PDA

View Full Version : Crime Scene Question



Word Jedi
12-12-2009, 05:29 PM
This might sound dumb, but I'll let it fly anyway.
When a body is found on a floor or the pavement or sidewalk, police trace the outline with chalk or tape.
What happens if a body is found sitting in a chair or on a couch?

kaitie
12-12-2009, 05:49 PM
I've actually heard that the chalk outline is solely something from tv and movies and that it's not actually done in real life. I'm rather certain that everything is photographed instead. I have seen news images on tv with chalk around a blood splatter, for instance, but I'm pretty sure they don't really do this. I'd have to ask my aunt to know for sure, though.

Wayne K
12-12-2009, 05:55 PM
Interesting question.

I'm usually there before they declare it a crime scene, so I have no idea.

smcc360
12-12-2009, 06:37 PM
In New York, the chalk outline is largely an anachronism. There are more sophisticated ways now of recording the body's position in relation to its surroundings.

There might be some old-school detectives still doing it, but I've never seen it. The fact that it's such a striking and iconic image is what accounts for it's continuing representation in fiction, I think. Like pay phones, corner news stands, and reporters wearing their press cards in their hatbands, its become a thing of the past.

Word Jedi
12-12-2009, 06:43 PM
Like pay phones, corner news stands, and reporters wearing their press cards in their hatbands, its become a thing of the past.
LOL. Well said. Reminds of that scene from Airplane.
"Okay, guys, let's get some pictures."
And the reporters start taking photos down off the wall.

MarkEsq
12-12-2009, 06:46 PM
Doesn't happen in my jurisdiction. Not sure it ever did. Crime scene folks now record everything on video and with a digital camera, overall scene views and close-ups. If the location of a piece of evidence needs marking they put little yellow "hats" over or next to it, little a casing or blood. But there's no chalking.

Shakesbear
12-12-2009, 06:49 PM
Interesting question!

" 1. Walk through the scene with your hands behind your back .
2. Take all your initial photographs.
3. Take any necessary close-up photos of the corpse, and mark the
location of the corpse - with chalk inside, with rope outside - for
reference."

Page 15, Scene of the Crime,m a writer's guide to crime-scene investigations, by Anne Wingate Ph.D. Writer's Digest Books,
ISBN 0-89879-518-4

I think it may be important to consider that this is one practitioner in one State - so it could vary from State to State.

Jamesaritchie
12-12-2009, 07:06 PM
I don't think any police department has used tape or chalk in more years than I've been alive, and many never did. I sure can't find one that does, though there may be one out there somewhere. Photos do the job nicely.

The only thing used around here is crime scene tape or ribbon to keep the general pubic out of the crime area until teh investigation is finsihed.

But photos provide the only reference anyone needs. In writing mysteries, I've talked to many police departmenst, and I've looked at thousands of crime scene photos. I've yet to see a body outlined by anything.

MarkEsq
12-12-2009, 07:17 PM
Page 15, Scene of the Crime,m a writer's guide to crime-scene investigations, by Anne Wingate Ph.D. Writer's Digest Books,
ISBN 0-89879-518-4


This book is from 1992. Honestly, if you are going for realism and don't want your readers to be thinking, "Yeah, right, chalk," I wouldn't use it in writing. It's possible someone somewhere uses it but it's not common enough to pass muster in a novel, I'd suggest.

BradyH1861
12-12-2009, 09:32 PM
I've never seen the chalk thing done anywhere outside of the movies.

Chase
12-12-2009, 09:54 PM
Great questions and answers. This is as useful for crime writers as a good episode of Mythbusters!

Word Jedi
12-12-2009, 09:56 PM
As usual, awesome help from this community once again.
It sounds like some people actually in law enforcement have offered their observations on this question.
My thanks to everyone!
Your answers have kept me from asking embarrasing questions at my local police station.

RJK
12-14-2009, 03:09 AM
When investigating fatal accidents where the victim was ejected from the vehicle, or a pedestrian was hit, our old time captain insisted we mark the body's location with a circle over a T The circle being the head, the top of the T the shoulders, etc. It was only used as a reference point for taking measurements. Now, they use laser range finders to diagram the scene.