Bulletin Reports

Explosion and Bombing Scene Investigation 

A Guide for Explosion and Bombing Scene Investigation outlines the tasks that law enforcement agencies should consider at every explosion scene. Consistent collection of quality evidence in bombing cases results in more successful investigations and prosecutions. This research report comprises information on procuring equipment and tools, prioritizing initial response efforts, evaluating and documenting the scene, processing evidence, and completing and recording the crime scene investigation.

The investigation conducted at the scene of an explosion or bombing is vital to uncovering the truth about the incident. Evidence recovered is critical for identifying, charging, and convicting a suspect. It is crucial for law enforcement to collect evidence in a professional manner that will provide successful laboratory analyses. Investigators must follow sound protocol.

Recent cases in the criminal justice system have indicated the necessity for heightened investigative practices. To raise the standard of practice in explosion and bombing investigations of small and large scale in both rural and urban jurisdictions the National Institute of Justice teamed with the National Center for Forensic Science at the University of Central Florida to initiate a national effort. Together they convened a technical working group of law enforcement and legal practitioners, bomb technicians and investigators, and forensic laboratory analysts to explore the development of improved procedures for the identification, collection, and preservation of evidence at explosion and bombing scenes. The Technical Working Group for Bombing Scene Investigation brought together knowledge and practical experience from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, with expertise from national organizations and abroad.

The group produced a guide that provides an investigative outline of the tasks for use at every explosion scene. These tasks ensure that proper procedures are used to locate, identify, collect, and preserve valuable evidence so that it can be examined to produce the most useful and effective information. Consistent collection of quality evidence in bombing cases will result in more successful investigations and prosecutions.

Motives for many bombing incidents include vandalism and revenge. The most common types of explosive/incendiary devices encountered by fire service and law enforcement personnel in the United States are traditionally pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, and other improvised explosive and incendiary devices. The most common explosive materials used in these devices are flammable liquids and black and smokeless powder. Stolen explosives also pose a significant threat to public safety in the United States.

For more information on A Guide for Explosion and Bombing Scene Investigation, go to the Website of the Office of Justice Programs, www.ojp.usdoj.gov, or the National Institute of Justice, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij.