At a crime scene, every bit of evidence counts so limit contact with the scene to avoid contamination. Sadly many cases are thrown out of court as people do not realise they have not followed the right procedures and contaminated the crime scene. As residents and neighbourhood watch members are usually the first ones at a crime scene it is important that they are conversant with the following guidelines:

  • Do not allow anyone to go near the area until the correct officials arrive.
  • Cordon it off until SAPS arrives
  • Nothing should be moved
  • With due consideration of integrity of physical evidence, treating the injured is more important
  • Establish a temporary command centre or meeting point away from the scene
  • Limit access to and movement on the crime scene; only let specialist personnel such as trauma councillors and medical personnel into the area
  • Secure the scene by moving bystanders to a designated area.

If the route used by the perpetrator to get to and from the scene is known, alternative access routes to the scene need to be identified for use by emergency personnel and police.

Every person present at or in the vicinity of the scene is a potential witness but not everyone wants to be a witness.
One’s personal safety should always be one’s primary concern. In the event of a citizen’s arrest, the perpetrators must be removed from the scene and secured.

DO NOT ALLOW anyone to take photos of the victim or the perpetrator as this can result in the case being thrown out of court and civil litigation, if the photo is published on social media. See Social Media.

Understand how to deal with evidence. You are not allowed to take photos – the defense will rule that out; only official photographs will be allowed. Forensic work is highly detailed and often it is the small details one would never pick up with the naked eye that are invaluable clues.