From the Boston Marathon bombing to the search for a body in Buffalo, FBI Evidence Response Teams are always ready to respond. Without their meticulous attention to detail, justice could be in jeopardy.
News 4 wanted to look beyond the crime scene tape and get an inside look at how evidence is gathered.
VIDEO | Want to see what goes in an evidence kit? Watch the second video with this story
Veteran team member and evidence expert Maureen Dempsey says, "We're required to be ready to go in a matter of hours."
She says her role at scenes varies.
"One day I can be a photographer, and one day I can be a sketch artist. Some days, I'm digging in the dirt. Other days, I'm swabbing for explosive residue."
The FBI has three Evidence Response Teams (ERTs) based in Buffalo. Staffing on the eight-member teams is comprised of agents and other professional staff members.
Dempsey opened up about the work that can be tedious.
"When we get the call that there's a federal search warrant that we're going to execute, we have a couple of days notice. We can study the warrant. We talk to the case agents. We sit through a briefing," she explained.
In the field, every move must happen by the book.
"We're thinking about how we can get everything we legally can collect under the law before we leave that property. We don't want to miss anything."
Generally, once agents leave, they can't go back.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Holly Hubert oversees the local ERTs.
"We get a lot of calls from Buffalo Police and the sheriff's office [for assistance with cases]," Hubert explained. "There's things we can help them with, and there's certain things that we can't help them with."
Special Agent Scott Romus is a team leader with a background in computers and computer forensics. When he arrives, he "will do an initial survey of the crime scene or the area that we're going to be searching."
Team members come armed with jump kits including evidence tape, swabs for DNA evidence and special evidence bags.
Dempsey and her team have deployed to dozens of searches.
"My first crime scene was Egypt Air 990, 60 miles south of Nantucket and three miles down on the ocean floor," she recalled.
She'll also never forget her trip to Yemen to investigate the USS Cole bombing.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Hubert says, "To have a little team from Buffalo deployed to the Sea of Aden, in Yemen, it's impressive."
Whether across the world or right here in Western New York, the work is difficult and can be draining.
Dempsey remembers, "There are victims. Emotionally, we have the connection. We all have families, and we all can kind of understand what people are going through."
The FBI's diligence in the field makes sure victims have a chance at closure if cases head to court.
"At the end of the day, the ERT team and the FBI as a whole want to ensure that our neighborhoods are safe, our communities are safe and our country is safe," Dempsey concluded.
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