Scene of the Crime

Scene of the Crime by Anne Wingate Read Free Book Online

Book: Scene of the Crime by Anne Wingate Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne Wingate
have been our responsibility, but we had no place to deal with it—drying in interrogation rooms. He explained that the problems were getting worse, as crime in the city expanded at a geometric rate.
    "I'll take care of that," the commissioner said.
    A few months later, we had a nice building at the bottom of the parking lot. It was big enough for us to fingerprint even a large suspect vehicle and to process and store other large evidence. From then on, bloody clothing was dried and stored there.
    If your officer is working in a small jurisdiction, by all means use the problems of small departments. Things can't be done exactly right, and there are tremendous fictional opportunities there.
    Nothing with blood on it should ever be packaged in plastic or glass or anything else airtight, unless it is the blood itself and it is put in special vials that already contain a known blood preservative. The laboratories can work easily with dried blood or with properly preserved blood, but not with rotted blood.
    Dry items may be packaged in plastic, although no particular harm is done if they are packaged in paper. Something that may need to be repeatedly examined, such as a pistol, should always be in transparent plastic, so that it can be examined without the police seal being broken. Obviously, any time the seal is broken—for fingerprinting or test-firing—notations should be made on the evidence tag, so that the defense attorney can't question later why there are two or three sets of staple holes.
    Learning to pick things up without damaging fingerprints that might be on them is an art. It generally involves using only the fingertips to pick up items and holding them by edges that are too small to hold prints (see Figure 2-1); there is really no way to learn without practicing. Try it yourself, so as to know the problems your character is facing.
    Let's go on, now, talking for a few paragraphs as if you are your character.
    Once you have succeeded in picking up the item, the next problem is packaging it without rubbing out the fingerprints. If the item is absorbent, there is no problem at all. Those prints aren't going anywhere. They are in the substance, not just on the surface, of the item. However, you must be extremely careful not to touch the items yourself, as even the most casual touch will add more prints. These things are best handled with tweezers at all times.
    If the item is irregularly shaped, there's really little problem, because the protrusions will hold the paper or plastic away from the rest of the surface and keep it from rubbing out prints. But when you have something regularly shaped—a drinking glass, a pane of glass—you may have problems, because plastic will tend to mold around the item and rub out prints. Paper works better, especially ordinary brown paper grocery-type sacks, because they are too stiff to rub out prints unless the item is badly mishandled. In actual practice, Doc and I tended to print small items on the scene whenever possible, and then transport them (if necessary—often the prints were all we needed, and the item could be left at the scene) with fingerprints already protected by tape. With larger, heavier

    items, there is no problem, because these items will be transported in boxes and there is no chance of the boxes' rubbing out prints.
    Of course, with extremely large items, there may also be a problem, because it may be impossible to move the item without touching areas that might hold prints. In that case, it is essential to print the areas that must be touched, then move the item, and then finish the work in the lab. What if the item is outside and it's raining? Then you go crazy for a while. Honestly—I can't provide advice. You just assess the situation and try to do whatever will be least harmful to the evidence, then hope you haven't missed something vital.
    For dramatic purposes, you may decide instead to have your character do whatever is most harmful to the evidence,

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