Thursday, April 10, 2008

Crime Scene Tips

I told you it has been a crazy week. This morning I walked into a crime scene--nothing major mind you--but still, it made me wonder how many people know what to do when this situation occurs. Here's some tips:

  • Be aware. Most of us wander around on auto pilot and could be standing behind a guy robbing a bank teller and not even know it! Pay attention to your surroundings and notice when things don't look right.
  • When you notice something doesn't look right, stop. Right there in your tracks. It takes the brain a moment to process what you are seeing if it is traumatic/unusual/unexpected. Of course, don't ignore your instincts if every part of you is saying "run", in many dangerous situations this is exactly what you should do.
  • Once you have ascertained that there is a problem, exit the situation. Back up a safe distance. The only reason you should enter a crime scene is to save a life, everything else can wait until the investigation is completed. If someone is dead, don't touch them or alter the scene in anyway. Note if there are any immediate hazards and take corrective action if necessary (ie: turn off the gas if the line is broken).
  • Remember not to touch anything. Don't remove anything, don't walk through the scene, don't clean up anything. Try to leave the scene untouched. If you did touch something, move something, etc, remember (write it down if need be) what you did and report it to the investigator.
  • Make note of anything you feel would be important to the investigation: time of your arrival, who else was at the scene, license plate of any suspicious vehicle, any unusual events/smells/activities/etc. If you have a camera (and without entering the perimeter of the crime scene) snap pictures or video tape the event.
  • Call 911 immediately and wait for assistance to arrive.
  • Don't talk to anyone else who arrives on scene other than to say that you have called for help. Same with the media. Especially with the media. Sometimes things that are said can become misconstrued, misquoted, or mishandled and negatively impact the investigation. If necessary, do what you can to keep others out of the crime scene.
  • Be reasonably cooperative with investigators. Provide factual information as requested but refrain from guessing the what/who/how/why of the situation or theorizing out loud. Let the investigators do their job. Also, stay out of the investigator's way.
  • Ask the incident commander (whoever seems to be in charge) what you should do, where you should wait, or if you can leave. Also, ask for the card of whoever interviews you in case you remember something later or have questions after you leave the scene.
  • Sometimes a situation like this can be turned on it's head and you will feel like you are prime suspect number one. Remember that you should follow reasonable requests from the authorities but can also walk away if you are not being detained or charged. Once detained or charged, you have (and often should use) the right to remain silent and to speak with an attorney.

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