Inside a Connecticut State Police Major Crimes Van

The CSP Central District Major Crime Squad's crime van holds everything investigators need to process a scene

From homicides to bank robberies to kidnappings, Connecticut State Police Major Crime Squad investigations run the gamut, and when they're called to a scene, all the tools they need have to be on standby. NBC Connecticut received an exclusive look inside Central District's crime van and learned what happens once investigators arrive at a scene.

State Police have three districts: Eastern, Central, and Western. For CSP Central District Major Crime Squad, the crime van holds everything investigators need to process a scene. The crime van becomes their home away from home. But before they can enter a scene, they may need to wait.

"If we have to get a search warrant in order to process a scene, it could take anywhere from two, four, six hours," said Sgt. Ralph Soda.

Major Crimes works closely with the State's Attorney to review warrants. They need to be specific with what they're looking for. Once that's done, the documentation begins.

PHOTOS: Inside a Connecticut State Police Crime Scene Van

"The first thing we want to do is document the scene. We'll document it with photography, two sets of photography and also video. We do the whole crime scene," Soda said.

That includes the interior and the exterior. Once that's complete, investigators can begin to look for evidence.

"We have to identify things that don't belong or things that might have obviously been utilized in the crime," said Soda.

Soda said detectives will work to figure out what is pertinent to the case and mark each item. It will be photographed and mapped in a sketch of the crime scene. The evidence will then be collected and packaged.

Detectives have to make sure they're not contaminating a scene, which is why gloves and foot coverings are their constant companions. They even have to be aware of contaminants from within the scene. Soda said if they handle a piece of evidence, they'll need to put on new gloves before handling anything else.

"You're bringing something in, you're taking something out every time you enter and every time you leave. We try to minimize that as much as we can," Soda explained.

Investigators need to be very thorough and detail-oriented. Missing something could jeopardize a case.

Supporting good detective work, investigators have several tools at their disposal that'll help them piece together what happened.

They can spray a certain chemical that reacts with the iron in blood but won't affect the DNA. The spray reveals those trace amounts that detectives may otherwise not be able to see. Soda showed us a picture of a shoeprint.

"This was not visible to the naked eye, and once we sprayed it, we were able to come up with these shoe sole patterns which was very crucial to finding the person responsible for it. Because they still had the shoes on," Soda said.

Another photo showed a fingerprint with a small dark spot on it. The fingerprint originally was not visible to the naked eye.

"You can see the dark spot within that print. There was blood there, so we sprayed around it, and unbeknownst to us until it was sprayed, there was a very viable fingerprint right there. That was crucial as well," Soda explained.

And investigators said even is someone tries to clean up a scene before they arrive, they'll be able to see it with the chemical.

"You're still able to if someone tries to clean up a crime scene because what they're doing is pushing the blood around. It'll be swipe marks, but it'll still react with the mineral in the blood.”

Another chemical used will make blood luminesce. That's especially useful if the blood is on a dark background.

Major Crimes will process the scene and anything that needs to be examined will be sent to the forensic lab. That includes DNA, which detectives gather with something as simple but crucial as a DNA swab.

The crime van also includes tools to determine the trajectory of a bullet. The FBI asked Central District Major Crime Squad to assist with the Meriden Mosque shooting from several years ago.

"From the outside where the bullet entered, we were able to put a laser on it and it went back down to the residence from which the gunshot originated," said Sgt. Soda.

Blood spatter can also give investigators a lot of information. It can give a good indication of what transpired and where.

And digital forensics play a big part in the investigation. Detective Christopher Meier says they submit a lot of items to the forensic lab but that the lab isn't always open when they're working on a case. In the middle or the night or on the weekend if detectives need something quickly to follow up on a lead to identify a potential suspect or potential motive, they have a mobile device that can do some of the work on scene.

"We're able to extract the information we need, and once we take it from here, we plug it into the computer. We have some software that decodes the information," Meier said.

Every scene will dictate exactly what they're looking for and it can be a crucial component in an investigation, he added.

"In addition to not only getting information like text messages and whatnot, you can identify location history. We can conduct interviews and know right away if someone is lying or not. Because you can tell me, 'Hey, I didn't visit them yesterday.' We can pull up your location history and say, 'Yep, actually we have that your phone was there,'" said Meier.

On top of working their own cases, CSP Major Crimes will assist local and federal agencies. They'll also investigate officer-involved shootings. For those cases, they'll do the investigation and turn everything over to the State's Attorney. Soda said detectives make no conclusions or recommendations or opinions for officer-involved shootings. They just hand the facts over and let the State's Attorney decide the rest.

There's one crime van per district, which means investigators are working several cases at once.

"We never stop. We keep going and we make sure we get our reports done, prioritize, keep things going. Everybody's got multiple cases going at once, right now we have about 22 cases going at once," Soda said.

While the tools inside a crime van are critical, good detective work and long hours are what will solve a case.

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