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Collecting DNA Evidence at Property Crime Scenes



Documentation of the scene begins with taking notes from the time of arrival and recording with still and video photography. Sketches are completed at the scene to illustrate relationships between articles of evidence not easily depicted by photography. The following methods of crime scene documentation are used to provide an accurate representation of the scene.

Note taking. Record the condition of the scene as it existed upon arrival. Continuously update notes during the course of the investigation.

Include such factors as:

  • Victim and witness statements.
  • Individuals present at the scene.
  • Lighting conditions.
  • Open doors and windows.
  • Odors.
  • Signs of unusual activity (explain as necessary).
  • Date and time indicators, such as newspapers or mail.
  • General descriptions of the scene and surrounding area.
  • Potential evidentiary items and locations.

Photography and videography. The primary means of crime scene documentation is still-photography. It is important to keep the scene preserved and not move anything until it is photographed. The photographer must be able to testify that the photograph is a true and accurate representation of the scene at the time the photograph was taken. Crime scene photographs should reveal a detailed, chronological story of the scene, which may need to be presented at a later time.

Sketching. Sketches are used to supplement photographs, especially spatial relationships between objects. Sketches should depict the overall layout of the scene and contain all the necessary information for the investigator to complete a final version.

Types of sketches may include the following:

  • Entire scene (the complete scene with measurements).
  • Bird's-eye view (an overhead view of the scene).
  • Elevation sketch.
  • Cross projection sketch (walls, windows, and doors are drawn as though the walls had been folded out flat on the floor).
  • Three dimensional sketch.
  • Triangulation method (two or more reference points are located. The item of evidence or interest is then documented by measuring along a straight line from the reference points to the item).

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