4.6 Preservation of Evidence
Evidence is one of the most important items obtained from a search
effort. Potential evidence might include: anything that matches descriptions
of clothing, personal items, anything that appears "out of place,"
documents, tire tracks, shoe prints, fingerprints, blood and body
fluids, hair, fibers, and other trace evidence. It is imperative
that any evidence or crime scene be left undisturbed. Too many cases
are lost by "chain of custody" and "preservation of evidence" errors.
If possible photograph overall scene as found, but do not encroach
upon the scene. It is better to make a false call for law enforcement
than to miss or mis-handle evidence.
Take names, addresses, and phone numbers of all team members
involved in the discovery of evidence for later debriefing.
If potential evidence is found, the procedure is:
- Do not touch, lift, or move the evidence in any way!
- Secure the site (including an area within a 75 yard radius) and
- Positively mark the location of the evidence and the trail leading
to the evidence with easy to see marking tape "flags" so
it can be retrieved by law enforcement.
- Immediately notify the Recovery Center so they can notify law
- If possible keep two individuals with the evidence until it is
- Document the evidence with:
- location (mark it on the search team map or draw a more detailed
- detailed description of the evidence (every last detail)
- photograph of the evidence and scene if possible
- date and time found
- name and contact information of person who found the evidence
- If bad weather exists try to cover the evidence being sure not
to touch or put anything in direct contact. Clean plastic or cardboard
will reduce contamination. This is for short term preservation.
- Suspend the search in the immediate area because preservation
of the area around the evidence is very important for law enforcement's
investigation. Keep animals away from the area.