Preparing Sketches at Crime Scenes

In Crime Scene Investigation, documentation holds a lot of importance. It starts from the time the law enforcement department is notified about a crime and goes up to the time when the case is finally closed. In between these two events, all the activities and happenings are documented in a detailed manner. When it comes to documentation at the crime scene, sketching and mapping of the crime scene is one of the three most important functions. The other two are photography and videography and taking notes.

The permanence of records is the basic purpose behind sketching the crime scene and its details. While in the pictures taken by the Crime Scene Photographer, the crime scene and evidence within it is all visible, a sketch can bring more of a real touch to it because the exact measurements and distances between objects are stated in the sketch. This forms a clear relationship between the crime scene and the evidence in it in terms of distances within objects. The picture that forms by looking at the snapshots and the video is completed through the sketches and maps of the crime scene. This becomes possible because the viewer can consult the sketches for gauging the exact dimensions of the crime scene.

While sometimes there are specialized sketch makers at crime scenes, at other times, the Crime Scene Investigator can also draw sketches and maps of crime scene. Who performs this largely depends upon the law enforcement department and the kind of resources it can employ for members of CSI Crime Scene Investigation. When the crime scene and the physical evidence in it are being sketched, there are two techniques employed for this purpose. One is the rough sketch and the other is the finished sketch.

The sketch artist or Crime Scene Technician makes the rough sketch while being present at the crime scene. This is drawn while the crime scene assessment is being carried out. It is after the sketch has been drawn that the physical evidence is logged and the packaged. A rough sketch is not drawn to any scale, but the measurements are roughly noted down for later reference. An implement like a pen, pencil or a crayon can be used for making a rough sketch at the crime scene. A rough sketch consists of the layout of the crime scene, even if in a crude form. In addition, the dimensions of the crime scene, distances between structures and distances between objects are noted down precisely.

Upon leaving the crime scene and having drawn a rough sketch, the drawer makes a refined, more finished sketch. These are the sketches that are used in making courtroom presentations. While the rough sketch has all the measurements at the crime scene jotted down on it, a finished sketch only has those measurements and dimensions that are relevant to the case. A rough sketch can even be drawn with a pencil so that there is room for modification if required. However, this is not the case with finished sketches. Considering these are the finished form, there is no room left for modification. That is the reason these sketches are made with a computer or an ink pen. Finished sketches are not cluttered and only portray the relevant items of evidence. A legend is also part of this sketch so that referring to all the details in the sketch is easy.

The highlights of a finished sketch include a clear title, a legend stating the meaning of various symbols, preliminary case reference information, name of the sketch maker, a scale, and a measurement table. In a sketch, the creator makes the best effort to capture all the details of distances and dimensions in the most accurate manner.

The physical facts viewed and reported at the crime scene become even more permanent and concrete when they are sketched because they become part of a picture. And a picture always helps in understanding facts better. Another use of sketches is that they portray a sequence of a chain of events. Each sketch tells a story. Through sketches, the exact location of an object in terms of distance from other objects is clear. All these details of not just the objects, but also the dimensions and measurements make it easier to understand the crime scene and its details, even those members of investigation team who were not present at the crime scene.

The fact that sketches prepared during Crime Scene Investigation are admissible in court makes them highly credible and viable. When the investigation team generates leads for the case and calls for interrogation, sketches are used. One of the times when sketches can come in really handy is when the investigative report is being written. The investigator can always consult the sketches along with the pictures and videos for a refresher of the crime scene details. Well-prepared sketches are a great asset to the investigation and can also be used in the court of law. This helps in enabling judges, jury and witnesses to visualize the crime scene.

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