice proper crime scene management by applying the twelve step model to a given scenario. melcon s. lapina


A systematic approach to evidence collection becomes more critical as modern forensic science advances. Such an approach can help to ensure that the evidence collected meets the rigorous standards necessary for evidence to be introduced into court. The following twelve-step model is one such approach. Prepare Approach Scene Secure and Protect Scene Initiate Preliminary Survey Evaluate Physical Evidence Possibilities Prepare Narrative Description Depict Scene Photographically Prepare Diagram/Sketch of Scene Conduct a Detailed Search Record and Collect Physical Evidence Complete a Final Survey Release the Scene melcon s. lapina


Prepare Prior planning is essential to effective crime scene management. Some helpful planning guidelines are: Accumulate packaging and collection materials Prepare the preliminary document. Example paperwork Coordinate personnel assignments Evaluate legal ramifications (e.g., search warrants) Consider the safety and comfort of search personnel Coordinate working agreements with potentially involved agencies. 12 Steps melcon s. lapina

Packaging & Collection Materials: 

Packaging & Collection Materials Evidence Collection Bags Evidence Collection Boxes Collection Containers Swab Drying Rack Blood Collection Tubes NEXT melcon s. lapina

Packaging & Collection Materials: 

Packaging & Collection Materials Back to Prepare melcon s. lapina

Preliminary Document: Paperwork: 

Preliminary Document: Paperwork Back to Prepare melcon s. lapina


Coordinate Personnel Assignments Assign the duties typically required to successfully process a crime scene. Select a defined team leader. Assignments should be made with a consideration of attitude, training, and experience of each individual. Depending on the circumstances and personnel available, it may be necessary to assign more than one duty to some team members (covered in Roles and Responsibilities). It is relatively common for one individual to accomplish two or more responsibilities. Ensure that all specialists are aware of the various types of physical evidence that may be encountered as well as the proper handling of these materials. Back to Prepare melcon s. lapina


Safety and Comfort of Search Personnel Do not be caught unprepared when encountering a potentially dangerous scene or inclement weather. Items to consider include Clothing Communication Lighting assistance Shelter Food/drinks Medical assistance Scene security Equipment In instances of prolonged search efforts, consider using two or more teams who will work the scene in shifts. The administrative documentation will show the rotation of the teams. Back to Prepare melcon s. lapina


Working Agreements In major or complicated investigations, consider the need to organize a “command post” as a central point for communication, decision making, supplies, evidence storage. Make arrangements with specialists ahead of time. You may need the help of local surveyor or anthropologist for example. Advance contact with community resources will reduce the stress at an actual crisis situation. The possibility of coordinating multijurisdiction scene investigations should also be explored. All agreements should be made well in advance to avoid confusion during crisis situation. Back to Prepare melcon s. lapina


Approach the Scene Law enforcement personnel responding to a crime scene should be alert for anything that may ultimately be connected with the investigation. As you approach the scene: Look for discarded evidence Make pertinent notes Ensure that everyone present realizes the need to treat the site as a crime scene. However, public safety or emergency rescue operations will take priority. Consider personal safety 12 Steps melcon s. lapina


Secure and Protect the Scene To avoid contamination of the crime scene and to document the original condition of the scene, all personnel must work together to secure and protect the scene. Such an effort requires continuous attention and cannot be successful if a haphazard approach is used. It is necessary to think of the concepts of “securing the scene” and “protecting the scene” as to separate but interrelated duties. “Securing the scene” and “protecting the scene” are two crucial responsibilities of responding officers. At trial, most issues about evidence stems from the initial attempts of first responders to secure and protect the crime scene. It’s the officer’s responsibility to shield the scene from contamination and document the scene as it was found. 12 Steps NEXT melcon s. lapina


Before you begin collecting evidence, you will need to: Take control aggressively upon arrival Determine the extent to which scene has thus far been protected Check for adequate scene security even if advised that it has been protected prior to arrival Obtain information from logical personnel who have entered the scene and have knowledge relative to its original condition Identify one individual who is designated as the person-in-charge for final decision making and problem resolution Take extensive notes – do not rely on memory Keep out unauthorized personnel – begin recording who enters and leaves 12 Points melcon s. lapina


Secure and Protect the Scene Before a complete crime scene area can be realistically “protected,” it must first be adequately “secured.” Securing the scene means establishing a perimeter around the crime scene to prevent its original conditions from being disturbed. Once the perimeter has been set, it is relatively easy to control and record who enters and leaves the crime scene. Protecting the scene, controlling all persons entering the immediate area is also critically important. Another aspect of protecting the crime scene involves ensuring the safety of the evidence collection team. Often it is necessary to have uniformed officers present to deal with bystanders. 12 Steps melcon s. lapina


Initiate Preliminary Survey In conducting a successful crime scene search, the preliminary survey is one of the most important stages. Once the scene has been secured and protected, an initial walk-through of the scene is undertaken by the officer in charge. The walk-through provides a solid understanding of the scene as a whole, including the existence and location of readily observable items of possible value as evidence. Additionally, the exact conditions of items, which can easily change (e.g., weather conditions and lighting), should be recorded in the survey. It is important to note that the initial walk-through be accomplished by as few persons as feasible to ensure that there are not numerous people operating in an uncoordinated and unrecorded manner. 12 Steps NEXT melcon s. lapina


The preliminary survey serves as an organizational stage for the entire search. The person-in-charge conducts a cautious walk-through of the scene and must maintain definite administrative and emotional control. The most significant purposes of the survey are to: Select appropriate narrative description technique, e.g., either written or dictated Take preliminary photographs Delineate extent of the search area – usually expand initial perimeter Organize search priorities and procedures needed – recognize special problem areas NEXT melcon s. lapina


Determine personnel and equipment needs – make specific assignments Identify and protect transient physical evidence Make extensive notes to document scene, physical and environmental conditions, assignments, movements of personnel, etc. Obtain VIN number, license number, position of key, odometer reading, etc. for associated vehicles. 12 Steps melcon s. lapina


Evaluate Physical Evidence Possibilities This evaluation begins upon arrival at the scene and becomes detailed in the preliminary survey stages. Personnel must: Consider evidence types most likely to be encountered – based on preliminary survey Ensure collection and packaging equipment is sufficient for task at hand – a given scene may require special techniques not normally used Ensure all personnel consider the great variety of possible evidence, not only evidence within the scope of their respective specialties NEXT melcon s. lapina


Concentrate on the most transient evidence and work to the least transient forms of this material Focus first on the easily accessible areas in open view and progress to possible out-of-view locations – look for purposely hidden items Consider whether the evidence appears to have been moved inadvertently Evaluate whether or not the scene and evidence appears intentionally “contrived” 12 Steps melcon s. lapina


Prepare Narrative Description With the narrative description, the reader should see the crime scene through the eyes of the original responding officer. The “narrative description” is prepared during the preliminary survey stage of the investigation. Do not confuse this description with the utilization of sketches, photographs and finely detailed evidence notes, which occur later in the entire process of the search. NEXT melcon s. lapina


The “narrative description” can be prepared in a variety of ways. The three common modes of preparing a narrative description are handwritten notes, audiocassette, and videocassette. Each of these methods has inherent capabilities and limitations, which should be considered prior to use. Personnel must ensure that the narrative description presents a realistic, accurate, and unbiased portrayal of the crime scene – it must stand the test of courtroom credibility and admissibility. NEXT melcon s. lapina


Three common modes of preparing a narrative description A written narrative may take slightly longer to produce but is usually a clearer, less ambiguous, representation of the overall crime scene. Audio tapes record a great deal of information quickly, however there is a chance that background conversations or comments will be captured. These statements may be taken out of context and become needless issues later. Video recording is useful in some situations, but this method never replaces the need for quality still photos. Videos are also likely to capture confusing or distracting information. Back melcon s. lapina


Points to remember: The narrative is a running, general terms description of the condition of the crime scene A systematic approach should be used in recording narrative (no item is too insignificant to record if it catches your attention) The crime scene should be represented in a “general to specific” reference scheme The narrative effort is not the time to collect physical evidence, under most circumstances Photographs serve to supplement, not replace, the narrative description at this point 12 Steps melcon s. lapina


Depict the Scene Photographically The role of photography in portraying a crime scene cannot be underestimated. Photographing a crime scene is a continuous process and must include overall, medium and close-up with scale photographs to adequately show the immediate scene, as well the general location. Photographs must be prepared so the combination of pictures can logically tell a “story” which can be viewed and understood by whoever needs to review it. Digital imaging and video recording may be useful in some situations; however, these methods never replace the requirement for quality still photos. NEXT melcon s. lapina


Use a photographic log to document the equipment used, personnel involved, locations and items photographed, general surrounding conditions and other data. Keep all negatives and develop photographs, even if they are of poor quality. In this manner, you cannot be accused of destroying potentially valuable photographs. NEXT melcon s. lapina


When photographing the scene, you should: Plan before photographing (i.e., consider the feasibility of aerial photography), but begin photography as soon as possible. Photograph evidence in place before its collection and packaging. Use recognized scale device for size determination when applicable (First take a picture without the scale to show that the scale doesn’t hide any evidence). Photograph areas adjacent to the crime scene (e.g., points of entry, exits, windows, attics). Take photographs from eye level, when feasible, to represent a scene as it would be observed from a normal view. Supplement your two-dimensional photos with diagrams/sketches. NEXT melcon s. lapina


Do not hesitate to photograph something which has no apparent significance at that time – it may later prove to be key in the investigation. Film is cheap compared to cost of lost or undocumented evidence. Consider the use of a ladder or other means to give a more overall perspective. 12 Points melcon s. lapina


Photographs aren’t enough to accurately document a scene, because photos can distort distances. You always need to sketch the scene. A sketch provides true distance relationships of the crime scene. The locations of all pertinent evidences can be set forth on a sketch. In addition to these advantages, a sketch can be made of locations or items that are very difficult to photograph in a manner which will show precise detail. Uses/purposes of sketches Considerations for making sketches Types of sketches Sketching guidelines melcon s. lapina


Sketches are good for: Recording the exact location and relationship of evidence Refreshing the memory of the investigator Providing a permanent record of conditions not otherwise easily recorded Assisting the prosecutor, judge and jury in understanding the conditions at the crime scene Supporting the questioning process of suspects and witnesses NEXT melcon s. lapina


Planning raids and roadblocks Recording details of accident investigations Helping to correlate the testimony of witnesses Eliminating unnecessary and confusing details Organizing forces for disaster, riot control, and other special events Back melcon s. lapina


Considerations for Making Sketches When you sketch crime scene, you should: Preserve the relationships of objects Obtain a comprehensive view of the scene Determine what type of sketch will best serve the purpose Determine sketch limits Don’t rely on memory Don’t make sketches on notes Don’t rely on sketches to take the place of photographs Back melcon s. lapina


Types of Sketches Floor Plan or “bird’s-eye view. This is the simplest and most common type. Elevation drawing. This type of sketch portrays a vertical plane rather than a horizontal plane. Exploded drawing. This is somewhat a combination of the first two types. It is similar to a floor plan except that the walls have been laid out flat and objects on them have been shown in their relative positions. Bullet holes and bloodstains on walls can be shown in this manner. Back melcon s. lapina

Floor Plan or Bird’s-Eye View: 

Floor Plan or Bird’s-Eye View Back melcon s. lapina

Elevation Drawing: 

Elevation Drawing Back melcon s. lapina

Exploded Drawing: 

Exploded Drawing Back melcon s. lapina


Sketching Guidelines Personnel. Use three people. Two can take the measurements while the third can check all the measurements and plot them on the rough sketch. One person can do the job, but taking the measurements will be difficult. Equipment. Common tools include pencils, blank paper (graph paper is helpful), drawing surface, tape measure (preferably 100 feet), folding rule (6-foot carpenter’s rule for shorter measurements), ruler, magnetic compass (to determine true north) Procedure. Work from general to specific – rough outline to specific measurements. NEXT melcon s. lapina


Measurements. Measurements should be as accurate as possible. Long distances, such as quarter or half mile, may be measured with the odometer of an automobile. Critical measurements, such as the length of the skid marks, should be checked by two officers. Scale. Scale the proportion between the length of the lines in the drawing and the true length of what they represent. Measurements must be reduced in proportion so that they bear correct relationship to each other, otherwise, the users of the sketch will get a distorted view of the scene. Identifying points on a sketch. All dimensions require two fixed points and plot sketch should be shown. NEXT melcon s. lapina


Measurements can be taken using the following methods: - Rectangular coordinates - Straight line measurement - Transecting base line - Triangulation Dimension lines. Should be faint lines with arrowheads. Put each line in on rough sketch. Keep finished sketch as free as possible from dimension lines to keep from cluttering up the diagram. If testimony is needed as to some measurement, you can refer to your notes or the rough sketch. NEXT melcon s. lapina

Rectangular Coordinates: 

Rectangular Coordinates Back Rectangular-Coordinate Method uses two adjacent walls as fixed points from which distances are measured at right angles. Located objects by measuring from one wall at right angles and then from the adjacent wall at right angles. Use of this method is restricted to square or rectangular areas. melcon s. lapina

Straight Line Measurement: 

Straight Line Measurement Back The Straight Line Measurement / Baseline Method establishes a straight line from one fixed point to another, from which measurements are taken at right angles. Take measurements along either side of the baseline to a point at right angles to the object to be located. melcon s. lapina

Transecting Base Line: 

Transecting Base Line Somewhat similar to Straight Line Measurement except that the line is drawn diagonally. Back melcon s. lapina

Triangulation Method: 

Triangulation Method Triangulation uses straight-line measures from two fixed objects to the evidence to create a triangle with the evidence in the angle formed by the two straight lines. The degree of the angle formed at the location of the object or evidence can then be measured with a protractor. The angle can be any degree, in contrast to the rectangular coordinate ad baseline methods, in which the angle is always a right angle (90o). Back melcon s. lapina


Techniques of illustration. Do not try to draw objects to look as they would appear in a photography, but use standard symbols when possible. You may use lettered or numbered figures for various objects and explain in the key what they are. Use heavy lines for building walls, outdoor boundaries for clarity and emphasis. Label all doors and windows clearly. Show with a curved line which way doors swing. Labeling objects. Use letters to label furniture and fixed articles. Use numbers to label items of evidence. Be sure to identify both in the key. NEXT melcon s. lapina


Title. Title should be set out in a block at some convenient place on the sketch. The following should appear in the title: brief description statement, address or location, type of case, date sketch made, and by whom sketch was made. NEXT melcon s. lapina


Miscellaneous Show direction of north with an arrow. By convention, north is usually shown at the top of the paper. Show the scale Try to approximate center drawing on paper Enlarged sections may be made as separate drawings in order to bring out greater detail Unnecessary height or length may be cut off with jagged lines Check finished drawing for clarity, accuracy, scale, title, key. 12 Points melcon s. lapina


The crime scene search is focused on the collection of physical evidence that will eventually connect a subject with the scene. As previously stressed, there are a series of organizational and planning requirements involved in bringing the investigation to the point that a systematic search can be undertaken. The same type of planning applies to the evaluation of the evidence before it is collected. Both latent fingerprints and other forms of physical evidence present at a crime scene must be studied prior to their collection. A careless dusting procedure for possible latent fingerprints may contaminate or completely destroy transient evidence such as hairs or fibers. Conversely, in a poorly executed attempt to collect hairs or fibers, valuable latent fingerprints may be destroyed. NEXT melcon s. lapina


The sequence in which evidence is collected may vary from one crime scene to another. However, the “possibilities” of all types of physical evidence must be explored and the detailed search must proceed based on this evaluation. Once a systematic evaluation of evidence has been accomplished at the crime scene, a detailed search can proceed. NEXT melcon s. lapina


When conducting a detailed search: Assign specific individuals with specific areas to search. Don’t allow investigators to “just roam around looking for stuff.” Accomplish search based on previous evaluation of evidence possibilities Use of specialized search patterns (e.g., strip, grid, spiral, and quadrant or zone) is recommended when possible Photograph all items before collection and enter notations in photographic log (remember – use scale when necessary) NEXT melcon s. lapina

Strip Search: 

Strip Search Back melcon s. lapina

Grid Search: 

Grid Search Back melcon s. lapina

Spiral Search: 

Spiral Search Back melcon s. lapina

Quadrant or Zone Search: 

Quadrant or Zone Search Back melcon s. lapina


Do not forget entrance and exit areas at the scene for potential evidence Do not rely on devices and chemical tests without a full evaluation of all factors (e.g., vacuuming for trace evidence, presumptive testing for blood) Complete general search before specialty reviews such as blood stain pattern or trajectory analysis are conducted. 12 Points melcon s. lapina


Record and Collect Physical Evidence Mark and complete evidence log with appropriate notations for each item of evidence Make sure the evidence location is noted on the crime scene sketch Have at least 2 persons: See evidence in place before collection Observe it being recovered Mark evidence (mark item itself when feasible) Place identifying marks on evidence containers Do not handle evidence excessively after recovery Seal all evidence containers at the crime scene NEXT melcon s. lapina


Do not guess on packaging requirements – different types of evidence can necessitate different containers Be sure to obtain “known” standards (e.g., fiber sample from carpet) Constantly check paperwork, packaging notations and other pertinent recordings for possible errors NEXT melcon s. lapina


Although it is beyond the scope of this course to teach evidence collection, some pointers are provided for two of the more common types of evidence. Latent fingerprints Bloodstained evidence Garments and fabrics Large surfaces Liquid blood samples 12 Points melcon s. lapina


When lifting latent prints, take all appropriate safety precautions. Use appropriate protective equipment when processing for latent prints, including the use of fingerprint powders. When possible, examine all evidence with a laser or alternative light source for the presence of inherent latent print fluorescence, before utilizing any other method of latent print development. When powdering for latent prints, choose a color of powder to contrast with the color of the surface being examined, with the exception of highly reflective surfaces, such as mirrors and polished chrome. The use of gray and black powders are recommended as other colors can be more difficult to photograph. NEXT melcon s. lapina


Do not apply powder to obviously greasy, wet, or bloody surfaces, or to prints left in dusty or putty. Photograph these types of prints. Allow any wet surfaces to dry before attempting to apply fingerprint powders. Preservation of latent prints dictates that a permanent record, such as photographic negatives and photographs, be ready for comparison and prosecution purposes. NEXT melcon s. lapina


Place nonporous items in individual nonporous protective coverings, such as thick transparent envelopes. Stabilize each item within each protective covering to avoid any movement or friction during shipment. Place porous items in a protective covering, such as a paper envelope. Cardboard cartons need not be shipped in assembled position, but may be flattened out and covered with a protective covering Back melcon s. lapina


Garments and Fabrics Place investigator’s identifying marks directly on the fabric in ink, as far away from stained areas as possible All moist garments or stains must be air dried before they are wrapped Air-dry the garment or item at room temperature in a secure, well-ventilated room. Do not expose items to direct sunlight or heat. Wrap each dried item separately in a closed paper container, such as a paper bag. Dry evidence packaged in paper may be stored at room temperature pending submission to the lab. Back melcon s. lapina


Blood on large surfaces such as walls, floors, or automotive surfaces: Stains on cloth may be collected on either cutting away that section of the surface bearing the stain or dismantling the stained object and submitting that portion of the object bearing the stain. Securely pack large objects to prevent the frictional removal of stains which could occur during shipment. If the item is too large to collect and package, samples of the stained areas may be collected on sterile cotton swabs. If the stain is dry, the swab will need to be moistened with clean water (preferably distilled). Back melcon s. lapina


Liquid Blood Samples Submit samples from the victim and suspect Collect at least five CCs of blood in a purple top blood-collection tube bearing the donor’s name, contributor’s case number, and investigator’s identifying marks Do not use preservatives and anti-coagulants except when DNA analysis is required Package the sample to protect it from breakage Do not add refrigerants and/or dry ice to the sample or package Seal the stopper with tape to prevent leakage resulting from altitude shipped by air Refrigerate the sample prior to submitting, but do not freeze because freezing could break the glass. Back melcon s. lapina


Complete a Final Survey of the Scene Following the complete documentation of the crime scene and the extensive collection of physical evidence there must be a final survey. The purpose of this survey is to review all the circumstances from the beginning of the crime scene investigation process. All elements of the crime scene must be reviewed and compared with one question in mind – “Have you gone far enough in the search for evidence, documenting all essential things made no assumptions which may prove to be incorrect in the future?” NEXT melcon s. lapina


This introspective approach may prevent important evidence from being missed, critical photographs from being neglected or obvious facts from being overlooked. In the inherent stress and confusion of a crime scene search, time is needed to review all observations made and actions taken. Crime Scene Checklist NEXT melcon s. lapina


Crime Scene Checklist Before a crime scene is released, a final survey must be completed. During the final survey, make sure the following have been completed: Administrative worksheet Narrative description of the scene Sketch of crime scene Scene photographed Photographs are recorded in the photographic log A film is accounted for NEXT melcon s. lapina


Physical evidence collected Evidence collected is recorded in evidence recovery log All evidence is accounted for All evidence is properly sealed and package Prints lifted are recorded in latent print lift log Equipment used in the search is gathered Back melcon s. lapina


This survey is a critical review of all aspects of the search Discuss search jointly with all personnel for completeness Double-check documentation to detect inadvertent errors Ensure that photographs are taken of scene showing final condition after completion of search Check to ensure all evidence is accounted for before departing the scene Insure all equipment used in the search is gathered Make sure possible hiding places or difficult access areas have not been overlooked in detailed search. 12 Points melcon s. lapina


Release the Scene Upon full completion of the introspective final survey, there must be a decision to release the scene. This decision must be formal, official, leave no room for misinterpretation. The authority for this decision should rest with the person who is in charge of the crime scene investigation. If it is common knowledge that a formal declaration of release must be made then those persons involved will realize that the job remains unfinished until they are otherwise informed. NEXT melcon s. lapina


When considering a decision relating to release, the officer-in-charge should accept input from the various members of the crime scene search effort. Release will then be based on information and advice gained from each area of responsibility so that no particular task will remain unaccomplished. Any hazardous or safety situations should be brought to the attention of the party who will take possession of the scene. NEXT melcon s. lapina


At minimum, the documentation should be made of: 1) Time and date of release, 2) To whom released, and 3) by whom released Ensure that appropriate inventory has been provided, as necessary considering the legal requirements Once the scene has been formally released, reentry may require a warrant Release the scene with the notion that there is only one chance to perform the job correctly and completely. Release then occurs once personnel are satisfied Consider the need to have certain specialists observe the scene before it is released (e.g., blood pattern analyst, medical examiner) melcon s. lapina


References FBI Basic Crime Scene Management (Interactive) Criminal Investigation by Wayne W. Bennet & Karen M. Hess Sirchie Crime Scene Technology Course Handbook Sirchie 2007-2008 cd-rom product catalog melcon s. lapina

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