The Strip Search Method is a widely-used and effective approach to finding evidence at large crime scenes. They are characterized by their unique method of search that somewhat resembles the line method.
Other Names: Lane search or parallel search
In the strip or lane search method, searchers systematically walk in straight lines of constant width across the area, ensuring a comprehensive examination of the scene. On reaching the end of a strip, they turn around and proceed in the opposite direction, next to the area just searched.
The width of the pattern can be adjusted based on the situations like:
- Lighting conditions: lower the light, the smaller the lanes or width of the flashlight beam.
- Size of the search area
- Type of terrain
Investigators prefer the strip method over the line search method when there are limited resources and the area to be searched is not that elongated.
In most crime scenes, stip method can cover the area efficiently, making it easier for them to locate and collect potential evidence.
Strips Vs Lanes Search Method
The only difference between strips and lanes methods is the number of officers and their conjoined work in a crime scene search.
In the strip search method, a single investigator is used to move in a straight line and then moved back to the very next strip. Here is the representation of the strip pattern search method:
Whereas in the lanes search method, more than one, let’s say two investigators moved in a straight line and then turned opposite to move in the very next lane or lane next to the second investigator.
Here is the image representation of strips and the lane search method.
Another difference is that partitioned lanes are usually marked with strings or flags while in strip search, investigators have to follow their imaginary line.
The lane search method is usually used when the crime scene is spread over a larger space.
|Aspect||Lane-Search Method||Strip-Search Method|
|Lanes||Partitioned using stakes and string||Imaginary, no string or cord used|
|Number of Officers||More than one||Single officer|
|Search Width||Varies from arm’s length to shoulder-to-shoulder||Depends on officer’s adaptation|
|Crime Scene area||Usually very large area||Small confined spaces|
When to Use Strips or Lanes Search Method?
Following are some examples where investigators choose strip or lane searches over other crime scene search techniques:
- Indoor crime scenes with large, open spaces, such as warehouses or large residential rooms.
- Outdoor crime scenes with relatively flat terrain and minimal vegetation, such as parking lots, fields, or parks.
- Evidence may be scattered over a wide area (both indoors and outdoors).
- Have a limited number of searchers.
Procedure for Strip Search Technique
Following is the step-by-step procedure on how to perform a strip or lane search on a crime scene:
Step 1: Assess the Scene
- Evaluate the crime scene to determine the size, complexity, and environmental conditions to plan the structure of the search.
Step 2: Establish the Starting Point
- Identify the starting point for the search, typically from a corner or edge of the crime scene.
Step 3: Determine the Width of the Strips
- Based on the lighting conditions, size of the area, and available resources, decide on the appropriate width for the strips or lanes.
Step 4: Mark the Lanes (if necessary)
- If the area is large enough, it may be necessary to physically mark the lanes or strips.
- One can use wooden or metal stakes to define the boundaries of each strip and attach a string between the stakes to create clear lanes.
Step 5: Assign Searchers to Strips
- Assign a searcher to a specific strip or lane, ensuring they understand their responsibilities and the pattern they should follow during the search.
Step 6: Conduct the Search
- Searchers walk in a straight line along their assigned strip, examining the area for evidence as they progress.
Step 7: Turn around 180° to Next Lane
- Once they reach the end of the strip, he/she should turn around and search in the opposite direction, immediately next to the area they just searched.
Step 8: Document and Collect Evidence
- In case potential evidence is identified, they should first document its location and description, and collect the items following proper evidence-collection procedures.
Step 9: Review the Findings
- After completing the search, gather the searchers to debrief, and review the findings and collected evidence.
Practical Example of Strip Search Method
Case History: In a case involving homicide in a slightly large, open outdoor crime scene, investigators were tasked with uncovering evidence. The area was a remote, grassy field where the victim’s body was discovered, with signs of struggle and a possible altercation with someone.
Why Investigator Choose Strip Method: The scene presented various challenges due to its size, the scattered nature of potential evidence, and limited human resources.
Goal: Thoroughly cover the search area, ensuring that no evidence would be overlooked.
Strip Search Method – Step by Step:
Step 1: Assemble the search team: Gather a team of trained investigators and establish clear roles, responsibilities, and communication protocols.
For example, assign a team leader, evidence-collection specialists, and a photographer.
Step 2: Assess the crime scene: Evaluate the size, terrain, and environmental factors and determine the appropriate width of the search lanes. Take note of any specific areas of interest, such as the location of the body, potential points of entry or exit, and any visible evidence.
Step 3: Establish search lanes: Mark the search lanes using stakes and string, taking into account the terrain and ensuring no gaps or overlaps occur between lanes.
For example, designate a narrower lane width around the area where the body was found to ensure a more detailed search.
Step 4: Conduct the search: Searchers walk in a straight line down their assigned lane, carefully examining the area for any evidence. After reaching the end of the lane, take the opposite and search the adjacent or assigned lane.
Step 5: Maintain communication: Throughout the search process, maintain communication with the search team leader about any findings, issues, or concerns.
For example, a searcher who discovers a set of footprints can alert the team leader to redirect resources to that area.
Step 6: Document evidence: Properly document, collect and preserve any sort of potential evidence.
For example, photograph the blood-stained rock in its original location before collecting it using gloves (or developing fingerprints) and placing it in a properly labeled evidence bag. [Read More: Do Gloves Hide Fingerprints? [No They Don’t] A Forensic Aspects]
Step 7: Review and debrief: After completing the search, review the results or additional follow-up actions needed.
Try to reconstruct the events such as the potential connection between the bloodspatter on rock and the victim’s injuries or the footprints leading investigators to an exit route.
- Doesn’t require too many searchers to scan the area. For a mid-sized area, one investigator can be enough.
- Lane search methods can adapt to various crime scenes based on the resources and lighting conditions.
- It is one of the easiest search methods to implement in large crime scenes.
- Limited effectiveness in complex terrains such as uneven ground and dense vegetation.
- If the strips or lanes are too wide, there is a risk of overlooking potential evidence.
- If strips or lanes are too short, the search can be thorough but time-consuming.
- Poor lighting, rain, and snow can impact the effectiveness of the search.
Precautions for Strip Search Method
- Ensure all the searchers know how to initially handle evidence.
- Establish clear communication and what to do when a searcher finds evidence.
- Adjust lane width as per terrain, lightning condition, and visibility.
- All personnel must wear proper protective gear and avoid any contamination.
- Eating and drinking must be avoided in the area of the crime scene.
Challenges for Strip Search Method
- Can be time-consuming, especially searches at night, in terrain, or in very vast outdoor scenes.
- Finding evidence depends solely on the searcher’s perspective of what to consider as evidence and what’s not.
- Incomplete coverage could easily risk losing evidence.
How does the strip search method ensure thorough coverage of a crime scene?
The strip search method involves investigators walking in straight lines across the area to be searched, then turning around and walking in the opposite direction, adjacent to the previously searched area.
How can investigators improve the effectiveness of the strip search method in low-light conditions?
Investigators can narrow the width of the search lanes to match the width of the flashlight beams. Investigators can also try to illuminate the entire area during night searches.
What factors should be considered when determining the width of search lanes in the strip search method?
Factors include lighting conditions (both natural and artificial), size and complexity of scene, type of terrain or ground cover, and type of evidence that may be present are some considering factors.
- Henry Lee’s Crime Scene Handbook By Henry C. Lee, Timothy Palmbach, Marilyn T. Miller [link]
- Crime Scene Forensics: A Scientific Method Approach By Robert C Shaler [link]
- UAV‐assisted real‐time evidence detection in outdoor crime scene investigations [DOI]
- Wheel (Ray) Search Pattern: Procedure, When to use With Example [link]
FR Author Group at ForensicReader is a team of Forensic experts and scholars having B.Sc, M.Sc, or Doctorate( Ph.D.) degrees in Forensic Science. We published on topics on fingerprints, questioned documents, forensic medicine, toxicology, physical evidence, and related case studies. Know More.