School Crime Scene Management
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In July 2000, Governor Pataki signed the SAVE legislation. The legislation requires schools to develop policies and procedures to secure and restrict access to a crime scene in order to preserve evidence in cases of violent crimes on school property.
How to avoid contaminating crime scene evidence
Crime scenes often have some of the most important evidence - evidence that is critical in criminal cases. Only trained professionals, called Crime Scene Technicians, should collect and preserve the evidence.
Crime Scene Technicians say the biggest problem that they encounter is crime scene contamination. Therefore, before the professionals arrive, it is paramount that the crime scene remain as uncontaminated as possible.
There steps that can be taken by people who are the first to arrive at the scene to help protect the evidence.
The following should guide schools in developing policies and procedures to manage school crime scenes. (Police agencies can be contacted to assist with additional education and training.)
Since school employees will be first at a school crime scene, it is recommended that a person from the school staff be designated to manage the crime scene prior to police arrival.
The acronym "RESPOND" should help school personnel remember how best to manage a school crime scene to minimize contamination. The letters in the acronym represent the words respond, evaluate, secure, protect, observe, notify and document.
- Personal safety - Your safety comes first! You can't help others if you are injured.
- Organize your thoughts and formulate a plan on how to handle the situation.
- Make mental notes of your observations.
- Evaluate the severity of the situation. Is the crime/incident in progress or not? School Emergency Response Team should be calling 9-1-1 if appropriate.
- Identify all involved and uninvolved individuals in the area. Emergency response personnel should be offering aid to the victims.
- Be aware of weapons and hazards.
- Be aware of potential evidence.
- Don't touch anything unless necessary.
- Clear away uninvolved people.
- Establish a perimeter with survey or custodial tape, cones, desks.
- Police will adjust the perimeter if they need to.
- Safe guard the scene - limit and document any people entering the area.
- Don't use phones or bathrooms within the scene area.
- Don't eat, drink or smoke in the area of the scene.
- Write down your observations - These notes will be utilized to report crime scene management to responding police. Your notes could possibly be used at a later date in criminal court.
- Record detailed information - don't rely on your memory.
- Call 911 (Police/EMS/Fire Personnel), if not already called or there.
- Take good notes - Such as: time, date, people at scene, weather, doors open or closed, lights on or off and position of furniture.
- Be prepared to provide your notes and information to police.