Facts of TV
|It was awkward finding a suitable
spot to fit in this section, but it was decided that the myths about
TV crime shows would be the common topic of many frequently asked
questions about forensic science. So here are some answers to these
1.) Myth- On television, the select few characters
on the show are able to complete all types of specialist analyses.
Television crime shows take the job descriptions
of approximately 5 different forensic specialists and combine them
into one to create a 'super scientist', a person who is able to
solve any type of crime almost entirely on their own. In reality,
a forensics laboratory is divided into half a dozen different sections
which all have different specialists working within them. One piece
of evidence is usually passed through a number of sections before
deciding if the evidence reveals anything.
2.) Myth- Every piece of evidence is always perfect
and easily definable, for example, smudges of dirt and dust, fingerprints
and broken fingernails. In the end, the crime scene reveals all.
More often than not, evidence in the crime
scene is well hidden and requires a thorough initial search and
usually many returns to the crime scene. Evidence such as latent
fingerprints are difficult to find and other evidence found is often
contaminated or unusable.
3.) Myth- TV makes the analysis of evidence appear
to be fast and simple.
In real life, crime labs can take weeks or
months to analyse and process evidence and the evidence usually
goes through several sections before the analysis is complete. Certain
chemical processes can also take days and cannot be sped up. If
a piece of evidence has to go through several types of chemical
analyses, the process takes even longer.
4.) Myth- On television crime shows, every
forensic laboratory is fully equipped with everything needed to
solve every crime.
In real life, crime labs are usually under funded
and it is a constant battle with larger departments, such as fire
and police, for funding and resources. Many labs often find it difficult
to obtain enough staff members, are often tight for space and using
worn out equipment.
5.) Myth- On TV, all of the crimes are solved
and the criminals are brought to justice and punished.
Fact- The majority of crimes are never solved
and the chances of a person being sent to prison for committing
a crime are 1 out of 100. Approximately eighty percent of murders
are solved, but less than twenty percent of burglaries are solved.
6.) Myth- On TV, violent crimes are very common
and hundreds of people are murdered every day.
Fact- Since the year 1955, television crime
shows have included scripts with murdered characters. These continue
to be shown today but the rate of murder according to these crime
shows would be one thousand times higher than the murder of actual
people in the real world.
7.) Myth- TV policemen always get to use their
guns at nearly every case they are called on to investigate.
Fact- The average police officer in the city
of New York, America would have to work for approximately sixty
years just to be able to shoot once.
8.) Myth- On TV, crimes always seem to happen
in the most convenient of places, for example, in places where people
are packed in to increase the number of hostages.
Fact- In reality, crimes often occur where there
are no witnesses present and the majority of times, crimes will
occur outside a busy venue rather than inside. Crimes where there
are huge numbers of hostages involved are not very common.
9.) Myth- On television, forensic investigators
and police often allow citizens not involved in the investigation
to enter and exit the crime scene whenever they please.
Fact- In real life, crime scenes are sealed
off effectively to preserve the evidence within. Citizens not involved
with the crime are very rarely allowed into a crime scene area unless
they have special permission. This is because the more people that
are allowed to enter and exit a crime scene, the more chance there
is of precious evidence being contaminated or destroyed.
10.) Myth- On television, TV police and forensic
scientists always seem to be able to bend the law in their favour
in order to solve crimes.
Fact- In reality, there are stringent procedures
in place to ensure that the law is always obeyed and never tampered
with during the solving of a crime. Certain procedures are compulsory,
for example the storage and analysing of evidence in a laboratory
i.e no evidence should be taken out of its storage area for the
personal interest of a forensic scientist.