Recording & Preserving Evidence: Methods & Procedures

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  • 0:03 Crime Scene Evidence
  • 0:46 Record
  • 1:44 Preserve
  • 3:13 Catalog
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson teaches the fundamentals and general ideas behind recording, preserving, and properly cataloging evidence that is found and recovered from a crime scene.

Crime Scene Evidence

A crime scene can have many different types of evidence. Imagine you just entered a home that was burglarized. Evidence could include tool marks and tools left behind. It could include fingerprints. It may even include footprint and tire impressions outside the home. That and much more needs to be considered!

Every single type of evidence has its own unique rules and procedures for how it should be recorded, collected, preserved, and cataloged. As a result, this lesson can't cover the specifics of each type of evidence, but it will give you a fundamental outline of what general procedures should be followed while preserving, recording, and cataloging evidence from a crime scene.


Recording the crime scene is also known as documenting the crime scene. It includes taking:

  1. Written notes
  2. Audio recorded notes (which will later be made into written notes)
  3. Photographs
  4. Video recordings
  5. Sketches

In some cases, surveying equipment is used to record dimensional information with respect to a crime scene in order to later digitally reconstruct a virtual crime scene.

Why does an investigator bother recording a crime scene? It provides a permanent record of the crime scene as it was when it was discovered and thus helps remind officers and witnesses of important details that would otherwise be forgotten. Documentation such as this also records evidence that might later be lost, stolen, or destroyed during recovery or transportation. Finally, it provides an important account of how the crime scene was processed, which may later be important during the investigation and trial.


Evidence found in a crime scene needs to be, in general, protected from two main things: the weather and people. Heat, cold, rain, and people who shouldn't be at the crime scene can all contaminate or destroy important evidence. For example, if rain threatens to destroy vital evidence, then tents may be erected to preserve that evidence. If flowing water may do this, it needs to be redirected away from the crime scene, if at all possible. If large objects may be damaged by incoming weather, they may be moved to a nearby sheltered location if they can't be collected or protected right away. Of course, before moving any object from a crime scene, everything about its orientation and positioning should be recorded.

People can also harm the crime scene. To preserve evidence from people's actions, investigators erect barriers to exclude unauthorized personnel. This may include using plastic tape and, in serious crimes, monitoring by police around the perimeter of the cordoned off area.

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