This will run a little long. But hopefully it’s worth it.
So. I do work for the police where I’m from. This may vary from country to country but a lot of it will likely carry over.
And the number one issue preventing suspect trace and charging is poor descriptions of suspects and lack of evidence.
Now you may not know, but the polices job is to investigate crimes, gather evidence and catch the suspect/s.
The Crown prosecution services job is to convict those suspects and set the terms of their punishment.
This all costs time and money and is often hamstringed by aspects such as age and other circumstances which I won’t get into or we will be here all day.
If the CPS don’t think the outcome will be cost effective, or that they’re even likely to get a conviction based off of the amount of evidence submitted, the suspect ends up back on the street. We know they did it, the aggrieved knows they did it, hell even the court knows they did it, but there isn’t enough to satisfy legal requirements to prove that they did it. It sucks but it also stops innocent folks being convicted for things they didn’t do off of a cops sayso. So swings and roundabouts.
Now there is a way to increase the chances that the undesireable who just smashed up your car and made off with your limited edition funko pop in the back gets caught.
When something awful happens in front of you. Get a good description of the person doing it.
Clothing is the main one in the short term. Folks don’t tend to carry a change of clothes on them and some even have their best burgaling clothes. Colour, type, identifying logos or branding.
Good description of clothing:
Blue tracksuit top with white lines down the arms with Adidas accross the back, with grey tracksuit bottoms and black trainers with a white nike swoop and white soles.
What I usually get from the public:
Next up we have who they are. White, mixed race, Asian, Black?
Approximate height? Build? (Fat, thin, chubby?)
Hair colour? Style?
Identifying marks? Did the bro have a sick scar accross his whole face, does she have a birthmark accross her cheek? Are they missing a thumb? Distinctive stuff.
What you’re after is a game of guess who.
You need a complete stranger (the courts) to be able to say, yeah, that’s them, based off of your description.
You want billy the local foot patrol cop with half a month on the job to feel confident enough to act when he spots your thief in the local Asda because your description was so spot on he has actionable intel for a stop search.
What we don’t want is a “male wearing dark clothing”. Because that’s close on to every teenager in the world.
2: WRITE IT DOWN
Text it to yourself, email yourself it, find a pen and write it on the inside of a torn cigarette packet. Whatever it takes make notes. The human mind is weird, it’ll ditch so much and twist and bend things over time. What you were convinced was white on day one is now black by day three. So it’s important that as soon as is practicable, you write down everything you saw. If you were witness to a crime you’ll likely be asked to give a statement, but it could be days before your overstretched underfunded police department calls to arrange that. You could be busy for three weeks and you can only do so later. You WILL have forgotten vital details in that time. So whatever you do, write down in as much detail as you can what you saw or heard and even how it made you feel if you were directly affected.
I’m gonna start this one with a not quite factual scene guard I was once on. It’s more of an amalgam of some of the worst scenes I’ve attended evidence wise and not of any one scene.
So I’ve come in to work and I’ve immediately been told by my sgt to head to a job. Local takeaway has been broken into, tools left outside, happened possibly in the last 30 minutes. Ok.
So I ruck up, takeaways shut, jobs been called in by the hairdressers next door. Tools still in the street, glass from the smashed window all over the street.
Bus stop nearby, lotta rubbernecking members of the public wanna see.
So what have we got evidentially. Well we’ve got potential for blood on the glass where the suspect cut themselves on entry, we’ve got boot prints inside the shop and on the glass, we’ve got fingerprints on the doorframe and the tool. CCTV cameras present next door, not pointed at the shop but could be good for catching the entry or egress of the suspect. Maybe an ID from that.
Call CSI, try and trace the shop owner. Keeping in mind im on this on my own so I’m trying to scene guard and chase down the owner using google and my radio. I can’t really leave the area because joe public loves to destroy evidence.
Whilst I’m doing this, the postman walks by, attempts to walk over all the glass and starts an arm action to throw the mail through the smashed window into the store. See what I mean.
So I stop him, say I’ll get the post to the owner and wave him off.
Next up we have rubberneckers from a bus pull up, complete with kids. Parents excited to let their kids next to free entertainment (at one point we all like emergency services when we’re 6. It’s when we get older they go from “policeman!” To “pig!”) and now I’m trying to endear these kids to the police,whilst guarding a scene from them all picking up the tool and putting their own prints all over the door, and stopping parents who think themselves columbo from just walking over everything.
The entertainment value waning they leave.
I get in touch with the store owner, he attends and the first thing he tries to do is stride past me accross the glass and try the door handle, putting all of his lovely prints all over it.
This is what scene guarding is like, and this is with me *there* and with the store *closed*
… if it’s open i swear it’s worse because nothing will convince moira aged 67 that she can’t go into the local baths this week for her weekly swim, even the 6 emergency services vehicles, the flashing lights, the police tape and the sirens. Nope, she has her schedule.
People are bizzarre.
In closing, if your stuff is broken into, please leave the area alone. Don’t tidy up, don’t walk through it, don’t let your kids play with the screwdriver covered in blood.
If you do, know that you’re reducing the chances of us catching who did it.
4. EVIDENCE TWO CCTV BOOGALOO
If you have CCTV.
Clean it. For the love of all that is good in the world clean the lens.
I’ve seen hundreds of hours of super well lit spiderwebs.
Spiders love being on telly. Clean your lens. Maintain it too. Also know how to use it.
I don’t know why but almost everyone buys cctv and that’s it. Jobs done. Do they know how to download it to a dvd or memory stick? Nope. Not a clue.
Fun fact. We as an organisation shouldn’t try to download your cctv. If we accidentally hit delete instead of burn we’ve destroyed evidence. So as a rule we won’t. Please please please read up on how to USE your cctv. Don’t just trust that the police know how to use the myriad million different cctv systems out there.
And have them record. Finding a camera pointed straight at a broad daylight burglary only to find out it doesn’t record and it’s unmonitored is soul destroying.