This post has been contributed by Amisha Saxena, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad

Definition: The Scene of Crime is a place where a particular crime has been committed or where physical evidence of such crime is found.

Importance:

  1. The scene of crime is extremely important as it is where the investigation begins and the most important evidence is gathered. The same can be understood through Locard’s Principle of Exchange. Locard’s Principle of Exchange states that when 2 objects come into contact, there is always an exchange of material. The criminal may avoid being seen, heard or caught in any other way, but he cannot avoid coming into contact with the environment.
  2. The crime scene helps link the criminal and the victim and the scene of the occurrence, helping establish a chain of events.
  3. It helps identify if any weapons were used in the crime. The nature of these weapons can also be understood.
  4. It also helps the investigators understand if any transport was used by the criminal.
  5. The routes of entry and exit, or ingress and egress can also be traced.
  6. It can also help establish the modus operandi of the criminal.

Nature: Crime scene may not be limited to one place or the immediate surroundings of where the crime took place.

Crime scenes may be divided into the following categories:

  • Indoor – Examples are domestic violence, any offense that takes place in a car etc
  • Outdoor– Examples are death caused by a vehicle on a road, acid attack in public etc
  • Crimes with no crime scene – Examples are a forgery and cybercrime etc

Crime Scene Management and Investigation

The first step at crime scene investigation is establishing the dimensions and ensuring the safety of the victim or anyone present at the scene itself.

  1. The investigating officer first of all needs to find the exact location where the crime took place. He establishes the dimensions by locating this focal point.
  2. He also has to look out for secondary scenes. As previously stated, the crime scene cannot be limited in its circumference. Therefore, he must be extra cautious at all times.
  3. If the victim or any of the victims are present at the crime scene itself, he must ensure that they are safe and not harmed in any way. If they are at risk from any kind of biohazard, weapons or traps they must be taken away from the scene and given medical attention if needed.

Preservation of the Crime Scene

The crime scene needs to be protected and preserved to ensure evidence is not trampled upon.

  • The first person to arrive at the crime scene should protect it from passers-by and interested persons. He may do so by making sure the scene is isolated.
  • No items on the scene should be touched, displaced or altered in any way unless the investigating officer gives a nod for the same.
  • Crime scene boundaries should be established by marking entry and exit points.
  • Anyone who enters or exits the scenes must make sure his entry is recorded by the authorities.
  • Anyone who is entering must submit his DNA samples and his fingerprints to ensure no confusion in the future.
  • Any evidence that is biological in nature and can be affected by temperature or any other weather conditions must be collected immediately.
  • If a scene is a combination of both outdoors and indoors, the outdoors must be investigated first as they are more prone to tampering.
  • The evidence must be dealt with by the investigator only after he wears hand gloves.
  • Spilling or contamination in all forms must be prevented by use of glass bottles with proper lids or stoppers.

a) Recording of the crime scene

Once it is ensured that the crime scene is protected, the investigator must record the evidence found in the presence of two reliable witnesses who can later on confirm all the findings in a court of law.

1. The records must show all pertinent observances made at the crime scene

2. The FIR time and date must be recorded.

3. A brief description of the area must be given.

4. The names of all witnesses, officers and investigators must be recorded.

5. Weather and lighting conditions must also be recorded, along with the date and time of completion of the investigation.

6. The examination must be of the interior in case of rape or murder. Evidences collected through interior examination usually contain fingerprints, blood, fibres, hair, dust, etc.

7. In case of exterior examinations, the evidences collected include broken head lights, dents, damaged paint etc.

b) Sketching the crime scene

1. A rough sketch of the crime scene along with the photographs gives a good presentation of the scene.

2. The sketch must be prepared at the site itself and the distances between objects must be measured, scaled and then drawn. The direction and angles at which objects are observed must also be measured using a compass and then drawn.

c) Photographing the crime scene

1. Photographs of the crime scene help bring the crime scene to the court before the judge.

2. A video film or photograph can help maintain the crime scene for a longer period of time. 

3. A video film also helps verify the facts put forth by the investigation officer.

4. In outdoor crime scenes, especially the ones on roads and highways, tyre and skid marks can’t be preserved for too long as the traffic cannot be stopped. Therefore, photography of such evidence is the best way to preserve it.

5. Another scenario in which a video camera plays an important role can be any crime in which multiple offenders are involved, like a riot. The video film shall help in identifying the criminals and the part played by them in the crime. 

Methods of Searching For Evidence

1. The Strip Method

The crime scene is blocked into a rectangle and on each parallel side one investigator starts looking for a clue. Once all clues are collected, the packaging and preservation is done as prescribed.

2.  The Spiral Method

The crime scene is approached by the investigator in a spiral, from outside to inside until he reaches the centre. This method is usually used for indoor crime scene investigations.

3.  Zone Method

The crime scene is blocked into a big square, which is then divided into smaller squares and each smaller square is investigated individually. A combination of this and spiral method is used mostly for outdoor investigations.

4. The Wheel Method

The crime scene is encompassed into a circle and then the investigators have to start from the centre of the circle and proceed outwards in all directions looking for clues. If need be, the steps may be re-done multiple times.

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