Ever Wonder What the Yellow Tape Means at a Police Scene? Here’s What It Means
Yellow tape, also known as crime scene tape or barrier tape, is a bright yellow tape made of durable and tear-proof plastic that may say POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS, CAUTION, or CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS. But what does the police tape mean exactly? Is it safe to cross? What is happening on the scene? Let’s give some insight into what the tape means and why it’s there.
What is the Purpose of the Yellow Tape?
There are a variety of reasons this type of tape is used at a crime scene. The most important use of this tape is to secure the area of the crime scene along the out perimeter. To determine the size of this perimeter, the standard formula is to double the size of the area in which evidence was initially found. From there, the tape is used to isolate, protect, and preserve the crime scene itself while also notifying that the area is restricted and the general public is not allowed to access that zone.
The general public is not allowed within the yellow tape zone. Those who are allowed within the zone include, but are not limited to first responders, forensic investigators, firemen, and police.
Admittance beyond the yellow tape is only allowed when:
- An injured person requires aid
- A member is authorized to access the inner perimeter
- A member is responsible for collecting and/or processing evidence or investigating a crime
Reason for Tape
The yellow tape can be used to secure areas for a variety of reasons. The two most common are to make sure a crime scene is not disturbed or to prevent citizens from coming in contact with a hazard. Common hazards include downed power lines, gas leaks, fire scenes, car accidents, barricaded gun person, and downed trees.
What You Can and Cannot Do with the Tape
If you see a scene outlined with yellow tape, you can approach the tape safely, but do not cross it, and ask an officer what has occurred there. If the reason isn’t something urgent the officer commonly will explain; however if there is an urgent and active crime occurring it is recommended to run the other direction.
Breaking the yellow tape line can result in an arrest for interfering, hindering, and opposing a police officer. This could result in a small fine and possibly spending a few days in jail. However, the maximum penalty can be up to years in prison. The exact penalty will vary by state.
For your safety and the integrity of the crime scene, do not cross the yellow line and always be aware of your surroundings.