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Collecting DNA Evidence at Property Crime Scenes

Victim Interview

Cartoon photo of victims being interviewed at a police station
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

It is imperative that the investigator obtain as much information as possible regarding the circumstances of the crime prior to entering the scene. Statements from witnesses and victims can broaden the scope of the investigation. The investigator develops an approach to the scene based on this information and the nature of the crime. At the scene of a burglary, attention will focus on the points of entry and exit.

When possible, to help determine what evidence may have been left behind by the suspect, ask the victims a series of questions:

  • What has been moved, handled, or touched by the perpetrator(s)?
  • Has the victim noticed anything unusual or out of the ordinary? (For example cigarette butts in a nonsmoker's home; gloves or masks not recognized may have been left at the scene.)
  • Did the victim pick things up, move items back or clean up?
  • Have food/beverage items or containers been left behind by the perpetrator?

Document what questions were asked of the victim and the reason for asking in order to justify evidence identification, collection and preservation. This supports the chain-of-custody requirement.

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