Establishing Crime Scenes
One of the most important elements in any type of crime scene reconstruction (not recreation -because it is impossible to recreate the events as they actually happened unless you were present during the commission of the crime) is the necessity of establishing crime scenes, very few crime fiction or mystery writers like James Patterson or David Baldacci rarely if ever deal with this in any plausible way.
Basic necessities in establishing crime scenes
The first necessity is “to rope it off,” in others word to place boundaries by stringing crime scene tape establishing what is believed to be the entire scene, if later it’s discovered the scene is large than expected it can be enlarged by moving the tape or placing another perimeter which is the better of the two options.
Establish a log after “roping it off”
Investigators establish a log of everyone who has been inside the crime scene prior to “roping it off”. This includes first responders, patrol officers, relatives and what they did when they first entered the scene. Did they touch the body? How did they approach the body? What were their first impressions and what did they see, touch or smell? These can all be important components to establishing crime scenes.
Log who enters once the primary scene is established
Investigators log everyone who enters the scene by date, name, position or responsibility, time in and time out. It is always best to have a primary scene established, an intermediate scene where command staff can enter to receive briefings from the investigators without entering the crime scene. Finally, establish a press area where the command staff can meet and brief the media on elements of the investigation. Always keep in mind with shotgun microphones and zoom lenses the press can often photograph and listen into the conversations. They are not intended to hear these conversations, so it’s important to have your investigators be discrete in their discussions.
Fingerprints can be lifted if the factors are right
It is possible to lift latent prints off of a human body if the crime screen is discovered soon enough or if environmental factors are right. Investigators need to be aware of possible trace evidence. This includes hair, carpet fibers, dirt, leaves transferred from the actual crime scene to the body dump site, rope fibers, etc. If the murder is a serial killer, do they display the bodies of their victims to communicate a specific message? If they do, it is best to somehow keep this display out of the view of the public or press.
Why is all of this important to fiction writers? Proper crime scene management adds realistic elements of drama to the scene, it can be used to develop tension between characters, and it is how things are actually done.