Line Pattern Search Method: Procedure, When to Use With Example

The Line Search Pattern method is a variation of the strip or lane search, in which multiple searchers walk in a single line over a crime scene maintaining a constant distance.

Other Name: Linear Pattern Search Method

The main difference between line and strip searches is the searchers do not go back and forth down the lanes. Searches only have to follow a straight linear path (one side of the crime scene to another).

The line crime scene search method is particularly beneficial when the area to be searched consists of rough or hilly terrain with the possibility of having multiple searchers.

When to Use Line Search Method?

Following are some areas where the line searches are proven effective and efficient over other crime scene search methods:

  • Exterior searches involving rough, hilly, or uneven terrain.
  • Large outdoor crime scenes, such as wooded areas, fields, or parks.
  • Cases involving missing persons or victims in remote or rugged terrain.
  • Situations where evidence may be scattered across a wide area, such as plane crashes or natural disasters.
  • Searches for clandestine graves or buried evidence in open spaces.
  • Crime scenes where the perpetrator’s path is uncertain such as the victim being chased by someone or an animal.

Procedure for Line Search Pattern Technique

Procedure for Line Search Pattern Technique

Following is the procedure for the line search crime scene method:

  1. Assemble a team of searchers, preferably law enforcement personnel, to avoid potential issues with untrained or unidentified individuals.
  2. Determine the appropriate distance between searchers based on the terrain and lighting conditions.

Note: If low lighting or night condition, the searchers can adjust the intermediate distance by the flashlight beam.

  1. Assign a team leader or supervisor to ensure searchers maintain a straight alignment and search in the correct direction. 
  2. Positioned team leader on both ends of the line.
  3. Initiate the search with all searchers walking slowly in a single file line, covering the given area.
  4. Document and report the finding to respective team leaders.
  5. Continue and cover the entire area of search.
  6. Collect and preserve any evidence that can help investigators in crime scene reconstruction.

How to Perform Line Pattern Search at Crime Scenes? (Practical Example)

How to Perform Line Pattern Search at Crime Scenes

Case History: In this example, a missing young woman’s case leads investigators to search a large wooded area with rough and hilly terrain.

Investigator’s Opinion on Choosing Search pattern: The area is vast and investigators decided that the strip/lane method isn’t that effective. They have ample human resources so they decided to go with the line search method.

Goal of Search: To find any clues such as whereabouts that can help police in finding the missing woman.

Here are the steps for conducting a Line Search in this case study:

Step 1: Assemble the Team

Assemble a team of 10 searchers, preferably all law enforcement personnel, to ensure a safe and systematic search.

Step 2: Determine the Distance Between Searchers

Based on the terrain, visibility, and lighting conditions, determine the appropriate distance between searchers. For this example, let’s assume a 5-meter distance is suitable between two lines.

Step 3: Assign Team Leaders

Appoint team leaders to be positioned on both ends of the line. Their duties include:

  • ensuring that searchers maintain a straight alignment
  • search in the appropriate direction.

Step 4: Organize the Line Formation

Line up the searchers in a single file, maintaining a roughly constant distance from each other, and begin searching the area.

Step 5: Conduct the Search

The team moves forward in unison, covering the area thoroughly. Each searcher examines the ground, looking for any evidence or signs of the missing person.

Step 6: Adjust for Terrain and Visibility

As the team progresses, the team leaders may adjust the distance between searchers to accommodate changes in terrain or visibility. 

For example, a big rock in the way. Searcher can move around the rock and continue its straight path.

Step 7: Document Findings

If any evidence or signs of the missing person are found, the searchers must document their findings and report them to the team leaders. 

The search is paused temporarily to ensure proper documentation before continuing.

Step 8: Complete the Search

Once the entire area has been covered, the team leaders debrief the searchers and collect any discovered evidence.

The findings are then analyzed or collected for future forensic analysis to determine if they provide any leads in the case.


  • Effective for large or challenging outdoor terrains, such as rough, hilly, or densely vegetated areas.
  • Allows multiple searchers to work together efficiently with less time than the strip or lane method.
  • Suitable for searching areas where marking lanes is impractical due to terrain or environmental conditions.
  • Can be adapted to various lighting conditions by adjusting the distance between searchers.


  • Requires a higher number of human resources.
  • Not as effective for small or confined spaces, such as building interiors.
  • Relies heavily on the coordination and communication between team leaders and searchers.
  • Difficulty in physically marking lines due to the terrain makes it less precise than other search methods.
  • The difficulty of maintaining exact search paths in challenging terrain.

Precautions for Line Search Method

1. Selection of searchers: Choose searchers with experience in law enforcement or those who have received specific training in search and rescue operations.

2. Safety gears: Ensure that all searchers are equipped with appropriate protective gear, such as sturdy footwear, gloves, and high-visibility vests/torches.

3. Distance between searchers: Carefully determine the appropriate distance between searchers based on visibility, lighting conditions, and the nature of the crime scene area.

4. Clear communication: Establish a communication system among searchers and team leaders (such as using walkie-talkies) to report findings and share important updates. 

Challenges for Line Search Method

1. Uneven terrain: When the terrain is irregular, steep, or covered with dense vegetation, the searches have to be cautious about their environment. 

2. Weather conditions: In case of rain in terrain areas, the steep hills become very slippery making it difficult to search. Searches should be postponed if weather conditions pose safety risks for searchers.

3. Coordination and Additional Resources: It may be difficult to coordinate and maintain the line if the area is vast and terrain. Investigators also considered aerial support to aid in searching.

4. Involvement of non-professional searchers: It can be a potential risk to include non-law enforcement personnel because it may be a case where the perpetrator poses as concerned citizens to gain information or manipulate the search.

General FAQs

How do searchers maintain equal distance in a line search method?

Searchers maintain equal distance by visually aligning themselves with each other or using markers such as surrounding trees, flags, and vegetation markers.

How line search method different from strip search method?

The line search method involves multiple searchers moving in parallel lines, maintaining equal distance from each other to cover the entire search area. However, strip search method requires a single searcher or a few searchers who walk in straight lines, back and forth, covering adjacent areas.


  • Expertise in crime scene examination: comparing search strategies of …[DOI]
  • A Comparative Study: The Effectiveness of Various Search Strategies for Finding Critical Evidence in Crime Scene Analysis by Elianna Tracy, Spring Valley High School [link]
  • Crime Scene Processing and Investigation Workbook, Second Edition By Christine R. Ramirez, Casie L. Parish-Fisher [link]
  • Spiral (Circle) Search Patterns: Procedure, When to Use With Examples [link]

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