The New Era of Crime Scene Management

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Dr. (Mrs) Rukmani Krishnamurthy

When a crime takes place, the entire area or location where the illegal act occurred is cordoned; most of the physical evidence is recorded, numbered and photographed as well as retrieved by trained law enforcement personal, crime scene investigators and forensics scientists to build up the case through circumstantial evidence, eventually solving the case.

There are various steps and protocols leading from the initial stage of investigation till the case is solved and wrapped up. This is where crime scene management comes into the picture. Crime scene management skills are an extremely significant task component of investigation because evidence that originates at the crime scene will provide a picture of events for the court to consider in its deliberations. That picture comprise of witness testimony, crime scene photographs, physical exhibits and the analysis of those exhibits, along with the analysis of the crime scene itself.

Good Forensic Science Begins at the Crime Scene

Criminals use the latest technology for their modus operandi. Hence, most of the crimes are very complex to solve. The crime scene has a wealth of clues and physical evidence which is crucial for investigators and forensics. Inadequately-managed scenes can result in poor quality evidence being used, ineffective investigations and/or wrongful convictions.

Major Role of Physical Evidence

Today, physical evidence plays a major role in investigating and solving crimes. Forensic science has greatly increased the value of physical evidence as a tool. Edmond Locard (a French Scientist) believes that when a criminal come into contact with an object or person, a cross transfer of evidence occurs. This is the crux of forensic science and criminal investigation.

A crime scene contains significant information that if sought in a systematic, legal and scientific way, helps determine what has happened and who was involved. It is the crime scene examiner’s responsibility to know how to gain the most from the crime scene.

Active participation of Mumbai Police – Zone 1 and 2 – in a workshop arranged by Helik Advisory Limited

New Concept of Crime Scene Management

Crime Scene Management (CSM) involves on the teamwork of different agencies like police, forensic scientist, medico–legal doctors, judiciary officers and other experts as per the requirement of the case. The interaction of the above agencies leads to a well coordinated team effort to handle the most complicated cases.

Golden Rules for an Ideal CSM

  1. Barricade the crime scene
  2. Provide medical aid to the injured persons at the nearest hospital
  3. Do not touch or alter any of the physical evidences till well documented and photographed
  4. Get detailed narration from eye witnesses
  5. Videotape the whole crime scene for later detailed study to establish links between the event and the physical evidence
  6. Scientific sketch of the crime scene to relate each item to its exact location when crime occurred
  7. Meticulous search at the crime scene by a forensic scientist scientific tools using scientific tools for precise and accurate lifting of clues and physical evidences
  8. Investigating officers to collect, preserve and forward evidences sealed in the presence of two independent reliable witnesses
  9. Big article like breakdown vehicle collapsed debris may be forwarded to Forensic Science Lab (FSL) for examination
  10. Crime scene should be rebased once the above are completed to avoid public inconvenience

Reconstruction of a Crime Scene

This needs to be done in a scientific way to assess the crime scene appearance, location and position of clue materials and physical evidence, documentation from witnesses, victim, data depicting the condition of the physic evidences, crime scene, and suspect. Normally, a hypothetical formulation is devised based on scientific testing.

Reconstruction of crime scene normally depends on the nature of the crime and the physical evidence at the crime scene.

  1. Physical Matching: Bomb, broken glass vessels, vehicle lamps, mirrors, window etc. will relate to the crime scene, victim and the suspect by scientific comparison of the pieces of the same articles and its physical matching.
  2. Pathological Report: Manner of death, tool mark injuries observed during post-mortem, wounds, sexually assault wounds, etc will link the victim with the physical clue materials.
  3. Impression: Fingerprints, shoe prints, tyre tracks, etc can identify the victim and offender, linking them to the crime scene.
  4. Firearms: Trajectory, shooting distance, position and location of the victim and offender, weapon, etc may connect other crime cases also
  5. Blood stain/Body fluid: Patterns of blood stain and other biological fluids can connect the victim, offender to the crime scene in rape, murder, sexual assault cases. It can identify the victim and the offender by DNA testing.

Different Steps for Crime Scene Reconstruction

  1. Recognition, documentation and collection of evidence
  2. Hypothetical Formulation
  3. Scientific Testing
  4. Criminal Profiling

Methods of Interrogation

Criminal Profiling: Of late, criminal profiling has gained importance in crime detection. Psychological theory is applied to analyse the offender’s behaviour during the commission of crime. The offender is directly involved in committing the crime, and he is the only person who knows why the crime is committed, when and where the crime is committed. His psychological examination can reveal a wealth of information about the crime thereby aiding in understanding the reason why the crime was committed.

Polygraph or Lie Detector Test: This technique detects deception by monitoring, recording, and analysing the physiological changes that occur in a person when he/she responds to questions related to the crime. For this purpose, parameters like Pneumograph, Sphygmograph, Galvanograph, are used.

Brain Signature Profiling: Developed by an Indian Neuroscientist – Prof. Mukundan, it can isolate an individual involved in a crime by the measurement of electrical activation in various parts of the brain related to memory. The activated electrical signals are recorded and analysed automatically by the brain electrical oscillation signature profiling (BEOS) system to finally produce a report indicating the presence or absence of experiential knowledge of an act or a crime in an offender.

The technique is validated by the Directorate of Forensic Science Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi, in a project conducted at the Directorate of Forensic Science Labs Gandhinagar, Gujarat, and Technology

Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), Dept of Science & Technology Govt. of India, New Delhi.

Teleforensic Technology: This is a real time communication channel between forensic scientists and the crime scene. It brings the crime scene to senior scientific experts rather than taking them to the scene. The crime scene is connected through satellite networking. Experts believe this will facilitate forensic experts and reduce contamination and tampering of crucial evidence at the crime scene. It also makes it possible to record minute details of a crime scene in a high resolution video camera and send them across to a forensic lab through satellite networking where a team of forensic experts can analyze, evaluate, and document it.

This technology is being implemented by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in collaboration with Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), an autonomous organisation under the aegis of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has given the pilot study project to the Directorate of Forensic Science Laboratories, Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat. Subsequently, all forensic science laboratories in the country will be hooked up to this facility.

Tech Device for Data Collection

Remote Electronic Data Forensics Kit: The preservation of onsite digital data is critical in many types of investigations. Imaging of computers and associated media should be considered in all cases where further investigation or disclosure may be required. Capturing this data using forensically-sound methodology is vital if the integrity of any subsequent investigation is to be maintained. It is a user-friendly kit to execute the operation with utmost ease, with very minimum training required.

The storage media is connected to the kit and powered on. Without any command or inputs from local staff, the device directly gets connected to one or multiple remote control rooms through secured internet connection. Multiple experts can view, analyze and access the electronic data while the raid is ongoing. Experts from various locations can also take a secured image on a local device.

Tech Mobile Units

Mobile Forensic Van: The Gujarat Forensic Science University (GFSU), Gandhinagar, in a joint venture with Helik Advisory Ltd., Mumbai, has developed a Mobile Forensic Van (MFV) to help reach the crime scene at the earliest and assist the investigating officer in identifying and collecting relevant forensic evidence from the crime scene, victim and suspects. The MFV is fully air-conditioned with modern amenities to perform spot testing. It also has the facility to sketch and take photographs of the crime scene, both in still and video modes. It has all the latest hi-tech forensic tools and kits like gunshot detection, explosive, narcotics drug, DNA collection, blood test, etc along with a special multi-tunable light source which has eight different wavelengths thereby enhancing the detection capabilities for latent fingerprints, body fluids, hair and fibers, gunshot/explosive residues, bite marks, questioned documents, tyre tracks, shoe prints, narcotic drugs, etc.

GFSU has developed the complete technology of the MFV vans including scientific kits compilation to the type of interiors suitable for the van. The entire concept of MFV is monitored by a specialized executive committee of personnel who have been pioneers in the field of forensic science.

Number of MFVs used till date: Gujarat–13, Delhi- 2, Mahararashtra– 45, Nepal-1

Nirbhaya Rape & Sexual Assault Combat Van: After the launch of the integrated Mobile Forensic Van, GFSU and Helik are now in the process of launching the Nirbhaya Rape & Sexual Assault Combat Van. Named after the famous Delhi rape case, this van will provide immediate protection to victims of rape and sexual assault. It will be equipped with state-of-the-art portable forensic kits aiding the victim and collecting relevant forensic evidence from the scene, victim and suspect. The van will be manned by women forensic scientists along with a forensic nurse. Apart from basic forensic investigation equipment, the van will be equipped with portable kits like blood, semen, saliva, DNA collection and preservation kits, bite marks and dental pattern collection and preservation kits, and sexual assault evidence collection kits. This will guarantee immediate aid to victims and also reduce the occurrence of such heinous crimes.

The use of latest technology and ground-breaking concepts will be of much use to investigating officers in crime scene management and in proper collection of forensic evidence, thus providing an early lead to investigating officers in their investigation. These various tools also provide forensic scientists with better skills and techniques to meet diverse challenges from hi-tech crimes.               

Dr. (Mrs) Rukmani Krishnamurthy, Chairperson and CEO, Helik Advisory Ltd. is an Academic Council member, GFSU, Gujarat, as well as Executive Technical Adviser, Institute of Forensic Science, Govt. of Maharashtra; Executive Director, Directorate of Forensic Science Labs, Home Dept. Govt. of Maharashtra, and Executive Senate Member, Mumbai University.