Criminal Justice: Case Studies Assignment Paper on Criminal Investigation IP3

Criminal Investigation IP3

            Criminal investigation defines the application of a scientific procedure in studying facts that are used to discover, trace and prove guilty an individual thought to have engaged in a criminal activity. A complete activity relating to criminal investigation can include an array of activities that range from exploration, interviews, questioning, collection as well as conservation of evidence and various approaches relating to investigation. According to Peterson (102), criminal investigation is a prehistoric science that can trace its roots in the 1700 BCE where it existed in the form of literature relating to the Code of Hammurabi. This code stated that both the complainant and the defendant had the power to present any type of evidence that they may have collected. Conversely, criminal investigations in the modern day society commonly adopt an array of modern scientific approaches that are collectively referred to as forensic science. These approaches are only used by police forces as well as private investigators that are usually hired to complete activities related to criminal investigations. As explained by Gordon (15), criminal investigation entails a collection of various items that allow crime-related activities to be studied to apprehend the involved criminals. Criminal investigators thus seeks various ways through which they can ascertain the conduct, motives as well as the identities of criminals while on the other hand seeking for victims and other people that they can use as witnesses for interrogation. Tracking of criminals that may have left no conclusive evidence like fingerprints may require an advanced analysis of certain techniques that are bound to be distinct among the professional criminals including forcing entrance, using some type of boots, as well as leaving distinct types of trade mark including the way a victim may be tied. Criminal investigators thus collect such type of data as well as lists of stolen items and lost property while on the other hand access public records to be able to track, identify and apprehend criminals (Horsewell 7).  

Crime Scene Investigation

While criminal investigations are carried for the primary purpose of preventing crime, criminal investigators are usually concerned about gathering relevant information to gain evidence relating to a certain criminal activity. This is because the law enforcement is bestowed with the responsibility of protecting the community that it serves, which demands that it has to discharge its role in investigating incidents relating to crime. Such investigations are usually intended to cause the offender to appear before a court of law to answer for his/her criminal behavior. As explained by Gordon (17), the process of criminal investigation is usually influenced by the overall expectation that detection, identification and apprehension of criminals would ultimately curb recidivism thereby curtailing cases of crime. Several basic types of investigations can thus be carried out by the law enforcement workforce in the attempt to discharge their criminal investigation duties. Such types of investigations can include investigation of events that are directly related to the violation of laws including various criminal activities like robbery, burglary, killing and illegal weapons as well as investigation of accidents that range from serious traffic-related injuries and property damage (Peterson 105). Criminal investigations can equally include exploration of personnel’s background, character or conduct to establish their eligibility to gain public trust. The law enforcement workforce can as well be involved in the analysis of certain conditions as well as circumstances that may be likely to perpetuate cases of crime if left unchecked. Regardless of the purpose for which criminal investigations may be intended, criminal investigators undertake these activities with the intention of gathering as well as analyzing information to obtain evidence relating to crime. Although the process should be perceived in terms of gathering of information rather than collecting evidence, investigators should by no means ignore obvious items that can potentially become a crucial source of evidence. Information thus becomes an important source of evidence that can eventually be used in court proceedings. Such information however represent just a small fraction of the total information gathered as a wide range of information is usually collected as well as taken through an intensive process of scrutiny to enhance validity before being used in the courtroom. According to Horsewell (11), criminal investigators can seek to obtain relevant information relating to a particular criminal activity from two sources that include people and things. While these provide important avenues through which the behaviors, motives and human elements that may have driven an offender to commit crime can be evaluated, they usually require quality skills and knowledge that can guide in the collection of reliable evidence relating to crime. As explained by Peterson (112), investigators of crime scenes usually opt to use inanimate objects to collect evidence, as these do not have the capacity to lie, mislead or pursue self-defense. Investigators thus employ a range of skills while being cognizant of the limitations as well as acceptable protocols that can allow for effective processing of relevant evidence. They thus submit physical things into the crime laboratory for analysis, which can only be achieved when quality expertise has already been employed in identification, collection and storage of physical evidence. The ability of criminal investigators to recognize evidentiary objects at a crime scene thus becomes crucial as it determine the ultimate value of physical items obtained, which determines their eligibility to be used in a court of law. In other instances, important forensic information can be collected from people identified at a crime scene particularly when considerable tangible evidentiary items are not available (Zonderman 21). This eventually exposes an investigator to a constant state of scrutiny as he is always evaluated on basis of his capability or lack of it thereof to derive information from people. He thus must be capable of effectively communicating with people from varying backgrounds as they can provide reliable information that can guide in collection of suitable evidence particularly if they may be living, working as well as frequenting the area of assignment (Horsewell 16). A criminal investigator may sometimes locate a witness at a crime scene but he/she may eventually turn out to be uncooperative. As a general requirement, witnesses located at a crime scene should be engaged in interviews particularly if they seem to know something related to the crime and if possible, they should make a written statement. The investigator may however notice that the located witness is hiding something and is equally uncooperative, which may inhibit him/her from gathering important information. Among the various reasons that may cause a witness of a crime scene to be uncooperative may include being convinced that a particular client is guilty of the crime in question. This may cause the witness to be uncooperative as he/she would not want to provide any information that can aid the client to get out of the fix (Zonderman 24). The witness may as well be unwilling to get himself into trouble as he might be required to publicly testify in a court of law thereby exposing him at the risk of potential revenge by the defendant. Witnesses may equally be unwilling to cooperate to avoid unnecessary cost relating to time and money that he may spend when being involved in a court case. Despite the fact that witnesses may be unwilling to take part in the criminal investigation process, police officers may still want to ask them an array of questions relating to the crime especially because their responses may provide crucial information that cannot only enhance effective collection of reliable evidence but which can as well be used in a court of law to apprehend an offender. As explained by Peterson (117), examination of the crime scene should thus be undertaken in a careful and systematic manner to ensure that reliable information is collected both from witnesses and the physical objects to collect reliable evidence. While there are various procedures that criminal investigators should follow while handling witnesses as well as the evidence relating to a particular crime, an initial and most important step that should be taken is protection of the crime scene. This would ensure that pertinent evidence is sustained in the most non-contaminated manner until it is gathered or recorded. This should begin with the arrival of first police officers that should have initially received intensive training on how they can effectively protect scenes and ends when the police officers evacuate the crime scene. While the first police officer to arrive at a crime scene can be viable to respond to any query relating to the crime, he/she should approach the scene in a slow and systematic manner (Zonderman 28). He can as well be involved in the arrest of uncooperative suspect as well as undertaking lifesaving measures to an affected victim. The officer should then take note of the state of the crime scene upon his/her arrival as well as after the scene has been adjusted. He should as well take note of important time spans during which varying responses were made at the crime scene. The officer should also ensure that very limited movement of objects found at the crime scene is made to prevent disruption as well as contamination of evidence. According to Horsewell (19), the influx of additional personnel can intensify the trouble experienced while trying to protect the crime scene. The criminal investigator should thus ensure that only people that are involved in the immediate process of criminal investigation, protection of the crime scene as well as processing evidence at the crime scene are present. Other non-essential officers, investigators, onlookers, and federal agents should not be allowed at the scene unless they can add something that can be useful in the investigations (Peterson 119).

            The criminal investigator should then gather as much information relating to the crime scene as possible. This is important as it ensures that valuable as well as fragile evidence that can be in form of shoeprints or trace evidence is protected. A mental plan should then be developed to figure out how the crime may have taken place so as to be able to develop a trail within which criminal activities can be studied. This trail is usually marked by presence of any physical evidence that can include the entry point, the exact crime location, areas where the suspect may have tampered with the evidence as well as the possible point of exit. Scene documentation should then be made, and this should include videotaping, taking photographs as well as drawing sketches. According to Zonderman (34), a video camera can be used to document information at a crime scene, as this can provide a distinct perspective at the crime scene that may not be easily identified through photographs or sketches. Once videotaping has started, it should not be stopped until is it complete, and this should involve slow panning to ensure that all available details relating to the crime scene are captured. Videotaping should begin with a wide overview of the crime scene as well as the surrounding area, which should continue across the entire crime scene using a wide angle as well as macro shots to exhibit the outline of the evidence and its significance to the crime scene. Photography is equally essential while documenting a crime scene as this can provide important information relating to the crime, which can be used in direct comparison of the situation prior to and after the crime. As explained by Pepper (45), photography should begin by taking wide-angled photos of the scene as well as the surrounding areas. The photos should mainly portray the overall outline of the crime scene as well as the prevailing relationship between evidence contained in the physical objects. Sketches can as well be developed in order to make a three dimensional presentation of the physical objects that are available at the crime scene. It is obvious that most photographs can distort evidence since they provide a two-dimensional exhibition of three dimensional objects. Sketches can however enhance the spatial relationship prevailing between objects, which ensure that accurate estimation of the distance between objects is made (Gordon 19).

            Caution should equally be taken while collecting evidence, which should begin by collecting the most fragile and easily lost evidence. Such evidence can be in the form of small items that should be collected in paper containers including plastic bags, packets and envelops. Liquid evidence can also be transported in leak-proof plastic containers while arson evidence is transported in air-tight non-contaminated metallic containers. Large quantities of evidence collected in powder form can be transported in large plastic bags while moist evidence can be transported in plastic bags to prevent it from contaminating other evidence after which it should be allowed to air dry when it has been delivered to evidence collection area (Zonderman 38). The specific items that can be collected at the crime scene can include fingerprints or palm prints, and these provide the best and most reliable evidence that a suspect can place at the crime scene. Collecting this evidence should include processing non-movable items at the crime scene using different types of power, which should be followed by one-on-one photographs on all prints that may not be easily lifted. Bite marks that may particularly be found on victims of sexual assaults can also be collected through matching the marks with the dental arrangement of the individual that did the biting. The bite marks should be photographed by the use of ABFO Number 2 Scale and then printed using a black and white print film. Broken fingernails collected at the crime scene are important as they contain individualizing striations that can be used many days after the crime has been committed. Such evidence should thus be collected and placed in paper packets that should them but stored in an envelope (Pepper 49).

            Witnesses that are bound to provide relevant information relating to the crime should equally be handled with care to ensure that reliable evidence about the crime is collected. This should begin by undertaking basic assessment to ensure that potential witnesses are credible to take part in providing evidence relating to crime. A complete list of witnesses should be made, and this should provide a brief overview of their personal information, statistical data and their role in criminal investigation process including what they did, whom they may have been with as well as what they may have observed (Zonderman 43). A systematic approach should then be adopted in interviewing witnesses that may have any type of knowledge about the incident and may have made a statement to the police. This is to ensure that sufficient statements that can be compared with what has already been made with the police are available. Such statements can be type written and can be reduced to a question and answer or a narrative document that may have been prepared by the police investigator. The investigator should then prepare a suitable venue where he can conduct extensive interview with the witness (Gordon 21). The main purpose for the interview is to determine whether the witness made reliable observation relating to the event and whether the observations he/she made are relevant. Witnesses should be handled in a friendly manner to enhance corporation to ensure that they can provide as much information as possible. In cases where witnesses may be proving to be uncooperative for fear of some things, their wellbeing should be assured through informing them that their efforts will not be used to intimidate them. Eliciting cooperation can equally be enhanced through conducting interviews at venues where witnesses may be unlikely to be distracted as well as where they are likely to be exposed to the public eye, as this may perpetuate their fear of being labeled as having betrayed the crime suspect. Witnesses should also be reimbursed of any cost that they may incur while participating in the court case, as this would eliminate the fear of incurring unnecessary cost (Pepper 56).


Criminal investigation is an important activity that any law enforcement institution can undertake in promoting security to enhance wellbeing of the community it serves. Although traditional approaches for collecting evidence at a crime scene have for a long time been used, more advanced scientific approaches that are commonly referred to as forensic science have continued to be used in collecting important information from people and physical objects. Systematic procedures should be employed in order to ensure that witnesses as well as the collected evidence are handled with care to ensure that crucial information that can be used in a court of law is collected. The criminal investigator should thus begin by marking boundaries around the crime scene to protect it from any form of contamination, which should be followed by the collection of fragile as well as easily lost evidence. Photographs, video cameras and sketches should be developed so as to collect any physical evidence relating to the crime scene. Suitable materials should then be used to collect any type of physical items that may need to be taken to the evidence collection center. Witnesses should then be allowed to make statements and take part in interviews to ensure that information collected from them is valid, reliable and genuine. They should be compensated of any cost incurred, protected from any possible intimidation and assured of their overall wellbeing to ensure their cooperativeness during the criminal investigation process.

Works Cited

Gordon, Goldsborough. “HIS: Historical Scene Investigation”, Manitoba History, 58.4 2008,: 14-22.

Horsewell, John. The Practice of Crime Scene Investigation, London, Taylor & Francis 2004.

Pepper, Ian. Crime Scene Investigation: Methods and Procedures, Maidenhead, England, Open University Press 2005.

Peterson, Marilyn. Applications in Criminal Analysis: A Sourcebook, Westport, CT, Praeger, 1994.

Zonderman, Jon. Beyond the Crime Lab: The New Science of Investigation, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999.