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5 Misleading Things About Crime Shows

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There is a reason crime shows are some of the most highly rated shows on television. They’re constantly filled with excitement, violence, quick turnover and glamour. So what’s not to love? When compared to real life crime scene analysts, though, there are many false portrayals. Below are some of the most exaggerated and misleading occurrences about televised crime.

police line do not cross tape

“Police Line / Police Tape” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC by 2.0



Investigations shown on television crime shows take a couple of hours or at most a few days to be solved. Real crime scene investigations can take months, years, or even decades to reach a conclusion. The search for evidence, such as fingerprints and DNA, seems to be much simpler to find in television shows than in real life. It’s only then that they can begin to analyze everything, proceed with finding witnesses, hold trials, and proceed with the arrest and conviction processes. All in all, it’s a very lengthy process and doesn’t get completed within that 4o minute time slot.

Severe Crime/ Illness

Sure, murder and serial killer cases provide the gore and drama that draws viewers in, and the case of a common cold may not be as thrilling, but is that really what is constantly happening in hospitals and in the lives of policemen? Of course not! On television shows, all of the patients seem to be rescued right before facing death due to their insane diagnosis that has never been seen before. Perhaps these cases will occur on occasion depending on your whereabouts, but the day-to-day lives in hospitals and of policemen and women don’t involve violent crime and bloodshed.


On shows like CSI and Law and Order, you will often see the forensics running immediately to the scene of the crime, interrogating suspects, and making arrests. However, this isn’t the norm for a real life forensic. They’re scientists mostly working in labs. Depending on their exact role, it’s possible they will go out to a crime scene to process and evaluate it, but this is usually not the case. Crime shows tend to combine the jobs of policemen with forensics, where in the real world, they are very much separate occupations with differing duties and fields of study.

DNA Testing

In most television shows, there seems to be readily available DNA at every crime scene being investigated. They’re able to scan it to a computer, and within seconds the suspect’s picture and whereabouts are posted on the screen. No ifs ands or buts about it! Wouldn’t that be nice if this is how it worked in the real world? There really is no such computer software and technology that can conduct this research and come up with such information. It can be a very long and tedious process to even find a DNA sample that is readable, let alone guarantee an analysis will show accurate results.


In most crime shows, it seems the policeman or woman could’ve just walked off of a runway from New York Fashion Week. Their lives are portrayed as super glamorous and surrounded by riches. Is it really realistic to be wearing a crisp, tight white suit to a bloody crime scene? Not so much! Criminologists and forensics serve very difficult and dirty jobs. Sure, the model-looking protagonist makes it intriguing to watch, but remember to keep in mind that these television character’s jobs are very much exaggerated when it comes to glitz and glamour.

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