Our televisions and movie screens are filled with so many examples of criminal investigations these days that we might all be forgiven for considering ourselves borderline experts in the strict process of crime scene analysis. While some shows do a remarkable job of portraying the meticulous nature of a forensic search, it pays to remember that no show or movie is without its level of artistic license. The actual process takes longer and is more methodical than it can portray in a relatively short time, but it is no less fascinating. This article will examine the working processes and reasonings behind any competent crime scene investigation and what needs to be done before the experts at Aftercare are called in to perform our unrivaled Virginia crime scene sanitation services.
Preserving the scene
The first arriving law-enforcement officers must ensure everyone is safe from ongoing threats, then isolate and secure the scene to protect any evidence. This may include preventing suspects from destroying or tampering with elements of the scene during arrest and seeking medical assistance from any attending paramedics as required. Once they are satisfied that no contamination has occurred, crime scene tape can be used to show it is an area under active investigation and must not be entered.
Although each crime scene is unique and must be approached as such, what happens next should always go precisely by the book. Several steps are taken to ensure due diligence is performed and the scene’s integrity is preserved, especially consequential in cases where forensic evidence is integral to the prosecution. Accidental contamination or deviations from strict protocol can result in a mistrial, evidence being declared inadmissible, or, as a worst-case scenario, innocent individuals being implicated and perhaps even convicted.
Who examines the scene next?
The individuals charged with further examining any crime scene will depend mainly on the nature of the crime and the available resources. A detective will usually be assigned and take responsibility for the overall running of the investigation. Their tasks will include interviewing suspects, witnesses, and victims once a painstaking search of the scene has been performed. However, before they instigate this search, it is customary to survey the scene, soaking up all the critical details, eliminating the extraneous ones, and formulating a picture of how events transpired. The scene will be carefully photographed once the lead investigator is satisfied, and the next phase can begin.
This element of the investigation is the most crucial of all and must be done right the first time, every time. Searching for and collecting evidence is typically executed with the assistance of/working alongside professional crime scene personnel. These highly-trained professionals consist of crime scene photographers and experienced evidence collectors, and it is how they go about their business that can make or break any criminal proceedings that follow.
To prevent damage or contamination, all evidence must be secured and collected using specific procedures, techniques, and equipment. The team will focus on searching for and collecting:
- Latent finger, hand, and footprints
- DNA — saliva, semen, hair follicles, blood and other bodily fluids
- Traces of other materials — fibers from clothing, cigarette ash, glass, biological materials like grass or soil, and myriad other unknown substances. These can often be the key to linking the scene to another location or proving that certain individuals were present if no prints or biological materials are present.
- Digital evidence — handheld devices, phone records, internet histories, emails
- Weapons — including potential weapons and residues from firearm discharges
- Tools and tool marks — especially around entrance points
- Drug paraphernalia
Additional photographs of any evidence being collected will be taken. This is done to show the exact location of the items and prove to a jury that everything was handled professionally and per the regulations. Rulers or other recognizable items are often placed near any pieces of evidence in situ before they are collected to show scale.
As evidence is identified and collected, it is marked with an evidence label and officially logged. At this point, a chain of custody begins, and each new person interacting with that evidence must be formally recorded. Without this meticulous process, any collected evidence may be deemed inadmissible and omitted from any subsequent trial. This process often seems rather exciting and glamorous on screen, but, in reality, it is far from glamorous. These hard-working professionals have trained themselves to disassociate from the horror of certain scenes emotionally, but after years of repeated exposure, they are sure to take a toll.
What happens next?
Only once every scrap of evidence has been located and collected, the scene has been recorded from top to bottom, and the lead investigator is satisfied can the cleanup experts be called in. Step up the Aftercare crew, ready to remove any traces of the unfortunate event and return the scene to a state of normality. This includes the safe, responsible removal and disposal of biohazards like blood and other bodily fluids and must be done under strict safety protocols.
Our fully trained, licensed crime scene cleanup crew is unrivaled at handling unpleasant scenes, including those where unattended deaths mean the levels of contamination and odor are off the scale. We approach each scene, no matter how grisly, with ultimate professionalism, and are available for cleanups 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our respectful, discreet, and efficient team can be with you quickly, no matter the time, and will take the stress and the burden of cleaning up off your shoulders. This allows you to distance yourself from such a traumatic location and deal with other aspects connected with what is unquestionably a shocking time.
At Aftercare, we have worked tirelessly and maintained maximum professional integrity for many years to achieve an unsurpassed reputation for excellence. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of requiring emergency remediation services in the most challenging circumstances, you could not be in better hands. If you have any questions or comments about our wide range of professional cleanup services, please contact us at your earliest convenience; the team is standing by to assist you however we can.