Resources for Crime Writers – online

This may look like a random picture, but actually it’s Cambridge’s very own Parkside Police Station (I would have gone in closer, but I didn’t want to get myself arrested…)

When I started to try my hand at writing crime fiction, I was naturally tempted to rely on Lewis and Rebus for any background information that might be necessary. I may – may, I say – have absorbed some details of police procedure from those excellent sources but, eventually, I came to the conclusion that I might need to get off my backside and do some research for myself, too. 

In the end, I found a whole load of really interesting resources, both online and in print. I was going to put them all in to one post, but now I look, there are so many that I’ve decided to divide them up. Here’s a selection of the information I’ve found online.

If you’ve found other useful sites, please do add your recommendations in the comments section – it would be great to add to the list! 


Crime Scene Forensics: How does it work? – A useful BBC interactive feature. 
Understanding DNA Evidence: A Guide for Victim Service Providers A whole raft of information on understanding DNA evidence, looking at its value, the dangers of contamination and interpreting the results of DNA analysis. The site – belonging to the US Department of Justice – includes case studies and information on testing methods.
Forensic Science CentralA website featuring a huge range of readable articles on the many and varied aspects of forensic science, from forensic anthropology through to toxicology and trace evidence. The section on crime scene investigation sums up the actions of police on first attending a crime scene. The site also provides case studies and a fascinating section on the history of forensics from pre-700 BC up to the present day.
Forensic Phonetics An interesting edition of BBC Radio 4’s Frontiers, looking at new developments in crime investigation led by speech scientists – available to stream or download as a podcast.
The Life Scientific Jim al-Khalili’s series includes an interview with forensic entomologist Amoret Whitaker (8 January 2013) about how her knowledge of insects helps police investigations. The podcast can be downloaded from the main programme page.
Police Procedure – Interviewing and Interactions with Suspects
Common Interrogation Techniques How Stuff Works’ article looks at the psychological tactics used by criminal investigators including the physical layout of interview rooms.
Making a Statement Information  from the AFFECT (Action for Families Enduring Criminal Trauma) website tackling the topic of giving a statement from the side of civilians caught up in a crime investigation.
Police powersInformation from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau on what the police are and are not allowed to do and the rights of civilians caught up in an investigation. It covers codes of practice relating to everything from stop and search and powers of entry, to citizens’ rights on arrest.
Legal matters
Crimes A-ZA list of crimes in the UK and their definitions from FindLaw UK
Features and opinion
When the murder trail goes cold A BBC feature including details of unsolved UK cases.
Crouching Low, Hidden Camera – Available for streaming, the BBC Radio 4 programme looks at the secret world of the private detective.
We are all Susceptible to Delusions – Psychologist Frank Tallis talks to New Scientist about why we are all susceptible, and how people can be sane in all respects except for one obsessive, and entirely unfounded, belief.

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