Crime Scene AssistantApple ($6.99) | Android ($7.49)
Written by Maria C. Pettolina
DEVELOPED BY EXPERIENCED crime
scene investigators, Crime Scene Assistant is a smartphone app developed to be
a pocket quick-reference guide for first responders to help maintain the
integrity of a crime scene. According to the developers, “The app is a concept
that has been brought to life as a result of personal field experience, and an
acknowledgement that forensic awareness on the frontline is imperative.”
The developers with Crime Scene
Assist Ltd. intend for the app to be useful to all front-line responders,
including police officers, fire-department personnel, medics, fraud
investigators, and security officers. The app provides guidance in a simple,
offline format that can be accessed at any time, right on the user’s
In addition, a new licensed
version of the app has been developed that allows educators and employers to
purchase the app in bulk (at a discounted rate) for the education of students,
new recruits, and employees. Crime Scene Assist Ltd. is also working to develop
online training courses that build on and support the knowledgebase in the app.
Overall, I found this application
useful as a basic refresher of “what to do” on scene, but not as a guide on “how
to do it”. I think this application would serve as a helpful resource to accompany
a training program for students and new first responders. For example, this
would be incredibly helpful for students or new trainees to use as a checklist
when working a mock crime scene to help build muscle memory.
I do not find it overly helpful,
or feasible, for crime scene investigators (CSIs) to use on scene. But, in
reviewing this application, it does not present itself for use by CSIs, but
instead for other first responders discussed below.
A Closer Look
The user is expected to have baseline
knowledge before using the application. When the application is downloaded, the
user needs to acknowledge a “Basic Awareness of Forensics”. The application
reminds the user that the information is used to support as an aide-mémoir
and reference tool, not an alternative for training. It also requires the user
to sign off on a liability statement.
The application was easy to
navigate with simple options. There were three main options to select: a HOME
button, a CONTACT button, and a MORE button that allows the user to view the terms
and conditions. The user will mostly function from the HOME button.
Once the HOME button is
selected, four main categories populate: Police, Medic, Fire, and Other Responders.
The application’s tagline reads “Making Forensic Awareness Second Nature for
First Responders”. My initial expectation was to see a CSI category and perhaps
some much-needed reminders on how to document bloodstains or bullet holes
(hence the Crime Scene Assistant name). These are areas of forensics we as CSIs
are trained on, but since we sometimes have the luxury of slowing down, the
application could serve as a friendly reminder. I will admit I have absolutely
googled how to mix chemicals or mix casting material while on a crime scene.
But… this is not a CSI application.
I was impressed with the
organization of the steps and the information contained in the checklists. It
is clear that a team of forensic experts developed this application. The
creators of this application undeniably have experience in forensics and CSI. As
a CSI and educator, I want to have confidence in the expertise of the creators
when I do recommend this to students and other first responders.
The website states it is
developed in the United Kingdom, so I understand some titles and terms may
differ from what we are accustomed to in the United States. There are also terms
and acronyms on the application that I was not immediately familiar with.
To give you a better
understanding of the usefulness of the application, I will offer you a visual
on how the application functions. Once you select a category—for example,
Police—four steps populate. Although the steps for each category are similar,
they do differ by what type of first responder you select. For example, if you
select the Medic option, there is an additional step of Sexual Offenses. In
this step, it allows users in the UK to find a hospital and follow a flow chart
for these special cases.
Applications for the App
Again, I found this application
to be helpful as a resource for a training program, but I do not find it
feasible as far as using it on a crime scene. Police, fire, medics, and other
first responders often are called to hectic and high-stress events. I do not
find it practical for the first responder to open this application and start
running down a checklist during an active scene. If the first responder needs
to do that, they should not be on the crime scene without a trainer or
If the application is
incorporated into a training program, the first responder would be familiar
with the information and could review the checklists after the crime scene to
see if they missed a checkbox, or to consider if they need future additional
I did very much appreciate the “Information
for the CSI” step that was on the Police checklist. This checklist was provided
for the police officer as a way to prepare for information that the CSI will
request in order to efficiently process a crime scene. For example, checkboxes
include the victim’s name, location and review of surveillance cameras, and
evidence that could have been moved prior to arrival. This may be useful for
the officer to review, when the scene is calm and safe, and when they are
waiting on CSI arrival.
Also, while I do feel the
application touched on this with the acknowledgment statements, I offer a word
of caution: As a user, you would want to ensure that these guidelines do not
contradict your policies and procedures. For example, it may not be recommended
in some jurisdictions that EMS and Fire collect evidence, yet there are
checkboxes for that. So, if you do adopt this application for training purposes
and for future use on crime scenes, I would consider your own policies and procedures
before accepting recommendations on how to proceed.
About the Author
Maria C. Pettolina, CSCSA, has
over a decade of forensic experience and has worked as an investigator and a
supervisor in crime scene and property and evidence. She is currently employed
as a forensic consultant in Colorado and is a national speaker on emotional
wellness for crime scene investigators. She is the owner of Future Focus
Forensics, which offers expert training and consultancy services. Pettolina is
a doctoral candidate and is published in the field of forensics. For the past
seven years, she has been the lead instructor for a forensics program at a
university in Colorado. She has over 1,200 hours of specialized forensic
training and has been introduced as an expert in numerous criminal trials. She
is a Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst through the International Association