We see it on the television all the time – a detective walks up to a crime scene, and pokes around. You see them pick up one lone strand of hair, take it to a laboratory, put it into a machine, it spins round a few times and then tells said detective everything they need to know. The case sewn up neatly inside an hour.
Now most of us know that what we see on television isn’t real, but just how true to life is it?
The truth is an officer would not collect evidence or even “contaminate” a crime scene; they would call in the Crime Scene Investigators.
And similarly CSIs are not there to interview suspects or “catch the bad guys”.Their job is to collect evidence, mainly fingerprints, footprints or stray fibres. And unlike what is portrayed on the TV that is a painstaking and patient process.
Crime scene investigation is a mix of science, logic and law with no two crime scenes the same. It starts with a walk through and maybe a chat with the victim to see if anything has moved, is there a place where evidence could be, for example fingerprints on a window frame.
Then the scene is photographed. Only once that is done does the CSI start to collect the evidence. Potential transportable evidence is tagged, logged and sealed so it gets back to the lab intact. The evidence that can’t be moved is captured in situ.
Pictured - A CSI preserving a scene
Depending on the case the Crime Scene Investigator could be at the scene for hours searching for that one piece of evidence which could establish and convict the perpetrator.
Once the evidence has been extracted, whether at the scene or in the lab it is then sent to the UK for further analysis, whether that is DNA testing or fingerprint matching.
Pictured - A CSI working on gathering evidence in the lab
To do the job you have to be patient, methodical and observant, as it would be incredibly rare to tie up a case within an hour – unlike on the television.