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As the title implies, a crime scene investigator is called upon to investigate different kinds of crime scenes, such as home invasions, robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides. However, this position involves work as part of a team of crime scene specialists that includes a lead investigator who supervises the collection and handling of evidence. There are also several different types of crime scene investigator jobs, each focused on a different specialty.
The most general of crime scene investigator jobs is the criminologist. This individual is trained to process a crime scene in terms of dusting and processing fingerprints, identifying and preserving physical evidence, and photographing the scene. As with other jobs in this field, the criminologist contributes to a crime scene analysis by preparing relevant documentation to support the most probable theory or conclusion as to the events that took place. In addition, this individual may provide testimony in a court of law regarding the procedures used while fact-finding in the case.
Additional crime scene investigator jobs involve the science of forensics. In this area of specialty, the investigator attempts to reconstruct the crime scene and the events leading up to the crime itself, particularly in the absence of evidence, or evidence that is not readily available via ordinary collection practices. For instance, a forensic criminologist may be needed to extract latent or distorted fingerprints and biological fluids from skin and other body tissue with the application of special chemicals or laser technology. They may also collect and analyze hair and textile fibers, as well as any botanical material found at the scene. In addition, they may make casts of impressions left at the scene from foot traffic or tire tread.
Another specialty that falls under crime scene investigator jobs is the collection and analysis of evidence that relates to tool marks and firearms. However, those working in this capacity are most often consulted at a later stage in the investigation and do not generally participate in the collection of evidence at the crime scene. Instead, they may be presented with knives, guns, or other tools found at the scene that are suspected of being used to commit the crime in question. The area of focus in this job is to examine the specific marks left by the object in terms of length and depth, as well as determining the distance and direction from which impact was made. This position also commonly involves tracing the serial numbers of weapons, as well as restoring those that have been deliberately obscured.
Most jobs related to crime scene investigation are generously compensated in terms of salary and benefits. However, many crime scene investigator jobs also require a dedication to long hours and being available at a moment’s notice, regardless of the time of day or night. In terms of preparation to become a crime scene investigator, a high school diploma is needed and a four-year college degree is preferred, ideally in criminal justice. In addition, some investigative units require individuals to be sworn police officers prior to advancing to crime scene investigation.