Crime Scene Investigation

Criminal Investigation

CRJ 220

Crime Scene Investigation

The sole purpose of a criminal investigation is to identify the responsible person or persons and to establish what happened at the scene of the crime (crime scene reconstruction). (Jetmore, 2006)

The initial inquiry normally takes place soon after a crime has been committed or reported, police officers are usually the first on scene to protect the scene of the crime and to ensure that no additional threat to community, other first responders like paramedics or other law enforcement such as the investigators exist. While also protecting the crime scene by securing the area, conducting a preliminary scan for possible evidence or witnesses, the officer on site might also digitally capture the crime scene through pictures and/or video. Critical to solving and prosecuting violent crimes is the ability to recognize and properly collect all relevant physical evidence while meticulously documenting all conditions at a crime scene. An investigator must never leap to an immediate conclusion as to what happened based upon limited information but with careful and thoughtful approach must generate several different theories of the crime, keeping only those theories which are not eliminated by information recovered from the scene. (Jetmore, 2006)

Carefully documenting the conditions at a crime scene include the immediate transient details, for example lighting (on/off), curtains (open/closed), window itself (open/closed), if furniture has been moved (by medical teams or the activity at the scene). Critical evidence if not collected immediately can easily be destroyed or lost, evidence such as gunshot residue, shoeprints and as with rape DNA. The unique nature of the crime of rape and how often the physical evidence plays such a critical role in obtaining a conviction, poses a significant challenge to an investigator.

One strategy a criminal investigator could take in order to conduct an efficient follow-up investigation might be first to ensure that a crime did indeed take place, next to ensure that he/she has the most correct and in-depth information, to conduct interviews with all witnesses, victims and first responders ensuring that all names and contact information of all witnesses, victims and first responders are accurate. (Christine Hess Orthmann, 2013)

A homicide investigation differs from a rape investigation in that the victim is usually not alive to tell their story and as an investigator we must tell their story while a rape victim is able to provide detailed information of the attack such as the physical appearance of the attacker, the behavior and the location of the attack. In a homicide the details of how the victim wound up dead rest on the hard work of the investigator to piece what happened together through the gathering of evidence at the scene, recreating the scene itself to determine if the victims death resulted in their attempt to defend themselves, was this death the result of suicide by conducting interviews, gathering of evidence and talking to witnesses while a rape victim is the witness and can provide the most evidence. A rape victim can describe all aspects of their attack providing details and evidence immediately which could assist in the arrest of the attacker.

Important characteristics of an effective criminal investigator is tenacity, determination, a desire to seek justice, ethical, a healthy separation of emotions from the task, be a critical thinker and lover of puzzles. An investigator who loves the community he/she serves gives their very best to ensure that justice prevails, he/she works to provide answers which equal closure to families, one who is able to solve a problem makes for a great investigator.

I am of the opinion that media can be a two-edged sworn and we should wield it carefully, too much information could signal the suspect or corrupt witnesses and not enough could send a community into panic mode. While I believe that the citizens deserve all the information regarding crimes in their community I also believe that as law enforcement officials we are obligated to provide the most accurate information possible and avoid false or exaggerated news which only creates anxiety.


Christine Hess Orthmann, K. M. (2013). Criminal Investigation . Mason: Cengage Learning.

Jetmore, D. L. (2006, June 15). Forensic Science & Real-World Investigations. Retrieved from Investigating Rape Crimes, Part 1: Guidlines for first Responders: