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Forensics

A regular fingerprint (left) and one containing condom lubricant (right)  (Image: BMRC)

Sexual offenders are increasingly using condoms when committing their assaults, both to reduce the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases, and to avoid leaving their DNA at the crime scene. While an offender might still leave their fingerprints behind, that often only proves that they were at a given location, and not that they were involved in any wrongdoing. Researchers from the Biomedical Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, however, have recently developed technology that detects condom lubricant in fingerprints. If a suspect could be tied to a crime scene by their fingerprints, and be shown to have handled a condom at that location – well, they’d have a lot more explaining to do.  Read More

Rapid DNA testing could prove a boon to law enforcement agencies (Image: Tony Webster via ...

DNA testing has provided the biggest revolution in the identification of criminals since the adoption of fingerprinting in the early part of last century. Still, the technology has limitations. Most genetic tests take 24-72 hours but the time taken for DNA to go from crime scene to identification can span as long as 14 days. By the time that the results are back, the suspects often have been released. A newly developed test could make checking DNA from people arrested for crimes against DNA samples from crime scenes stored in forensics databases almost as easy as matching fingerprints.  Read More

NIST chemists Thomas J. Bruno and Tara M. Lovestead

You probably don't go hunting for decaying bodies too often, but then you probably don’t work in the field of forensics. If you did, then you’d be glad to hear that technology recently developed by America’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) should make finding buried bodies much easier. Traditionally, cadaver-sniffing dogs have been used to find bodies, but they can be limited in situations such as where a body is buried under concrete. The new device, however, uses a probe slightly thicker than a human hair to probe the soil, detecting ninhydrin-reactive nitrogen (NRN) that collects in air pockets around gravesoil. Previous technology could only achieve that same end through what NIST describes as “the tedious and expensive process” of solvent extraction of soil samples.  Read More

Nanoscale silver particles help trace even the smallest amounts of bomb-making chemicals a...

Sensors that quickly detect chemicals used to make bombs are being developed by scientists at Queen’s University, Belfast. The devices will use special gel pads to "swipe" a person or crime scene to gather a sample which is then analyzed by a scanning instrument that can detect the presence of chemicals within seconds, much quicker than current analysis methods. This will allow better, faster decisions to be made in response to terrorist threats. The team is also working on devices that detect illegal drugs and will hopefully be deployed by police as roadside drug "breathalyzers".  Read More

The XFT toolkit lays the contents of the Xbox hard drive bare

Those who think the Xbox game console may be the perfect place to hide illicit material from prying eyes – principally because it isn't seen as a regular-joe PC – had better think again. Computer scientist David Collins has developed a toolkit that allows police and other law-enforcement agencies to recover criminal data more easily from hard drives like the Xbox  Read More

New technique lifts fingerprints off cleaned guns

Wiping the gun clean has long been considered best practice for villains but may soon become a quaint custom that will ultimately prove fruitless. Researchers have developed a method to ‘visualize fingerprints’ even after the print itself has been removed by measuring the corrosion of the surface by deposits from the fingerprints. The technique can enhance – after firing– a fingerprint that has been deposited on a small caliber metal cartridge case before it is fired. The technique promises the ability to reopen many cases and solve cold cases around the world because the “underlying print never disappears” according to the scientists.  Read More

Scientists at the University of California have developed a spray-on explosive detector that glows blue under UV light in the presence of nitrogen-containing explosives. The silafluorene-fluorene copolymer is sensitive enough to detect just a billionth of a gram of explosive.  Read More

Oxygen isotope levels in human hair

February 27, 2008 DNA contained in hair is currently used in crime fighting to determine the identity of those who commit illicit acts. Thanks to new research, hair may now also help police track past movements of criminal suspects or unidentified murder victims by revealing the general location where a person drank water.  Read More

ShotSpotter dispatch desk

October 12, 2007 When battling gun related crime, police are often faced with the problem of being unable to pinpoint the direction or proximity of overheard gunfire. In order to combat this issue over a wide area, the ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System uses acoustical triangulation to accurately detect incidences of gunfire and combines this with an integrated camera network to provide law enforcement with instant situation reports. After its celebrated role in capturing the Columbus sniper of 2003/2004, 20 major US cities, most recently Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have adopted the ShotSpotter GLS as a tool to combat gun related crime and as a deterrent against future crimes.  Read More

Scientists Develop New Tool To 'Freeze' Crime Scene Memories

April 27, 2007 The Crime Scene Investigation TV writers regularly impress us with their rapid deployment of new technologies, so it’ll be interesting to see how long it is before we see Gil Grisham or Horatio Kane employing the latest innovation developed by scientists at the University of Portsmouth. It’s a self-administered interview that 'freezes' the memory of crime scenes in the minds of witnesses. The tool - a self-administered interview applied by witnesses at crime scenes - combats natural memory decay by using the latest research in cognitive psychology techniques. It 'freezes' images and details of crime scenes and perpetrators in the minds of witnesses, particularly small and seemingly insignificant details that provide major leads for detectives that turn out to be crucial in solving cases.  Read More

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