Norfolk crime scene investigators perform a vital role
The Evening News is running its Beat the Burglar campaign all week offering readers information about how they can try to best protect themselves against becoming a victim and highlighting how burglaries are investigated and brought before the courts.
Today PETER WALSH talks to Mick House, forensic operations manager for Norfolk and Suffolk police, about the important role played by Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs).
It might not be quite as glamorous as viewers of the hit US TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation starring Laurence Fishburne might think, but the role of a crime scene investigator is a vital one.
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Norfolk police has seven crime scene investigators (CSIs) and four volume crime scene investigators (VCSIs) working with police officers in the Norwich area.
Crime Scene Investigators are trained civilians who attend crime scenes, including burglaries, assaults and murders, and recover all manner of physical evidence which might prove vital in catching the culprits.
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They are bolstered by VCSIs who look at volume crime, like burglaries and car crime, who assist in gleaning clues from the scene.
Mick House, Forensic Operations manager for Norfolk and Suffolk Police, has overall responsibility for CSIs in the region.
He said CSIs and VCSIs performed a vital role for the police in terms of providing clues and pieces of evidence which their colleagues can use to apprehend offenders.
One CSI or VCSI would normally be tasked to attend a burglary and would be expected to contact the victim within an hour to arrange a visit to their home.
Mr House said: 'We will get there as soon as possible - it's a priority. They might be on another job but will always make contact with the victim within an hour to go and see them.'
A police officer would normally already be at the scene and would have reminded the householder not to touch anything in order to preserve the scene.
Mr House said when the CSI arrives they will speak with the householder to establish how the intruder got in, where they went and what was disturbed to try to build up a picture of where to concentrate their probe.
He said: 'They will look at it using specialist torches with different filters which highlight blood or other trace evidence, finger print powders, look for DNA and foot prints. We have specialist equipment relating to finger print powder and photo equipment.
'We work on the premise that every contact leaves a trace - they may have left something at the scene and we're there to try and establish what that is and locate it. We will spend as long there as we need to make sure we cover all the areas.'
Mr House said finger prints discovered at burglary scenes, which are thought to belong to the offender, are sent to police HQ at Wymondham before being fed into a national database containing eight million finger prints to try and locate a match.
He said: 'If they get a hit we can identify a perpetrator of a crime within hours of us being at the scene and that goes back to the police to follow up.'
Similarly with DNA left at the scene Mr House said they can get a result within one or two days if the perpetrator is on the database.
By using these techniques Mr House said they can not only detect offenders, but stop further offences being committed by enabling police to identify and catch the culprits.
After they have collected their evidence Mr House said every CSI or VCSI is responsible for clearing up after themselves and leaving the house clean and tidy.
He said it is part of the role, part of the service to the public and part of the reason why 98pc of victims they come into contact with are very satisfied or satisfied with the service they receive.
Tomorrow: The impact of burglaries on the victims.
Good neighbours are worth a lot. Let them know if you are not going to be about. Work together and look out for each other.
How householders can avoid becoming a victim of crime
Around the home/garden:
<t> Good outdoor lighting can put off a burglar.
<t> Fit lights out of easy reach.
<t> Make your home look occupied when you are out- don't leave your curtains closed during the daytime as this shows the house is empty. Use automatic timer switches to turn lights on when it gets dark and have radios on during the day.
<t> Consider fitting a burglar alarm - make sure it is installed properly and works by a reputable installer.
<t> A thorny hedge along the boundary of your property can put thieves off.
<t> Burglars don't like gravel, it's noisy to walk on.
<t> Always close your gate and secure it with a lock.
<t> Trim back any hedges or plants that a burglar could hide behind.
For further crime prevention advice visit www.norfolk.police.uk.