If you’ve been following my blogs you’ll be accustom to what I get up to at various crime scenes, ranging from vehicle and burglaries to the more serious crimes (although major crime is tricky for me to cover on social media sites). But what some of you often wonder is what I get up to in the office. This post is designed to make you more familiar with what happens when I return from a crime scene.
I’ve just returned from a scene carrying lots of exhibits, which will all be sealed in evidence bags. I’ll most likely take a seat at my desk first, positioning my laptop back on its stand. My camera bag will be placed on the floor, I’ll sit down and put my exhibits to my left. Next to my laptop on the right is a torch battery charger, to the left is my phone and box files. Inside the files are various documents I’ve felt the need to keep, whether it be important information or the odd thanks from the public (it was my pleasure). Surrounding me are images that a colleague took for our 999 day presentation a few months ago. She is highly skilled with a camera, and it gives me a bar to aim at. The large rolled up item is a poster I’m yet to find a home for, though I’m sure there are many out there with their eyes on it!
I would’ve completed my report whilst at the scene, so I’ll upload this onto the main server allowing other members of staff to view it. I’ll then take my flash card of images, taken on my Nikon D300 digital camera, to the disk burner and copy two CDs. For more serious crime I may be required to burn a few more copies. The burner sits in between two machines: the FISH machine (Forensic Information Scanning Hub) and a dual screen desktop. The double screens allow us to compare images of footwear marks we’ve taken with the National Footwear Reference Collection (NFRC), which is a large database of most footwear patterns. We will have a good search and try to identify which shoe our crime scene mark belongs to.
Our FISH machine is what we use to send over our fingerprint lifts, fingerprint elimination forms and images relevant to the Fingerprint Bureau. This can be a lengthy process if lots of fingerprint lifts were taken at a scene, so it may require me to multi-task whilst I wait for them to scan. The images will then be received by our Fingerprint Bureau who can instantly view them if the need is great. For non major crime there’s always a backlog.
If I’ve seized wet items, which may be more common with the wintery weather, I’ll utilize the drying cabinet. The cabinet is often used for blood stained clothing too, so it requires a good clean after every use. Next to the cabinet is a photographic stand with additional lighting and a stand for the camera, ideal for close up photography. It may not always be possible to photograph an item close up at a scene, so the item could be recovered and photographed using this stand.
If an item needs fingerprint powder treatment, we have a room in which this can be done. Often a police officer will collect an item which they want examining for prints, or we will seize an item that’s not practical to examine at the scene. Our fingerprint bench will suck to powder down into the table, so the examiner isn’t surrounded by a dust cloud. There are various powders at our disposal upon the bench.
Once my work with any exhibits is complete I will book them into our property store, uploading details of each item onto the property database. Any exhibits requiring DNA treatment will be placed in the lab awaiting transportation to the Submissions Department. It’s there that these will be forwarded to a Forensic Service Provider for examination. We would expect results back in a week or so, unless a major case where it’s sooner. We also have a Chemical Treatment Laboratory who use chemicals to recover further forensic evidence. Exhibits requiring treatment by them will be left in our lab also awaiting transportation.
That’s the basics to what I do when I return to the office, excluding all the statements, emails and phone calls. Always plenty to do, and it requires good organisational and planning skills to keep on track.
There might be a cheeky sandwich in there somewhere too, if I’m lucky.
SOCO in full protective clothing #forensics #police #CSI
Me suited up, looking for blood. #forensics #police
This turned out to be a cigarette lighter, but still caused concern at a scene. #forensics #CSI
Zephyr brush #forensics #fingerprints
Looking for forensic evidence #forensics #CSI
Scenes Of Crime Officer at the beach #forensics #CSI #brighton
What shoe left a footwear mark at my crime scene. Searching the system. #forensics #footwear
Interior Designer(@laurence_lb)Laurence Llewelyn Bowen is well known for decorating people’s homes, making the room nicer to live in and telling a story through his artwork. But what happens when that room is a crime scene? Well Laurence helped tell me a story, and this is how.
I was called to attend a large house which had been broken into overnight. The burglar had accessed the house by climbing through a rear window, and stole contents from the home worth in the thousands. What made the scene even more significant to me was the husband and wife had five young children, and the break-in had shaken them all. Like a noble lion, the husband wanted nothing more than to protect his family, and I felt part of that wish. I set to work trying to find any evidence the offender had left behind.
I dealt with footwear marks the offender had left behind, following their path as they scurried across the room. I was struggling to develop any fingerprints, especially on the window which had been climbed through. I then saw something which caught my eye.
Poking out the window was a tag, and on the inside of the window was a large mirror. The tag was swaying in the wind, with Laurence Llewelyn Bowen staring back at me. It was attached to one of his designer mirrors, which was leant against the window on the inside of the home. I was told by the owners that the mirror had been moved. Did the offender pull out the tag to have a look at what they’d be moving? It appeared the offender couldn’t climb through the window without moving the mirror first. I grabbed my powder brush, looked Laurence in the eye, and covered him in glittery silver powder. To my delight a fingerprint was revealed.
I spent a long time at the burgled home as there were lots for me to examine. I recovered many fingerprints from further in the house, recovered other types of evidence, offered support and advice to the family, then headed back to the office to process my work.
A few days later I received the results from the Fingerprint Bureau. All my fingerprint lifts either matched members of the family or were insufficient for comparison. All but one. The one lift I recovered from the mirror tag had identified someone on the database unknown to the family. He was found guilty at court and given a jail sentence.
Interior Designer Laurence Llewelyn Bowen is well known for decorating people’s homes, making the room nicer to live in and telling a story through his artwork. On that day I read the story he left me. Together we helped give closure to a family, and made their home nicer to live in.
In this blog I’d like YOU to be the Scenes Of Crime Officer. Don’t worry, I won’t be asking you to throw on a white all-in-one suit and decorate your living room with fingerprint powder. What I’ll do is post a press release, which I’ve changed slightly, add a few pictures and get you thinking about evidence you would recover if you were a SOCO. I’ll be mentoring you, giving you some help along the way.
The press release is as follows:
On Sunday 9th September 2012 at around 1530 hours, a Blue Citroen AX and a Red Volkswagen Golf were involved in a Road Rage incident on the A27 between Lyons Farm Shopping Centre and the Grove Lodge Veterinary Practice, Worthing where the Blue Citroen had its drivers window smashed by the occupant of the Volkswagen.
Police are appealing for witnesses regarding this attack and the manner of driving of both vehicles.
The vehicle was driven to the police station straight after the incident, and you get a phone call requesting your attendance. You have all your equipment with you, and you’re ready to offer your assistance.
So what would you do? I’m sure shows like CSI would have the vehicle fully analysed, taking the vehicle apart, swabbing and fingerprinting everything. But is this practical for the owner of the car?
You take a closer look at the smashed window, a really close look. Notice anything?
Apart from your reflection on the car door (as it’s a Sunday and you’re not fully alert) you also notice a red stain on the door, just under the window. This appears to be blood, which could be the offenders. You take a wet swab of this, using a small capsule of sterile water on the swab, to collect the blood.
Anything else you’d do with the car door? How about all that glass? When glass shatters small fragments go everywhere, and could fall on the offenders clothing. A sample from the window frame would be ideal if a suspect is arrested and their clothing seized, which could both be compared and potentially matched at a later date.
Take a closer look inside the door.
Blood on the inside of the door would suggest that whoever left it there must’ve done so when the window was down or in this case, smashed. You take another swab of this.
A close examination of the door frame and glass reveal no fibres, hairs or skin cells. So there’s nothing left to do but to examine the car door for fingerprints and possibly a footwear mark.
Well done, a fingerprint lift! You then take the owners fingerprints so the Expert at the Fingerprint Bureau will know if it’s the owners marks or not. Unfortunately no footwear marks were found on the door, so the owner is then free to get his car fixed.
You send off your blood swab from the inside of the vehicle, and identify a suspect. With the forensic evidence, and witness statements, the suspect is found guilty at court for criminal damage and common assault. Nice work.