How To: Set Up A Crime Scene

By Cheri Stephens & Mark Feil

  1. Choose Your Scene

    Select an area for the crime scene. It can be within the classroom, a bathroom, at the end of a hallway, or in the gym or auditorium. It can also be as small as a single locker. Decide beforehand if you want one big scene or a bunch of small ones.

    Use crime scene tape to mark off the area. This lends a LOT of credibility to the exercise. You can also enlist students to monitor the area- acting as police officers at the scene.If you have a volunteer to play dead, great. If not either make an outline with masking tape, or tell the kids the body has already been taken away if your crime is murder

  2. Plant The Evidence

    Include within the scene a variety of evidence. You do not need to make it a solvable crime scene. This activity is just to allow forensics students to observe and record probable evidence at a crime. Remember, police officers do NOT know what is important evidence at a crime until it is analyzed. If you want, the evidence can be marked with numbered/lettered placards.

    Possible  pieces of physical evidence could include any of those in the section at the bottom of this page. Be prepared to listen to the students try to solve the crime- they get very excited about possible motives and/or events.

  3. Let Them Work the Scene

    Students are told not to touch any items (I move them somewhat between classes to make each scene a little different). They will need graph paper, a tape measure, and a directional compass. They photograph the scene.

    The first day, if it’s a two-day exercise, students merely record the scene in their notes and complete the diagram (on large, poster size paper).  Students absent on the day of the crime can use other “officer’s” measurements. The second day the students can collect the evidence into proper containers. Or, if time does not allow, everything can be done the same day.

  4. Let Them Process The Evidence

    Later in the year students will know how to lift prints, ID fibers and hairs, and classify evidence. Use this to add depth to the evidence you plant.

  5. Have Them Share Their Findings

    Each group should present their findings, a diagram, a description of evidence and collection method orally and with posters or PowerPoint.

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