Forensics under microscope
HOW people handle their property after a burglary, theft or more serious crime is vital to the work of forensic police using the latest DNA and sampling technology to catch criminals.
“A critical part to the success of an examination is limiting the contamination of the scene between the time of the offender’s departure and the arrival of investigators,” Sergeant Craig Markham told the Western Suburbs Weekly.
Sgt Markham supervises nine Northbridge-based forensic officers, who use their skills and technology to investigate crimes in suburbs from Bayswater, in and around Perth, through the western suburbs to Jolimont, and north through the City of Stirling.
A lot of their success depends on whether a victim touches surfaces and valuables in their search for what else may be missing, or mistakenly clean or tidy a mess left by burglars.
“People will naturally search through their property to locate valuables and sentimental items to ascertain the extent of the crime, as they often ask themselves ‘who, why and when’, and this usually involves handling the items touched or left behind by the offender,” Sgt Markham said. Victims should describe the crime scene to police as detailed and as soon as possible, so officers can say how it should be preserved for a forensic examination.
“Fingerprints, DNA, shoe and tool impressions are the more common forms of evidence a forensic investigator will target, but most victims don’t have experience of forensic examination in the field and are influenced by what is known as the ‘CSI effect’, in which their expectation is based on the TV series, which can lead to high-yielding exhibits being incorrectly handled,” Sgt Markham said.
Most forensic evidence is found where the criminal has entered a house, in a car or on a handbag.
Sgt Markham said locking doors and windows in houses, sheds and garages, keeping valuables out of sight and taking them out of cars would still help prevent crimes.