Crime Scene: Definition & Components

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  • 0:03 The JonBenet Ramsey Case
  • 0:43 What Is a Crime Scene?
  • 1:56 Securing a Crime Scene
  • 3:06 Who Can Enter a Crime Scene?
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

In this lesson, we will discuss what constitutes a crime scene and how law enforcement officials go about investigating one. Information about securing crime scenes and which individuals have access to them will be included.

The JonBenet Ramsey Case

Most of us have heard something about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, a six-year-old Colorado beauty pageant queen. JonBenet was initially reported missing from her home by her parents the day after Christmas in 1996.

An initial police search of her residence turned up few clues, with the exception of a ransom letter. However, the father found JonBenet's body later that day in an area of the basement. The basement was immediately secured as a crime scene, along with the rest of the Ramsey home. Despite an extensive investigation, which included processing of the crime scene, JonBenet's murder remains unsolved.

What Is a Crime Scene?

In simple terms, a crime scene is the immediate and surrounding area where a crime has been committed. In the opening example, the Ramsey home and basement were crime scenes. A crime scene is likely to provide clues to help solve the crime that was committed.

Crime scenes can either be primary or secondary. A primary crime scene is the scene where the actual criminal activity took place. For example, in a murder investigation, the primary crime scene would be the scene where the murder occurred and the person's life was taken. However, there might be additional crime scenes involved as well. For example, the perpetrator might have relocated the body following the murder. Let's say the body was removed and placed in a wooded outdoor area. This would then become the secondary crime scene, as it will also likely yield clues that can assist in solving the crime.

In some cases, only the secondary crime scene can be investigated because the primary crime scene remains unknown. In these instances, it is important for investigators to carefully sift through the clues available at the secondary scene, because in addition to trying to solve the crime, they are also attempting to find clues that will help them locate and identify the primary crime scene.

Securing a Crime Scene

In order to collect valid, non-contaminated evidence, it is essential that the crime scene is secured in order to maintain the integrity of the evidence found there. If crime scene evidence is not secured, the likelihood of successfully prosecuting an offender in court decreases.

Securing the crime scene begins as soon as the first officer gets to the location. In a best case scenario, the first arriving officer should carefully approach the location and do an inspection of the visible area. However, if the perpetrator is still at the scene, this officer may have to make an arrest before securing the scene. In both scenarios, it's crucial for the officer to try not to touch or move items in the immediate area.

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