Burglary Investigations

Tools & Toolmarks

In some cases the burglar may use a tool to aid in gaining entry. Prying open windows and doors is a common technique. Sometimes it is also possible to use pliers to rotate a deadbolt and draw back the bolt. Knives or other thin objects may be used to slip locks. These tools leave scratches or other impressions when they are used, and the marks can be compared to any tools which are later recovered.

Tools may become broken during use. Finding a broken knife blade or screwdriver tip should prompt a search for the tool it originated from.


It is not unusual for a burglar to become injured while entering a building, particularly when they enter through broken windows. Look carefully at the Point of Entry for signs that the suspect may be injured. Often it is quite obvious that an injury has occurred from the trail of blood through the residence.

Blood can be collected by several methods. The easiest is to find an object with a good size stain on it, and simply collect the whole object. (Like a piece of broken glass which is stained with blood). Another good method is swabbing with a sterile cotton swab.

In addition to collecting the blood itself, look for items the burglar may have used to clean up or control the bleeding. Most people don’t like to walk around bleeding, so often you will find that they have used towels or tissue to control the bleeding, and possibly a sink to wash up. The towel or tissues make your collection job easy, just take them. You may also locate additional items which can be processed for latent prints. In one case a great latent fingerprint was developed on the side of a Band-Aid box which the burglar had opened to get himself a bandage.


Searching for fiber evidence can be extremely time consuming and is normally reserved for major crimes. However, the burglar may have snagged or torn their clothing when entering, leaving behind fibers or even large sections of cloth. These are fairly easy to locate and collect, simply examine broken items with a flashlight.


If the call was a crime in progress and someone stops a possible suspect, be sure to look them over carefully as well. Look at their shoes for mud or dirt and note what the tread pattern is. Look at their clothing for any snags or tears. See if they have any injuries. Are they carrying tools or gloves? (In many jurisdictions possession of burglary tools is another chargeable offence). Communicate with the officer onscene and see if there is anything which can tie them to the scene.

Bonus Evidence

Those things you find at scenes which really make your day. A series of footwear imprints in snow which have no tread detail, but lead to the back door of the neighbor’s house. The suspects wallet which slipped out of his pocket as he squeezed through the window. Those Polaroid photographs or videotape the suspect made of himself while at the scene. Always be alert to the possibility that the suspect may have done something really stupid and left you a bonus at the scene.

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