Crime scene management is crucial for ensuring quality, integrity and quantity of evidence gathered. This paper seeks to explore the aspects associated with crime scene management, including primary and secondary crime scenes, macroscopic and microscopic crime scenes, the usefulness of physical evidence and information that can be gathered from it, reconstruction of the crime scene, management of the crime scene, duties of the first responding officer, documenting of the scene, and the collection of evidence. Based on the following discussion, successful crime scene investigation requires the identification of all physical evidence, which is then followed by documenting the crime scene, and collecting, packing as well as preserving the evidence. If evidence is collected properly, then the reconstruction of the crime scene is possible. Physical evidence can offer diverse information related to corpus delicti; the perpetrators modus operandi; linkages between objects, scenes, and persons; identified suspects; and investigative leads. It is also important for the crime scene investigator to consider the elements of scene management, including information, manpower, technology, and logistics management. Furthermore, first responders must safeguard the crime scene and ensure the victims as well as witnesses safety. The crime scene should be documented using note-taking, videography, photography, and sketching.
The management of a crime scene has a substantial effect on the integrity, quantity, and quality of the evidence collected. Thus, it is essential for investigators to prioritize and identify crime scenes since they are likely to contain crucial material needed to ensure a successful investigation (Crispino, 2008). This paper discusses the aspects associated with crime scene management, including primary and secondary crime scenes, macroscopic and microscopic crime scenes, the usefulness of physical evidence, reconstruction and management of the crime scene, duties of the first responding officer, documentation of the scene, and collection of evidence.
One of the ways of classifying crime scenes is based on the location where the crime has been committed (James, Nordby, & Bell, 2014). Thus, crimes scenes can be categorized as either primary or secondary. The primary crime scene refers to the location where the actual crime has happened (Gardner, 2011). On the other hand, the secondary crime scene is associated with the crime, though it is not the place where the actual felony has occurred. Gardner (2011) points out that primary crime scenes produce more useful evidence when compared to secondary crimes scenes, though this is not always the case. Sometimes, investigators are compelled to work solely with the secondary crime scene to facilitate the identification of the perpetrator or the location of the primary scene.
The second manner in which crime scenes are classified depends on size. Based on this categorization, a single macroscopic crime scene comprises of numerous crime scenes. For instance, in the case of a victim of a gunshot dumped in a field, the scene consists of numerous crime scenes including the ground surrounding the body, the wounds found in the body, and the body itself . On the other hand, in microscopic crime scenes, more emphasis is placed on the particular kinds of physical evidence found within the macroscopic scene. Based on the aforementioned example, microscopic scenes might include gunshot residues surrounding the wound and trace evidence found on the body.
Crime scene investigations have the objectives of recognizing, preserving, collecting, interpreting, and reconstructing all the pertinent physical evidence found at a crime scene. An examination of the physical evidence is conducted at the forensic laboratory in order to offer the investigator crucial information regarding the evidence that could help resolve the case. The integration of crime scene investigation together with forensic analysis of the physical evidence found at the scene is the foundation of crime scene investigation.
Numerous types of information are obtained from the examination of the physical evidence collected from a crime scene. First of all, there is information obtained from physical evidence, which relates to the corpus delicti. In this regard, physical evidence is useful for highlighting the essential facts related to an organization . The second type of information obtained from physical evidence encompasses modus operandi, which relates to the methods used by the criminals. Thirdly, the information from physical evidence can be used to link objects, scenes and persons (James et al., 2014). The most common and important linkage facilitated by physical evidence entails connecting suspects to victims. Moreover, physical evidence is also helpful for linking suspects and victims to objects. These connections are depicted in Figure 1. Fourthly, the information gathered from physical evidence can be used to prove or disprove witness statements wherein their accuracy and credibility can be ascertained using physical evidence . Moreover, the information that results from physical evidence can helpful in identifying suspects through forensic examination, which entails recognizing, identifying, individualizing, and reconstructing the crime scene. The first three steps facilitate the suspects identification, which leads to the identification or determination of the source of physical evidence . Next, the information obtained from physical evidence can help to identify unknown substances used during the crime, such as poison or drugs. Moreover, the information gathered during the process allows to reconstruct the crime, which is the last step in the process of forensic examination. Crime scene investigators place more emphasis on understanding how a criminal activity has occurred than identifying and individualizing the evidence found at the scene. Crispino asserts that the how aspect of the crime scene is of more importance when compared to the who aspect. Lastly, the information collected from physical evidence can provide investigative leads. Nevertheless, not all physical evidence found at the scene of crime may have a direct link to the suspect. In most cases, such information offers investigative leads, which Gardner considers to be the most crucial use of physical evidence with respect to criminal investigation.
Figure 1. Linkages between crime scene, suspect, victim and object facilitated by physical evidence
The four distinct albeit interrelated elements of crime scene management include information management, manpower management, technology management, and logistics management. Overemphasis, deficiencies, and negligence in any of these components can hinder the success of a crime scene investigation. These components hinge upon the need for effective and continuing communication among the personnel in the course of investigation. Information management entails recording, analyzing, gathering and preserving information from such diverse sources as the victim, witnesses, suspects, databases, and records. Manpower management ensures the allocation of adequate personnel in various crime scene functions, such as lab scientists. It also encompasses the training of staff to make sure that they are capable of performing their responsibilities effectively. Logistics management focuses on addressing logistics concerns in order to ensure that the maximum possible information is collected from the crime scene in the course of the first 24 hours. The logistics issues to be considered include command posts, media relations, and a suitable crime scene investigation model. Technology management involves the use of appropriate technologies to aid the investigation process.
The first responding officer has various duties, such as assisting the victim, searching for and arresting the victim if he/she is still on the scene, detaining all witnesses, and protecting the crime scene using barrier tapes, official vehicles or any other means. When securing the crime scene, the first responder should document the names everyone entering and leaving the scene. They should also refrain from eating or drinking at the crime scene. Moreover, unnecessary individuals should be prevented from gaining access or contaminating the scene. Moreover, the first responder has a duty of noting and informing crime scene investigators about all alterations made to the scene.
The documentation of a crime scene takes place after it has been assessed using a preliminary scene survey. Emphasis is placed on documenting the condition of the crime scene, and it is considered the most critical step in crime scene processing. Documentation has the primary objective of permanently recording the crime scenes condition, including all available physical evidence. The tasks undertaken during the documentation of the crime scene include note-taking, sketching, photography, and videography. All these tasks must be performed and none of the activities should be considered a sufficient substitute for another one.
The next step after the documentation of the crime scene is the collection and preservation of the physical evidence. Consistency in evidence collection requires the same person to collect, package, mark, seal, and preserve the evidence. There are no strict rules for the order of collecting evidence; however, some types of evidence should be prioritized based on their nature. In this regard, the collector should first gather the evidence that is fragile, transient, and can be lost easily.
Crime scene investigation marks the commencement of the successful utilization of physical evidence by the investigator. Sufficient crime scene investigation requires the identification of all physical evidence, followed by the documentation, collection, packaging and preservation of the evidence, and, lastly, the reconstruction of the scene. The investigator should look at both primary and secondary crime scene as well as the macroscopic and microscopic crime scenes. The management of the crime scene should also ensure balance among information, manpower, technology, and logistics. Moreover, it is imperative for first responders to protect the crime scene and ensure the victims safety while at the same time detaining any witnesses still present at the scene. The crime scene should be documented using note-taking, videography, photography, and sketching.