How to Reconstruct a Crime Scene for Problem-Solving Skills

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Objective problem-solving skills are essential to every part of crime scene evaluation and reconstruction. Reconstructing a crime scene usually begins with investigating the trace evidence with a systematic analysis using the scientific method to determine how the crime occurred at the scene. If an eyewitness is available, or if the crime was captured on surveillance tape, these accounts are used in conjunction with the trace evidence to reconstruct the crime. For reconstructing crimes where a gun is involved, the scientific method requires critical thinking and problem solving to determine how the bullet traveled at the crime scene. A firearm reconstruction entails a direct examination of the shooting area, evaluation of crime scene photos and diagrams, reviewing investigation reports, including witnesses and suspect statements, autopsy reports and medical reports of injured victims or suspects then proceeds with trial-and-error experiments to determine the bullet's path.

  • Latent fingerprinting kit
  • Footprint casting kit
  • Evidence bags
  • Laser or string
  • Autopsy reports
  • Crime scene reports

1 Determine the actual physical location

Determine the actual physical location the crime took place by a process of elimination and brainstorming about what areas to investigate. Photograph and sketch the scene as it was found in order to use the images later to discover possibly unseen connections that can be used in your problem-solving analysis.

2 Gather pertinent information

Gather pertinent information needed as well as collecting all the trace evidence you can find, including fingerprints, footwear and tire tracks, blood, semen, hair, fibers, paint, glass, soil, clothing, weapons and gunshot residue. Analyze the links found between the trace evidence recovered at the scene, and then ascertain the sequence of the evidence to find the validity of each link. It is important to use problem-solving skills to determine if your hypotheses of the facts found at the scene are true, to further facilitate the investigation.

3 Use a means-ends problem-solving approach to establish the number of victims assailants and types of firearms involved in the crime by analyzing the bullets collected blood spatter and other trace evidence

Use a means-ends problem-solving approach to establish the number of victims, assailants and types of firearms involved in the crime by analyzing the bullets collected, blood spatter and other trace evidence.

4 Evaluate the existence

Evaluate the existence and the particular placement of any objects struck during the bullet's flight course to deduce how one thing affected another. From examining the bullet damage, estimate the location, distance, position and trajectory in which a firearm was fired. Problem-solving skills are necessary for proving or disproving the location, arrangement and direction of victims and/or suspects during the moment of the shooting.

5 Recreate the sequence of the shooting event

Recreate the sequence of the shooting event by developing controlled problem-solving trial-and-error experiments using lasers or string to test the flight path of the bullets. Determine if your conclusions derived from the laser or string tests accurately show how the bullets traveled to create this scene and if your problem-solving skills successfully reconstructed the crime.

  • Crime scene investigation is normally reserved for professional forensic scientists.

Jennifer Bisbing began her writing career in 1996. She is freelancing for "Our Urban Times," coauthoring "Wicker Women," ghostwriting "Notable Traces: Memoirs of a Forensic Scientist" and writing a novel. She received a Bachelor of Arts in humanities from San Francisco State University and currently is pursuing a certificate in editing at the University of Chicago.