Burglary investigation procedures

Updated July 20, 2017

Crime is prevalent all over the world. Police and other crime fighting agencies battle this menace each day. One of the most common crimes police are confronted with is burglary. Breaking and entering into a premises and stealing money or property is a very serious crime. If police officers adopt proper burglary investigation procedures, they will aid in the capture of suspects, as well as helping the prosecution present an airtight case at trial. If you are not a law enforcement officer, do not attempt these procedures. Call the police if you're a victim of burglary.

Secure the Scene

Burglary investigation procedures are initiated when a person calls the police to report that a home was broken into and property stolen. These crimes are committed with stealth and therefore many times there will be no witnesses. In such a scenario, gathering evidence becomes crucial in a burglary investigation. This makes it important to arrive at the scene as soon as possible and to secure the area so that evidence is not inadvertently removed or contaminated.

Sometimes the burglar may be caught off-guard by the early return of the owner, and could be hiding on the premises. Investigating officers should keep this in mind when they initially arrive at the scene of the crime and be alert to any suspicious looking persons or vehicles in the vicinity.

The scene of the crime should be left undisturbed, to gather crucial evidence and the people of the house should be instructed to this effect. The victims should be discouraged from doing any cleaning or tidying up of the house. Also, movement of the people in the house should be restricted to areas where there is no evidence of the burglar having been there. If possible, have one detective remove the occupants to a separate area for an interview while crime scene investigators process the location.

Interview the Witnesses

The victims are the persons who knows their house best. They should be able to point out the things that have been disturbed and give to a tour of the layout of the place. The victims can tell the exact location of the things that are now missing and the areas where the doors or windows have been broken.

The victims should be asked about any recent events or visitors to their home. Many times burglars will visit a property under false pretences to get a look around, then return a few days later to burglarise the home. If any salesmen or inspectors have been to the home without appointment, it is worth checking into.

Also go door to door to interview neighbours about anything they may have seen or heard. Burglars often go unnoticed, but sometimes neighbours will recall seeing suspicious vehicles in the area. These instances are often dismissed at the time, but later prove to be clues once it is known that a crime was committed in the area.

Processing the Crime Scene

It is important first to locate the point where the burglar gained entry into the property. Usually this area will give a lot of clues, and is the best place to gather evidence. The point of forced entry will give clues to the type of instruments and tools that the burglar might have used to break in. Sometimes the tool used might get broken, leaving physical evidence of the crime behind. Even after finding the point of entry, all the other windows and doors have to be checked to find out whether there was any attempt to force them open. Close attention should be paid to the ground outside in case there are any footprints. Footprints can tell you if there were multiple burglars, as well as estimating the size and weight of the individual.

The main clinching evidence that can pinpoint a burglar in a trial is fingerprints. The crime scene has to be carefully powdered to get all complete and partial fingerprints. This procedure is quite simple and does not require any sophisticated equipment. The fingerprints can be lifted onto tape to be photographed later. The best places to find prints are on glass and other smooth surfaces.

Follow the Trail

Cash is hard to trace, but other items taken by burglars are not so anonymous. Credit cards leave a clear paper trail that can often be tied to video evidence from stores which may show the suspects. Jewellery and other tangible items are no good to a burglar unless they can be sold. Pawn shops and second hand stores should be alerted with a list of the stolen items and asked to contact the investigating officer if anyone brings those items to the store.

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