The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that in 2008, there were an estimated 1.3 million violent crimes in the United States. Technicians that work at crime scenes collect forensic evidence to help police investigators deduce the events of a crime. Evidence that is collected can also be used to confirm that a particular suspect was involved. A crime scene technician’s work is often methodical and must be completed in specific steps. Technicians have reported a number of problems they encounter when arriving at a crime scene that make their job more difficult.
Curious onlookers can cause major problems for crime scene technicians. These spectators can leave items at the scene of a crime that can interfere with a technician’s work. Onlookers can include eyewitnesses, other police officers, and the general public. At some scenes, curious onlookers can become unmanageable and force police and crime scene technicians to leave the scene before they have recorded and obtained all of the evidence. Popular areas require greater police presence to control the perimeter of the crime scene and allow the technicians to complete their job efficiently and safely.
Crime scenes are extremely fragile. Even the presence of police investigators puts evidence in jeopardy of being tainted or ruined. Fingerprints and other evidential items can be smeared and destroyed by careless investigators and other technicians. A minimal number of people should be allowed at the scene until the technicians have completed all routine inspections. Crime scene technicians recommend that a log be kept at all scenes to record each investigator’s presence, activities, and fingerprints so they will not be confused with other evidence.
Hard-to-reach crime scenes can present a problem. Some crime scenes may be difficult to reach due to weather factors and distance. Technicians must be informed of the scene’s distance so they can prepare themselves with the appropriate equipment. At rural crime scenes, technicians have to take into consideration that weather and animal activity can interfere with decomposition times and may have played a part in the destruction of some evidence.
Removal of Evidence
If crime scene technicians are unable to respond in a timely manner, some upper level police officers may order some of the evidence to be removed from the scene of the crime. This can present multiple problems for the technician, as the evidence may not have been collected properly. Police investigators are required to photograph any evidence before it is moved and to discuss with the technician the exact location of the item and reason for its removal.