Criminals & Their Hidey-Holes
A common question writers ask me is “where do criminals hide things?” It is a question that detectives and CSIs have pondered throughout their careers and we continue to learn as we encounter more crime. The answer to that question depends largely on two critical components; sophistication and planning. Professional criminals look for ways to hide the evidence of their criminal acts. Police look for ways to find that evidence. It’s an age-old dance where sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. For both the criminal and the cop a lot depends on the capabilities of your dance partner. I’m not sure how I stepped off on this dancing metaphor but I’m leaving it :).
The sophistication of the criminal is one major factor influencing their choice of hiding places (of course, a lot depends on what it is they are trying to hide but I’ll get to that later). Is the criminal savvy or a punk? An inexperienced or novice criminal will likely have an unsophisticated hiding place. They usually operate under the “out of sight” premise. Similar to a teenager they may “hide” items under the bed mattress, couch, the freezer, etc. Police usually just have to open a container and look inside to find what they are looking for. Some criminals, however, are more sophisticated. It may be from personal experience, from education by other criminals, or a combination of both. These criminals may choose more sophisticated hiding places that may be missed by casual observation. This may include hidden compartments, burial, fish tanks, empty spaces of appliances, etc. The most effective hiding places are those that don’t draw undue attention and can pass casual scrutiny. Ideally, the item remains “hidden” in plain sight. Think about diamonds mixed in with crushed ice. Finding the items requires greater scrutiny by detectives and, unless they are specifically looking for that item, the evidence may go un-noticed. This plays into the second criteria; planning.
There is a big difference between a criminal who gives a lot of thought to a hiding place as opposed to one who casually takes on the task. A criminal hiding a gun as the police are battering the front door obviously chooses a hiding place out of expediency. This might lead to the gun being hidden in an obvious spot like beneath the couch cushions. A sub-component of this issue is whether the criminal wants quick access to the item. Some criminals need quick access to guns, drugs, money, etc and thus can’t “afford” a sophisticated or complex hiding place. But what if the criminal doesn’t need to access the item quickly? A drug runner moving a load of cocaine 1,500 miles will likely create a hidden compartment in the vehicle, while a guy dealing drugs out of his car may not have that luxury and may have to use a more accessible place. Planning also indicates premeditation. If a killer hides their victim under the foundation of a new swimming pool they are building there’s a good chance they had planned out the crime.
Obviously all of this depends on the size of the item being hidden. Stolen diamonds are easier to hide than a stolen car. So when planning a hiding place for your criminal character consider how quickly they may need access to the item. A killer likely won’t want or need access to a dead body. In contrast, a thief wanting to pawn stolen guns or jewelry will need better access. There is no absolute rule but give some consideration to how sophisticated your character is. Look around your home and ask yourself “where would I hide something?” Keep in mind that criminals may choose a location away from home (like work or a girlfriends house) because of the increased risk of their home being searched.
Posted on January 23, 2012, in General, The Crime Scene and tagged crime, Crime Scene, csi, detective, fiction, forensics, murder, mystery, police, thriller, tom adair. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.