Amateur versus professional. Does the recovery of forensic evidence differ depending on who assesses the crime scene?

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Abstract

Volume crime offences such as domestic burglary are commonly assessed for forensic opportunities by the first attending officer present at the scene. Conversely, less serious volume crime offences such as thefts from motor vehicles are very frequent and are routinely assessed for forensic opportunities by the victim talking to the police over the telephone. It is not clear whether this difference in attendance policy leads to differences in the types and quantity of forensic material recovered. The current study explored whether there was a benefit to evidence recovery for attended as opposed to non-attended assessments. Five hundred thefts from motor vehicles offences recorded by Northamptonshire Police (UK) between 14 January 2010 and 28 February 2011 were analysed; 250 were attended forensic assessments and 250 were non-attended assessments. Significant differences were found between the two scenarios, with attended assessments more likely to yield DNA, property and trace substance material. Conversely, fingerprints were more likely to be recovered at non-attended assessments. Despite the fruitful findings of the current study, future research would benefit from establishing the methods used by the first attending officer and forensic investigator when assessing and gathering evidence. Similarly, it is unclear whether these differences in forensic material are reflected in the identification of an offender and subsequently in the solving of the crime.

Publication
International Journal of Police Science & Management

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Jamie Lingwood
Research Fellow

My research interests include language development, language processing, and shared book reading.