Scene Preservation - What can you do to help the Police?

If unfortunately you become a victim of crime there are certain things that you can do to help the Crime Scene Investigator by preserving the crime scene in order to help maximise the forensic evidence recovered and hopefully help the Police catch those responsible. 


The key in all circumstances, whether it is a theft from your vehicle or a burglary at your home, is to remain calm and try not to panic. Always contact the Police in the first instance and a police officer and a member of the Crime Scene Investigation team will be with you as soon as possible. 

When contacting the Police to report a crime you will be provided with crime scene preservation advice by the control room - however here is some general guidance on how you can help the Police.

1.       Do not touch anything

  • Although it may be tempting to tidy up or have a look around to see what has been taken, please await the arrival of Crime Scene Investigation
  • Do not touch anything and try to avoid the areas which have been entered by the offender to avoid damaging possible forensic evidence
  • There are potentially fingerprints belonging to the offender on doors, windows, drawers, cupboards or anything that has been moved by the offender.

2.       Hard Standing Floors

  • Footwear marks can be compared against shoes belonging to a suspect and a unique wear pattern can link a suspect to the crime and therefore footwear marks can be a key piece of forensic evidence
  • Footwear marks can be recovered from hard standing flooring, such as tiles or laminate floors. Whilst these may not be visible to the naked eye, they can be enhanced by the use of powdering techniques
  • Avoid walking across hard standing floors where ever possible
  • If this is unavoidable, place newspaper across the floor and keep the area walked across to a minimum
  • If the footwear mark is wet let it dry before placing down the newspaper.


3.       Vehicle Crime

  • If your vehicle has been broken into, try where possible to avoid driving the vehicle until the Crime Scene Investigator has had chance to examine it
  • If entry was gained via a smashed window, leave the broken glass where it is as the Crime Scene Investigator will need to collect a glass control sample, this also applies to a broken window in a house. A glass control sample could be compared to glass found in the hair or clothing of a suspect
  • If the offender has removed documents or other items from the glove box, these should be left in situ until the Crime Scene Investigator attends as the items may be suitable for fingerprinting or could be sent to the fingerprint development lab for chemical treatment to potentially recover fingerprints left by the offender.


4.       Preserving Evidence Outside

  • Whilst in the majority of instances it is recommended that you do not touch anything there are some instances in relation to outside scenes where your actions could help preserve evidence for crime scene investigation, particularly when bad weather is a factor
  • For example, if you discover your shed has been broken into and there is a clear footwear mark in the soil next to the shed, by covering the footwear mark with a plastic bin liner or dustbin lid you could preserve the mark until the arrival of Crime Scene Investigation
  • If the offender has left a tool behind on the ground outside or if the offender has moved items outside such as an ornament from a windowsill, moving the item inside using a clean plastic bag over the hand could preserve valuable fingerprint or DNA evidence.

This is meant as general guidance, however all scenes are different and may warrant unique scene preservation. When contacting the Police, the control room will ask you a series of questions and provide you with scene preservation specific to your needs.

© IANF 2016