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Get a Closer Look at how Investigators Solve Crimes

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Detective Rich Stephenson of the Criminal Investigation Division has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 1991. He says, “I don’t like it when people commit crimes and I can’t do anything about it.”

He and other investigators spent Friday afternoon showing us how they find evidence and put the pieces together to solve a crime.

Mystery & Crime on Television

Detective Bill Mims of the Criminal Investigation Division says that television has played a big role in how he does his job. He says, “One thing about TV shows is that it’s not actually real life… You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into when you show up.”

You’re probably familiar with the TV show, CSI. The show follows investigators as they use scientific methods to solve crimes. For example, forensic scientists may find unique evidence that leads them to a criminal suspect.

Detective Stephenson says that many suspects confess after seeing scenes from the TV show because they think it means that there is no chance for their case to go unsolved.

He says, “I have had suspects that have confessed simply on the belief that there was something on TV that said you could not beat this technology. They were wrong.”

While many people think it’s easy to solve a crime just by watching television, Detective Stephenson says it takes hard work and time to put together all of the pieces leading to the criminal.

The Lineup TV Show

The show was produced by Frank Brill Productions and hosted by Daniel Fuchs. It ran for one season on UHF television station KEMO TV Channel 20 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

KEMO-TV was the second UHF television station in the Bay Area (after KHSL-TV). It went on the air March 3, 1958 broadcasting from studios located at 4012 Fortieth Street (at Cole) in San Francisco’s Sunset District. By 1962 it had moved to new studios at 1001 Van Ness Avenue (on the 901 Market Street (San Francisco) cable car line at Polk Gulch). It was later bought by Metromedia and then eventually Fox Television Stations. It last aired on February 29, 1996 and it became KOFY TV 20.

KEMO-TV and its owners had a colorful history. In 1960, KEMO management decided to compete with the three established television station by producing its own local program. Daniel Fuchs was hired as producer and writer, along with an announcer/actor He created “The Line-Up”, a weekly hour series of five mystery dramas. The program was so successful that it spawned a national version which ran for 131 episodes with a new play each week. The program was filmed in San Francisco and some of the actors were from an earlier series – “Harbor Command”.

Since the media has played a big role in how detectives do their jobs, they have to be careful not to let it influence their work.

Detective Mims says that this television show also made a big impact on how he does his job. He says, “I would like to say we were not influenced by ‘The Lineup’ and all these other shows but I can’t. You watch these guys come up with these crime stoppers… I want to be just like them.

The Lineup also helped spark Detective Stephenson’s interest in solving crimes. He says, “There were a couple of episodes where they showed the actual lineup and I said ‘Wow! That’s pretty cool.’ You got a really good look at it.”

Scene of the Crime

Once they are called to a crime scene, investigators make sure that nothing is touched or moved until they get there.

Detective Stephenson says this is important for two reasons: 1) so you can preserve evidence and 2) so you don’t disturb anything that could help solve the case.

Detective Mims says, “You need to make sure that the scene is locked down. That means nobody goes in there unless you’re letting them in.”

He also adds that investigators have to keep witnesses away from the crime scene until they are questioned.


Techinically, CSI is more of a TV show than Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs). However, most people mistake it for the real thing.  The reality is that CSIs are vital in solving crimes. Crime scene investigators collect evidence at crime scenes or associated with criminal suspects. They also document and photograph these scenes to protect themselves and the accused.

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