Many people watch detective TV shows without realizing that many of the crime-solving techniques portrayed in the shows are inaccurate or downright false. While these crime-solving TV show myths should not spoil the pleasure of watching your favorite detective shows, it can be interesting to know what happens in real-life detective work and what only happens on TV. Let us bust some of the common myths you will see on crime-solving TV shows.
The first myth we will bust is that detectives usually analyze evidence. In reality, detectives often just collect the evidence and send it to forensic labs for analysis by forensic scientists. The detective that collects and analyzes evidence is more of a myth than a reality. Another myth is that forensic scientists in crime labs keep up to date with the results of the cases for which they are analyzing evidence for. Crime labs are very busy, and forensic scientists rarely have the time to follow the results of each piece of evidence and the case that it is linked to.
Detective shows often feature fingerprints as solid evidence that someone committed a crime. It is true that everyone has a unique fingerprint. However, minor variations between relatives and even strangers can cause uncertainty in an investigation. Fingerprint collection is a delicate task, and fingerprint samples are also not considered full-proof evidence, despite what crime-solving shows may portray.
DNA is something that seems incredibly reliable and useful. This one must be accurately portrayed in the crime-solving shows, right? Well, not so fast. DNA is only useful if there is already a suspect in custody and they have the suspect’s DNA to compare it to. Further complicating the usefulness of DNA in crime-solving is that it can be left by a strand of hair, saliva, or fingernails. This means many other people’s DNA can be mixed in at a crime scene, making finding the suspect very difficult in real life.
Another myth is that it is easy to enhance video footage and make it extremely clear to see minute details. In real life, it is very tough to enhance surveillance camera footage to get a clear image of someone in the shot.
If you watch detective shows, you might think that serial killers are rampant and commit most murders. This is simply not true. Serial killers account for less than 1% of all murders in the country, according to the US Department of Justice.
Another common myth on crime-solving shows is that a criminal must be kept on the phone for some time for authorities to track their location. This is false. GPS tracking lets authorities find the location of a phone instantaneously. Even without GPS, triangulation can help law enforcement find a caller very quickly.
Some shows have law enforcement state that a person must wait 48 hours or some other period of time before they can file a missing person case. This is not true. Missing person cases can be filed right away. The last myth to bust is that crime-solving is quick. This again is false. Many cases take weeks, if not months or years, to solve. Analyzing the evidence alone can take several days to several months.