An investigation is an inquiry made for the discovery and collection of facts concerning a specific matter. It may be done for judicial purposes or otherwise.
A crime investigation is a collection of methods used to study crimes and help apprehend criminals.
A special crime investigation is a special study of modern techniques in the investigation of serious and specific crimes including murder, homicide, rape, abortion, robbery, arson, kidnapping, blackmail, carnapping, and criminal negligence. When conducting a special crime investigation, the investigator must remember to focus on gathering physical evidence as opposed to seeking out extra judicial confessions.
General Principles of Investigation
According to the PNP Revised Criminal Investigation Manual (2011), criminal investigations are done to accomplish the following:
- to identify the suspect;
- to locate the suspect; and,
- to provide evidence of their guilt.
In order to achieve the above, an investigator must establish the six cardinal points of investigation:
- Who committed an offense;
- What specific offense has been committed;
- When it was committed;
- Where it was committed;
- Why it was committed; and,
- How it was committed.
- Testimonial Evidence affidavit of complaint and witness
- Documentary Evidence photographs, videos, police reports, etc.
- Object Evidence stolen items, weapons, and other devices
- Other relevant evidence
- Gather and study all information available regarding the crime before entering the scene and upon arrival.
- Overview. Take your bearings at the crime scene so that you get a rough picture of the area and what has happened.
- Start keeping an action log.
- Cordon off the area or extend the existing cordon if necessary. The perpetrator’s route to and from the crime scene may need to be cordoned off as well.
- Make sure that a list is made of all the people who enter the crime scene.
- Pause for thought and start planning. This is where the crime scene analysis starts.
- Note down your observations continuously. It is a good idea to use a recorder.
- Take a general photograph of the crime scene. Film the scene with a video camera.
- Search for and collect evidence, objects, reference samples, etc. outdoors.
- Search for and collect evidence, objects, reference samples, etc. indoors.
- Take photographs continuously. Photograph all evidence before it is collected. If possible, engage a photographer for specialized trace evidence photography.
- If the robbery was video/filmed, via CCTV, etc., view the video to see where evidence might be found.
- Seize any video recordings and films in still cameras.
- Draw a sketch. Mark the places where trace evidence and reference samples are collected.
- Write a continuous seizure report.
- Find out whether the proceeds of the robbery included bait money.
- Double-check the crime scene before you leave it. Make sure that you have not forgotten anything important such as interrogation reports, memos, equipment, etc.
The tasks and responsibilities of the fire investigators are not only limited to conducting an exhaustive investigations and filing of complaints with the prosecutor’s office, but also includes the appearance and giving of testimonies before the court of law during legal proceedings (PNP, 2010, p.177).
Here is a checklist in investigating fire causes (PNP, 2011, p. 50):
- Find out as much as possible about the fire before going to the scene and upon arrival. Obtain information from the rescue services, from the owners of the building, from people who were in it and from neighbors and eyewitnesses.
- If the fire is still burning or was recently extinguished:
- Make notes of any observations on the way to the scene of the fire.
- Examples of interesting observations are oncoming vehicles and persons near the fire scene.
- If the fire is still burning when you arrive: Take photographs, video film and make a note of the times when different things happen.
- Cordon off the area or extend the existing cordon if necessary
- Make sure that a list is made of the people who enter the fire scene.
- Preliminary orientation. Start immediately after the extinction of the fire. Study fire damage and fire behavior. Decide whether to call in experts from other departments or agencies.
- Preliminary determination of the origin of the fire. Get help from the incident commander and the firemen who arrived on the scene first.
- Initial debris removal. Before debris is removed, the whole building must be photographed and video filmed both inside and outside.
- Final debris removal and cleanup. Start from the outside and work towards the point(s) of origin. Photograph all objects found before they are moved. Photograph and document rooms less affected by fire damage and undamaged rooms too.
- Carry out a reconstruction. Put all objects back in their original places. Photograph and video film the uncovered area both with and without the objects.
- Establish the origin of the fire.
- Investigate any potential fire sources.
- Establish the possible cause of the fire.
Basic Methods of Fire Investigation
- Preservation of the Fire Scene
- Consider the fire scene itself as evidence.
- Avoid contamination, loss, or unnecessary movement physical evidence within the fire scene.
- Secure the fire scene from unauthorized intrusion.
- Limit the access in the fire scene to only those persons who need to be there.
- Examination of the Fire Scene
- Examination should be thorough.
- Analyze the fire patterns.
- Trace fire spread.
- Identify areas and points of origin.
- Identify the fuel involved.
- Establish the corpus delicti by eliminating all natural or accidental causes.
- Recording the Fire Scene
- Take photographs of the following:
- Exterior Views.
- Identification of the property / Signage or house addresses number.
- Out-building and grounds / Aerial photographs.
- Interior of the building, room by room, in logical sequence. The series of shots should start at the main door / entrance of the premises going inside. Series of photographs should also depict unburned areas of the building.
- Evidence, prior to removal, in close-up and wide angle shots. Use of “Title Sheet” that shows identifying information of evidence is mandatory (date / location of evidence / investigating team and other situational information).
- Travel of fire or burn and flame spread patterns.
- Label each canister of film used to prevent confusion or loss and maintain Photographic Log (photo record).
- Take photographs of the following:
- Fire Scene Sketch A sketch is made to assist investigators in presenting a clear picture of the involved building to the court. The details may be general approximations or precise measurements. Supplemented by photographs, drawings of the damage patterns, good documentation of a fire scene can assist an investigator in re-analyzing a fire scene if previously unknown information becomes available (PNP, 2010, p. 181).
- Physical Evidence Examination and Testing
- Physical evidence should be thoroughly documented before removal.
- Evidence must be collected, identified, preserved, and transported to the laboratory in the best possible condition. Every effort should be made to prevent contamination of materials secured as evidence. Containers for evidence may consist of thick self-sealing plastic bags of various sizes, clean glass mason jars with rubber washers and screw tops, metal cans with clean pressure or plastic lids, clean glass bottles with screw caps, and card-board or plastic boxes of assorted sizes.
- Maintain the security and integrity of physical evidence from the time of its initial recovery and collection to its subsequent examination and testing.
- Evidence containing latent prints should be protected so as not to smudge or destroy the prints.
- A letter instruction should be sent to the laboratory with the evidence, describing the same and what the investigator expects the laboratory technician to recover via the various laboratory processes.
- Sources of Information
- Preliminary interview with the owners / occupants
- This interview is conducted to ascertain the name(s) of owner(s) / occupant(s), insurance data, employment, etc.
- Nothing should be said or implied during this interview to indicate any suspicion about the person interviewed.
- Information obtained in these preliminary contacts may provide a possible clue as to an accidental fire, or leads on possible suspects and motives.
- Insurance Firm
- The insurance agent or broker will provide the name of the company/ies, policy numbers), terms of the insurance and expiration dates, mortgage payable clause, name of the adjuster, and whether or not the insurance was in the period of cancellation.
- It should also be ascertained, from the agent / broker who solicited the business, who suggested the amount of coverage and whether the premium payment was current or delinquent.
- The insurance adjusters can provide complete insurance information regarding the loss.
- Adjusters can also supply any statements taken from the assured and can be able to provide a sworn proof of loss, which will include specific items claimed to be damaged or lost and which may provide the investigator with information indicating an attempted fraud.
- Should the investigation indicate probable fraud, the adjuster can request the interested insurance company/ies to withhold payment during the course of the investigation.
- Neighborhood Inquiry
- When conducting a neighborhood inquiry, interview persons within a wide area of the surrounding community. Interview the person who discovered the fire, how he/she happened to be in the area, the location of the fire when initially observed and other pertinent facts.
- Interview the person who turned on the alarm.
- Obtain observations from neighbors concerning the fire, prior to, during and after the fire.
- Ascertain the relationship of the owners(s) occupants(s) with the neighbors.
- Witness(es) may be able to provide information relative to the insured’s domestic life, financial condition, anticipated sale of the property and problems with the property such as flooding, heating, change of routes, etc.
- It is sometimes useful to take statements from any witnesses who appear to be hostile or who may later change their testimonies.
- Public Records
- Legal records: deeds, mortgages of real estate and chattels; liens, encumbrance; local and national taxes; hospital and mental records.
- Financial and credit information: building and loan associations; charge accounts; public utilities (i.e., gas, water, electricity, telephone, servicemen (i.e., newsboy, milkman, etc.)
- Employment records, military records, school records, juvenile court records.
- Preliminary interview with the owners / occupants