There are numerous shows on TV these days that deal with Crime Scene Investigating (CSI). With over 80 channels on most basic cable providers it is a challenge for the avid fan of “True Crime” style programs to keep up with all the homicidal maniacs canvassing the broadcast world. There has always been crime dramas such as NYPD Blue and the long ago Dragnet, but the TV shows today approach crime scene investigating in a more sophisticated approach. Don’t they?
Yes and no.
A true crime lab used for CSI work is a bright uninviting place stacked with case files and evidence waiting to be tested. Most CSI or Law Enforcement style programs convey the labs to be a dark place with colored gelled lights in the background to add ambiance. They show Lab Techs working with bullet fragments pulled from a dead body in almost complete darkness. If a CSI Detective needs fingerprints, found on a weapon or an object at the crime scene, processed; it is usually done by a local lab person. This is done because most murder investigations are attempted to be solved in the first 48 hours. In addition, Crime Scene Investigators don’t usually have access to a crime lab. They are usually denied access to preserve the chain-of-evidence. Can you imagine detectives walking through a crime lab with evidence laid out from murders or suicides? Defense Lawyers could easily demonstrate that evidence may have been tampered with.
To add drama to the CSI style shows there usually is a love affair or turmoil that is happening in the personal lives of the CSI detectives. This is where today’s crime programs have become more “True Life”. Everybody has sometime of drama in their life. Someone is dying or gambling problems or even their kids are getting in trouble.
Imagine Dragnet Detective Joe Friday having a relationship with a witness? What a dry story there.
True Crime is all around us – so why do people watch the fiction instead of picking up a True Crime Book? It is because the human side of these dramas. When someone commits suicide on a show the detectives have to go deeper into the life of the person that killed themself. They visit with the mother and the boss and everyone tells their story, and then at the end of the climax it is found out it wasn’t a suicide but a homicide. The person was murdered because they were secretly part of the mafia. The twist of a dramatic story.
The truth is suicides and murders are usually what they appear to be. Rarely is a suicide investigated and found to be a homicide. Most suicides end with no doubts. Detectives rarely have time to investigate the reason of the suicide.
At the Las Vegas Stratosphere there have been four people that have jumped from the top of the 1100 foot tower. No detective work needed. It is usually left to the families to figure out their loved one did it.
Often TV Programs, such as CSI Las Vegas wrap a crime up in just a few days. That is not always the case. During true homicide cases, such as Tupac Shakur, the crimes go unsolved for years or forever.
In contrast, the key goal of any homicide examination is to complete it in 48 hours. The reasons are simple.
1) Witnesses begin to forget key details. Try and remember your day to day details from just 48 hours ago. Something key you did that could easily be forgotten.
2) In the first 48 hours of the crime analysis a suspect has the time to make preparations to flee or has already fled and is making their way out of the area.
3) Tracking useful evidence. Key evidence such as fingerprints, blood, body fluids, witness recollection, and even text messages all have a rate of decay.
In summary, the CSI and other crime detective shows do have the drama of life fairly accurate, but procedurally the shows are routinely off.