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The crime room search patterns search patterns available

All About Crime Scene Search Patterns

Selecting the right search procedure when investigating a crime scene is vital in collecting as much data as possible. This data can be used as key evidence during a trial and the process of finding this evidence should not be overlooked. Let’s go over some of the more common search patterns that would be used in investigations both inside and out. Many of the search patterns used will be decided on available resources and the crime scene itself.

Typical Search Patterns Used When Investigating a Crime Scene
  • Link / Follow The Evidence
  • Line & Strip
  • Grid Search
  • Quadrant & Zone
  • Spiral Search
  • Wheel or Pie Search
  • Random Search

Link/Follow The Evidence

Connecting the dots crime scene search patterns
Link / Follow the Evidence

            Essentially the Link Method search pattern is following the evidence as it leads you through the crime scene. This means that once you find evidence, it may indicate where more evidence will be located. Let’s say you find a victim, who was stabbed to death outside a warehouse during the overnight shift. You arrive on scene, and you see a blood trail from where the altercation took place, showing blood from the victim in a straight line from where the victim was found. It appears to be approximately 10-15 feet away, however you also notice blood droplets, not as strong, going the other way and what appears to be a smudged handprint on the door leading into the warehouse. Well of course you will follow the evidence and proceed next into the doorway, where you see some more blood droplets on the stairs leading to the managers office. From there you move into the managers office and see some boxes out of place, so you move them and notice a switchblade behind the boxes, tucked away. This is what it means to follow the evidence and is used in pretty much every crime scene investigation. Using this method also helps law enforcement make sense of a crime scene as well as being able to articulate it properly in a report.

Line and Strip

Strip line search crime scene patterns
Line and Strip
          This search pattern is used when officers start at one end of the crime scene and systematically move in the same direction as to ensure the entire area has been searched. This search pattern keeps a uniformity to the crime scene and can be utilized by one or multiple officers either indoors or out. An outdoor line and strip search would typically be conducted by multiple officers, where they would stand a certain distance from each other, and all walk in a straight line until they reach the other side. An example of this type of search indoors is that an officer will start at the beginning of a room and systematically work their way to the other side in order to ensure the entire room was searched.

Grid Search

Grid crime scene patterns
Grid Search

            The grid search is basically the Line and Strip search with the added bonus of doing another one at a different angle, (often 90 Degrees) to increase the likely hood of finding evidence. Have you ever dropped something small such as a piece of jewelry directly beneath you, but you cant find it anywhere? Then you take a step back and start approaching where you were from different angle, and then out of the corner of your eye you see a glare, a glare only seen from that angle? Well this is the same principle, sometimes you won’t be able to see evidence unless you come from a different angle and this is what the grid search does, it increases the odds of finding that crucial item. Small Items such as spent cartridges may get lodged between the two pieces of grass, and that second angle may land you a partial finger print on that cartridge.

Zone or Quadrant Search

Zone Quadrant crime scene patterns
Zone or Quadrant Search

            Sometimes the crime scene is so large, is complicated or needs specialized training and/or equipment, that investigators will likely have to split it up into groups or zones. This way investigators and make certain that the whole crime scene is being investigated and the same places aren’t being searched over and over, while important evidence is right around the corner. For example, if a suspect shoots a victim and then runs across a bridge and then take off running into the woods. In this case, the suspect could have thrown the weapon into the water or hid the weapon in the woods. Investigators may choose to have a dive team conduct the search in the water, a K9 search the woods and officers with the victim to search for key evidence in close proximity.

When you split a crime scene into zones, you may still need to deploy another search pattern within the zone. For instance, if you have a missing person where you believe they may be found in a large forest. Investigators may decide to use the Line and Strip search within each zone to create a uniformity within the zones. The Zone Search can be used within a large house building or business to help keep things organized.

Spiral Search

Spiral crime scene patterns
Spiral Search Pattern

            The Spiral search pattern is used when there are a limited number of officers or when there is an open space with no clear boundaries such as an open field, woods, or large bodies of water. These types of searches are not the typical every investigation search, but can be used in certain investigation such as bomb explosions. The investigators can either start the search from the center and move outwards or start from the edges and more inwards.

Wheel or Pie Search

Wheel crime scene patterns
Wheel or Pie Search Pattern

            This type of search pattern is when investigators go to the middle of the crime scene and fan out in a pie shape. Each individual will be responsible for their zones and can’t be used for large crime scenes as it will prove inefficient. Although this search pattern may find its way into some crime scene investigations, it has limited uses.

.The Random Seach Pattern

            This search pattern has no distinctive path, no rules other then looking around in a random fashion. The Benefit of this pattern is that the investigator can look around and go straight to areas that seem likely to hold evidence or seem out of place. Another use of this is when there is a high profile case involving a missing person, when multiple volunteers are asked to help and search on their own such in lakes , swamps and rivers.  It is not feasible to coordinate this number of volunteers to see what was already search, especially if you don’t know they are looking.

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By Branden

Branden is a Police Lieutenant who has investigated numerous crimes. He has written and executed multiple search warrants, conducted various protective sweeps, pat frisks and exit orders. He has been involved in numerous police vehicle chases, fights, disturbances, foot pursuits, suspect/hostage negotiations and felony stops. He is trained with an assortment of weapons. He has spoken with countless victims, witnesses and suspects and is using his experience to better protect our communities and loved ones by sharing his knowledge through his writings.

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