Crime Scene Investigation: Don’t Always Believe What You See on TV

by Khezia on December 11, 2012

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on Living TV

If you’re a fan of crime and forensic dramas, you aren’t alone; millions of viewers tune in to shows like “CSI” and its spin-offs on a weekly basis. In fact, “NCIS” and “Criminal Minds” are both at the top of the Nielsen ratings each week. While these types of shows are entertaining, they have created what professionals have dubbed the “CSI Effect.” Thanks to these dramas, victims of crime, those accused of crimes and even people sitting on juries expect more than law enforcement officials are able to provide.

1.Instant Tracking Via OnStar

If you were to believe the television shows that you watch, police have instant access to any vehicle on the road simply by tapping into OnStar and repositioning satellites. In reality, no law enforcement agencies have the power to reposition satellites simply to watch a vehicle tear down the road. While satellites can be repositioned, they are not repositioned to catch common thieves, burglars or even murderers.

2.Secure Information

Information is called secure because it is just that: secure. Without warrants and affidavits, law enforcement doesn’t have the ability to tap into a company’s computer system and dig up information about public citizens. While police can access data from companies, they can only do so with the business owner’s permission. Often times, warrants are still necessary to allow the information to be used as evidence in courtroom proceedings.

3.Real-Time Video

If you’re a fan of crime dramas, you’ve undoubtedly watched a time or two as a detective sits behind a desk, trolling through a variety of “real-time” video feeds in search of a perpetrator. While we all know that there are cameras monitoring our speed on the road and outside of the corner store, accessing those cameras isn’t something that the police can do at their leisure. If you were to believe the television, you would think that these cameras are all linked to the nearest FBI office and that just isn’t the case.


If you’ve ever worried that the police may be listening in on your phone calls, you can stop worrying. There is a multi-tiered approach that law enforcement agencies must take before a judge will even consider allowing your privacy to be invaded in such a manner. While the police may be able to retrieve your dialed numbers with little difficulty, it’s rare for a judge to grant permission for a police officer or law enforcement agent to tap into your conversations and listen to your private thoughts.

5.Solving Crimes in a Shift

While some crime dramas will give you the impression that they are solving crimes over the course of a few days, even more appear to be solving major crimes in an eight hour shift. The reality is this: It can take weeks, if not months, for law enforcement officials to get the results of laboratory tests, collect all of the necessary witness statements and solve a crime. You’ll also see a courtroom drama play out over a day when, in real life, the entire court process can take years before a case is considered closed.

There’s nothing that says the things that we see on television won’t be the reality several decades from now but, for today, they are almost completely fabricated. If you’re the victim of a crime, resist the urge to ask the police to dust your purse for prints or scour your house for tell-tale fibers; it probably isn’t going to happen.

Gary Leonard writes articles for education sites and recommends checking out the Criminal Justice Programs offered by several schools.

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