What is Crime Scene Investigation?
Crime scene investigations involves employing forensic science tools, procedures, and processes to investigate a crime scene and the collection of forensic evidence.
What is Forensic Science?
Forensic science, more commonly known as forensics, is the application of sciences to answer questions of interest to a legal system. Forensics may be used to answer questions in relation to a crime or a civil action. Forensics encompasses the accepted scholarly or scientific methodology and norms under which the facts regarding an event, or an artifact, or some other physical item (such as a corpse) is ascertained as being the case. The concept, therefore, is related to the notion of authentication, whereby an interest outside of a legal form exists in determining whether an object is what it purports to be, or is alleged as being.
The word forensic comes from the Latin adjective forensis, meaning “of or before the forum.” In Roman times, a criminal charge meant presenting the case before a group of public individuals in the forum. Both the person accused of the crime and the accuser would give speeches based on their side of the story.
The individual with the best argument and delivery would determine the outcome of the case. This origin is the source of the two modern usages of the word as a form of legal evidence and as a category of public presentation.
Private investigators with specialized training and education may engage in various forms of forensic investigations such as:
- Forensic accounting
- Forensic computer software examination and analysis
- Document examinations
- Crime scene investigations
Ballistics and Firearms
Ballistics is the science that deals with the motion, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and hurling projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance. A ballistic body is a body which is free to move, behave, and be modified in appearance, contour, or texture by ambient conditions, substances, or forces, as by the pressure of gases in a gun, by rifling in a barrel, by gravity, by temperature, or by air particles.science that deals with the motion, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and hurling projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.Ballistics is the science that deals with the motion, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and hurling projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance. A ballistic missile is a missile only guided during the relatively brief initial powered phase of flight and its course is subsequently governed by the laws of classical mechanics. In the field of forensic science, forensic ballistics is the science of analyzing firearm usage in crimes.
Following are websites that provide information on firearm identification and ballistic forensics:
- Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners – The Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners is the professional organization for those in the forensic ballistics field. This site contains news, information and links.
- Firearms Identification and Forensic Ballistics – FirearmID.com contains information on firearms identification, including identification of bullets, cartridge cases, and other ammunition components as having been fired from a specific firearm. Also describes the responsibilities of an expert witness.
- Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction– Association that encourages the exchange of information and procedures useful in the reconstruction of criminal locations.
- Becoming a CS Investigator– Provides an idea of the variety of responsibilities a CSI expert will have and the minimum requirements to apply for a job.
- Crime & Clues – Articles on the art and science of criminal investigation, covering numerous types of evidence including fingerprint, physical, testimonial, and behavioral.
- Crime Scene Clean-up– Group that is dedicated to helping to compassionately, safely and discreetly restore a scene to a safe state.
- Crime Scene Investigation Supplies– Provides a wide selection of tools, equipment and supplies.
- How Crime Scene Investigations Work– An article from HowStuffWorks.com that provides an overview of the process followed in this type of investigative work.
- International Crime Scene Investigators Association– Assists law enforcement personnel who are involved in this line of duty.
- International Homicide Investigators Association– Assists and supports law enforcement agencies and death investigation professionals by providing leadership, training, resources, and expertise that will enhance their ability to solve cases.
American Society of Questioned Document Examiners – The purposes of the Society is to foster education, sponsor scientific research, establish standards, exchange experience, and provide instruction in the field of questioned document examination, and to promote justice in matters that involve questions about documents.
DNA Lab Testing
Read our full article on DNA Lab Testing.
- American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – The ASCLD organization is dedicated to providing excellence in science analysis through leadership in the management of forensic science
- Laboratory Services and Requirements for Submitting Evidence Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory, services and requirements for submitting evidence.
Evidence Collection, Storage and Processing
Evidence, in its broadest sense, includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either (a) presumed to be true, or (b) were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion’s truth. Evidence is how the burden of proof is fulfilled.
Evidence Collection techniques vary by the evidence type and location. The main purpose of evidence collection is to retrieve the evidence “as-is” and without damaging the evidence. It must be handled correctly and packaged to minimize deterioration and
contamination. In criminal investigation, rather than attempting to prove an abstract or hypothetical point, the evidence gatherers attempt to determine who is responsible for a criminal act. The focus of criminal evidence is to connect physical evidence and reports of witnesses to a specific person.
Crime Scene Procedures – A brief explanation on collecting evidence, methods of collection, and chain of custody procedures.
CrimeSceneInvestigator.net – This website has an extensive collection of resources for crime scene investigators, especially related to the collecting, packaging, handling and submission of evidence. Following is a sample of what you’ll find:
- Crime Scene Processing Protocol– Article on the protocol for processing a location.
- Evidence Packaging Procedures – A comprehensive list of procedures published by the Illinois State Police Division of Forensic Services. Explains how materials are to be placed in containers sealed with the correct tape and marked with the officer’s initials and the date. This detailed guide covers everything from drugs to articles of clothing. A great example of a quality guide.
- Forensic Evidence Handbook – The Missouri State Highway Patrol Forensic Laboratory’s handbook.
- Evidence Handling Manual – The manual published by the Montana State Crime Lab regarding handling evidence.
- Evidence Field Manual – The field manual for the New Jersey State Police Forensic Sciences division.
- Evidence Field Manual Quick Reference Handbook – The New Jersey State Police Forensic Sciences reference book.
- Evidence Guide – The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s guide.
- Guidelines for Evidence Submission – The guidelines from the Department of Public Safety, Division of Scientific Services in Connecticut. The guide explains how various items should be packaged, marked and labeled. Also, it explains how to complete the necessary forms. Includes guidance on objects gathered from fire scenes, sexual assault cases, blood samples, bombs and explosives, gunshot residue, paint samples, hairs and fibers, firearms, latent prints and more.
- Physical Evidence Manual – The Oregon State Police Forensic Services Division official manual.
- Handbook – The Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory Service physical evidence handbook.
- Evidence Handling and Laboratory Capabilities Guide – The Virginia Department of Forensic Science evidence handling and laboratory capabilities guide.
- Handbook – The Wisconsin Department of Justice State Crime Laboratories physical evidence handbook.
- Fingerprinting– An overview of the fingerprinting process and a collection of links and information on fingerprinting.
Forensic Psychology and Psychiatry
- American Academy of Forensic Psychology – The education and training arm of the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP), which is responsible for the diplomating process in forensic psychology.
- American Psychological Association – Based in Washington, DC, the American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific and professional organization that represents psychology in the United States. With more than 150,000 members, APA is the largest association of psychologists worldwide.
- American Psychiatric Association – The American Psychiatric Association is a medical specialty society recognized world-wide. Its over 35,000 U.S. and international member physicians work together to ensure humane care and effective treatment for all persons with mental disorders, including mental retardation and substance-related disorders. It is the voice and conscience of modern psychiatry. Its vision is a society that has available, accessible quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.
- Canadian Psychological Association – The Canadian Psychological Association was organized in 1939 to improve the health and welfare of all Canadians; to promote excellence and innovation in psychological research, education, and practice; to promote the advancement, development, dissemination, and application of psychological knowledge; and to provide high-quality services to members.
- American Academy of Forensic Science – The American Academy of Forensic Science is a professional society devoted to the application of forensic science and law
- American Board of Forensic Odontology – Comprised of individuals who are national and world renowned experts. The ABFO is recognized by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences as a specialty that offers board certification to its members.
- American Board of Forensic Toxicologists – The objective of the Board is to establish, enhance, and revise as necessary, standards of qualification for forensic toxicology, and to certify as qualified specialists those voluntary applicants who comply with the requirements of the Board.
- National Forensic Science Technical Center– A not-for-profit corporation funded by a Cooperative Agreement with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and provides programs that build individual competency and quality systems for the forensic science community in the United States.
CSI Reference and Education Books
Crime scene investigations are usually handled by qualified law enforcement specialists. However, private investigators may be hired by private parties to conduct their own investigation into the facts of the case. Private eyes who are skilled at investigating crime scenes can sometimes find information or clues that the police don’t notice. A private investigator’s persistence and eye for detail may lead to solving the case. Having a library of crime scene investigation books is helpful for any investigator that wants to develop the skill of investigating criminal locations. These books will help a P.I learn how to:
- How to secure a crime scene and conduct an in-depth and thorough investigation
- Collect Forensic evidence and photographs
- How to collect evidence such as fingerprints, hair, blood, stages of body decay, and other fibers
- How to identify, trace and analyze evidence from firearms and explosives
- How to secure, store, and analyze data gathered to help solve the mystery
- How to document and report evidence and information found during a forensic analysis
- How to pursue a career in the field, where to look for jobs and how to get a CSI job
The Forensic Casebook
This book covers a series of true stories about how criminal behavior is investigated, solved and the criminals were captured with the help of information, data, and forensic evidence gathered from the scene of the violation. The reference book is based on a series of interviews with police and forensic specialists. The guide also discusses potential jobs and career paths related to criminal science.
Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation, Eighth Edition (Forensic and Police Science)
This is a great manual for private investigators, technicians, and forensic scientists to learn how to apply both science and technology to collect evidence. This helpful guide reviews the concepts, techniques and procedures involved with criminal investigation. Learn about the latest in forensic DNA collection and lab testing, digital evidence, photography, and evidence processing.
Crime Scene Investigation, Second Edition
This textbook takes the reader from the point of first arriving on the scene to presenting physical evidence and data in the court room. You’ll find information that is not normally covered in other CSI books, including photographs, illustrations and real-life examples. Also helpful is an extensive glossary of key terms and discussion questions.
Practical Crime Scene Processing and Investigation (PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF CRIMINAL & Forensic INVESTIGATIONS)
This forensic book focuses on the practical aspects and processing the evidence. This guide explains what an actual forensic scene investigator does in their day-to-day work, including the procedures and steps that are typically involved in the process. Also included is an overview of the theory involved and the ethical side of things. Includes discussions, detailed data, and real-life examples to help private detectives learn how to apply the tools to their investigations.
Hire a Private Investigator
Many private investigators specialize in crime scene investigations, and many have former experience as a police officer. To hire a private investigator that specializes in this type of work, please visit our Private Investigator Directory.