How to Distinguish between Primary and Secondary Crime Scenes - dummies

How to Distinguish between Primary and Secondary Crime Scenes

By Douglas P. Lyle

There may be more to a crime scene than first meets the eye. In fact, more than one crime scene may exist, depending upon how the crime was committed, not to mention where. Crime scenes, therefore, are considered either primary or secondary. The primary crime scene is where a crime actually occurred. A secondary crime scene is in some way related to the crime but is not where the actual crime took place.

In a bank robbery, for example, the bank is the primary scene, but the get-away car and the thief’s hideout are secondary scenes. In the case of a killer who commits a murder in someone’s home but transports the victim’s body to a river for disposal, the victim’s home is the primary scene, and the killer’s vehicle and the point along the river where the body was dumped are secondary scenes.

Primary scenes typically yield more usable evidence than do secondary scenes, but not always. Sometimes the only crime scene investigators have to work with is a secondary scene, such as the place where a serial killer dumps a victim’s body, for example.

Under these circumstances, investigators may not know where the actual murder took place and therefore use evidence they find at the secondary scenes to help them identify the killer or locate the primary scene. They may be able to use fibers from an expensive or unusual carpet they found on the victim to identify the manufacturer, the seller, and ultimately a list of buyers or locations where that particular product has been installed. Doing so can greatly narrow the focus of the investigation and lead police to the primary crime scene and the perpetrator.