Combing through crime scenes is in his DNA


Mark Sveinson handles all kinds of criminal cases.

“Everything from keying a car to killing a family,” says the supervisor of the Anaheim PD’s Forensic Services Detail.

Members of Sveinson’s team, non-sworn specialists who work alongside investigators, are the unsung heroes of the PD, toiling behind the scenes and rarely getting public recognition – even though they play critical roles on headline-grabbing cases.

APD forensic specialists, for example, worked alongside detectives digging through trash in the recent high-profile case that lead to the arrests of two registered sex offenders charged with the rape and murders of four women – one whose body was found on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting facility and three who went missing in Santa Ana.

The work of forensic specialists — through blood-splatter analysis, DNA testing, fingerprint identification and other investigative methods — helps identify the guilty and exonerate the innocent.

“We locate, analyze, document and present findings,” Sveinson says.

To mark National Forensic Science Week (Aug 10-16), Behind The Badge spent some time with Sveinson to discuss his field, which blasted into the public consciousness during the O.J. Simpson trial and since then has become a staple of television programming.

Sveinson, 54, became supervisor of the APD’s Forensic Services Detail in January after working in the unit since 1991 — a 23-year span that has seen remarkable technological advances in the way crimes are investigated.

About six times a year, Sveinson, who started off as a police explorer in Anaheim when he was 16, will testify in court.

It’s a very competitive field, with job openings rare and coming with a flood of applicants with Field Evidence Technician education and training (Cal State University Long Beach has a model course).

A background in chemistry helps – so does physics and biology.

And a strong stomach.

“I’ve seen a lot of ugly stuff, from a child who burned to death while strapped in a car seat to a married couple found on top of each other in their car after they were killed by a drunk driver,” says Sveinson, a married father of two and diehard Chicago Cubs fan.

But cracking a crime scene is the ultimate payoff.

“At first you may think you don’t have anything,” Sveinson says, “then a missing piece of evidence comes in and the puzzle start coming together and things start making sense.”