Capturing the scene

One of the first steps in processing any crime scene is to create an extensive record of the scene and the evidence present. This record gives investigators (and later the courts) an accurate picture of what a crime scene looked like when it was discovered. Documenting a scene is usually achieved through taking photographs/videos and making precise measurements of the scene itself. Whilst the general process of documentation will be similar for each crime scene, the level of detail in which a scene is recorded will usually be dependent on the severity of the offence.

Forensic photography

Forensic photography

To fully document a scene, scenes of crime officers (SOCOs) must take photographs that show the environment of a scene, the overall appearance of the scene and close-ups of individual items of evidence:

  • Environmental photographs - these shots will consist of the widest possible views of the scene and the surrounding area. For example, if an offence took place inside a house, environmental shots might be taken of the outside of the property and any nearby streets.
  • Overall photographs – photographs should be taken that display the general appearance of the immediate crime scene. Any evidence of potential movement of the perpetrator(s) and victims(s) throughout the scene should be documented.
  • Evidence photographs – each piece of physical evidence found at a scene should be photographed in place before it is moved (unless a medical emergency is taking place). When these shots are taken, an L-shaped scale is often placed next to the evidence in order to record its size.

Crime scene reconstruction

Traditionally, the dimensions and locations of objects within a scene were documented through sketches, hand drawn by SOCOs. However, in recent years, these sketches have been replaced by computer generated 3D models of the crime scene based on measurements taken by advanced surveying equipment. These models are extremely useful when presenting evidence in court as they allow users to take an active tour of the crime scene.

Crime scene reconstruction

Discussion prompt

How do you think the increasing use of virtual reality devices in society will affect how crime scenes are recorded and examined in the future?

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The Science Behind Forensic Science

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