Every crime fighter and crime scene investigator works from a checklist, even if it’s an imaginary one they’ve tucked away in a remote corner of their mind. The wheels are in constant movement—What do I collect first? Should I take a photo of that object? Fingerprint the light switches? Collect the creepy-crawling things?

To assist the heroes of your tall tales, here’s a quick set of ten must-do tips.

1. Clear firearms before packaging. If the firearm is contaminated with blood and/or tissue, be sure to mark the outside of the container with a biohazard label. No surprises for the lab tech.

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2. Collect a sampling of all maggot sizes, although it’s the largest that typically indicate a closer time of death.

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3. Maggots aren’t always the stars of the show. So, if the dirt is moving, collect it. There’s probably a bug in there, perhaps a beetle, that could make your case.

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4. Record the temperature at the scene. Certain insects thrive at certain temperatures.

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5. Don’t forget the small stuff! Paint chips, plant seeds, leaves, soil, broken glass, tiny scraps of paper, pictures, etc. Either of those items, or a combination, could play a crucial role in identifying a suspect.

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A photograph such as the one above could prove to be an important piece of evidence!

6. Speaking of pictures—Photograph, photograph, photograph! And then take a few more. You can never have too many photos of a crime scene.

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Author Patti Phillips taking photos at the Writers’ Police Academy.

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Crime Scene Photography workshop – 2015 Writers’ Police Academy

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Crime Scene Photography workshop – 2015 WPA

7. Take impressions of tire and tool marks. BUT, do take a photograph of the impression before you cast it in case something goes horribly wrong with the casting material.

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8. Map the scene. Fortunately, this can now be done electronically. Unfortunately, not all agencies have that luxury, therefore a hand-drawn diagram will have to suffice.

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9. Search, search, search, until your feet simply refuse to take another step. Then, you may want to consider crawling. Do not leave any evidence behind!

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Spiral search patterns are an effective means of locating evidence.

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Grid search patterns are especially effective when searching large areas, such as a field or other open land areas. Each grid block is assigned a number or letter. Detectives use those identifiers as reference points when testifying in court. Example: “I located the murder weapon in block number 4.  I also discovered spent bullet casings in block number 3.”

10. Use your brain! Just a little common sense goes a long way.

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