Identification at the crime scene: the sooner, the better? The interpretation of rapid identification information by CSIs at the crime scene

Madeleine De Gruijter, Claire Nee, Christianne J. De Poot

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Abstract

New technologies will allow Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) in the near future to analyse traces at the crime scene and receive identification information while still conducting the investigation. These developments could have considerable effects on the way an investigation is conducted. CSIs may start reasoning based on possible database-matches which could influence scenario formation (i.e. the construction of narratives that explain the observed traces) during very early phases of the investigation. The goal of this study is to gain more insight into the influence of the rapid identification information on the reconstruction of the crime and the evaluation of traces by addressing two questions, namely 1) is scenario formation influenced from the moment that ID information is provided and 2) do database matches influence the evaluation of traces and the reconstruction of the crime. We asked 48 CSIs from the UK to investigate a potential murder crime scene on a computer. Our findings show that the interpretation of the crime scene by CSIs is affected by the moment identification information is provided. This information has a higher influence on scenario formation when provided after an initial scenario has been formed. Also, CSIs seem to attach great value to traces that produce matches with databases and hence yield a name of a known person. Similar traces that did not provide matches were considered less important. We question whether this kind of selective attention is desirable as it may cause ignorance of other relevant information at the crime scene.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience and Justice
Early online date31 Mar 2017
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 31 Mar 2017

Keywords

  • Crime scene investigation
  • Rapid identification
  • Cognitive bias
  • Decision making
  • Scenario construction
  • Database-match

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