Top 10 Ways FORENSICS Will Catch You
Many criminals think that they committed the perfect crime and left behind no traces of evidence to be caught on, but perfection is not so easily accomplished. Thanks to forensic science, even the most careful of criminals can leave a trace of evidence behind. For this Archive, we’re looking into the fascinating world of criminology with ten ways forensics will catch you.
Unique to every person, fingerprints have been used in the identification of perpetrators in criminal cases as far back as 1892. Collecting fingerprints was once mostly done by dusting, but potential contamination of the crime scene has led to the current and more commonplace methods of high-resolution photography and alternate light source imaging. Once collected, analysts determine the usability of the print and verify whether it falls into one of three different classes: arch, loop, or whorl. Beyond initial analysis, the lifted print and its unique characteristics are then compared against possible suspects in a national database, like the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
Believe it or not, nearly every aspect of our world, including our own bodies, are covered in tiny microorganisms known as microbiomes. Research into these minuscule organisms has led forensic scientists to believe that, in the future, they may be used as unique identifiers, not too dissimilar to fingerprints. Eric Franzosa, a researcher at the Department of Biostatistics at Harvard, claims that these microbiomes may even replace the need for human DNA. In studies verifying the reliability of this method, 86% of a pool of 120 people was correctly identified from microbiomes, specifically gut bacteria pulled from stool samples.
Digital Surveillance for Xbox (XFT device)
It may seem like an innocuous device, but forensic scientists had once determined that even Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console – and likely subsequently the Xbox One – could be used to store incriminating evidence. Using a digital surveillance or XFT device, an image of the console’s interior workings could be made to allow analysts to use shell commands to browse the file system directory, much like a standard computer hard-drive, and pull video, text, and audio files.
An up-and-coming implementation in forensic science, LA-ICP-MS, or Laser Ablation-inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, is able to examine even the smallest of samples at a level of parts per billion. Traces of fiber, shards of glass, and splinters of metal can be analyzed at a microscopic level by the LA-ICP-MS to determine a variety of factors, possibly even the origin of the material, including manufacturer and brand. Using pulsed lasers, gas streams, and plasma, the spectrometer is a step forward in replacing more traditional methods like infrared analysis and X-ray fluorescence.
In the heat of the crime, it’s not unheard of for traces of human bodily fluid to be left behind. From blood to saliva to even sweat, any sort of liquid can be the difference between a perp walking free and being thrown in the slammer. Fluids are categorized into secreted fluids (such as blood, semen, and urine) or excreted (like feces, vomit, earwax, and skin oil) and are commonly used in rape and murder cases. These bodily liquids are analyzed to match the DNA of the substance to a database of prospective perps and prior criminals.
Referring to the examination of movement, angular motion, after effects, and dynamics of projectiles, ballistics is a vital part of solving crimes involving firearms and explosives. From the type of weapon used to how close the victim was to the perpetrator or gun, ballistics investigators are able to verify a range of aspects of a crime scene based on the bullet, residue gunpowder, and possible burns on the victim’s skin. Over the years, ballistics has advanced to include the use of digital recreations to determine interactions between surface and projectiles and match markings on a bullet and casing to the interior barrel of a firearm.
The human voice can be very telling, making audio examiners a vital part of forensic science. Initially, vocal analysts could only pull apart an audio sample to verify tampering and pinpoint who the voice may belong to. Now, after years of advancement and research, examiners can follow the rhythm of the voice to help determine if a perpetrator is lying. Unusual spacing between words and changes in pitch can help indicate a person’s stress level and whether they may be bending the truth.
Committing a crime with your cell phone on you is a surefire way of getting caught, and no, it’s not because the NSA is recording your every move. Forensic scientists are able to crack into the location-based details stored within a smartphone, typically attached to specific applications, and pinpoint the device’s geographic location at specific times. Like in legal scenarios, employers have turned to implementing this method in the termination of employees. Even if location services are turned off for specific apps, the OS may still be running it in the background, making it an easy catch for investigators.
It’s a dry day outside and you were sure to stick to hard surfaces, but in the midst of your ill-doing, you inadvertently step in something that had spilled on the floor and leave behind a footprint. Without knowing it, you may have just sealed your fate. Though the shoeprint itself may not directly link back to a criminal like DNA would, what it tells the investigator can help narrow down the list of perps. From the type and manufacturer of the shoe to the individual’s height and gait, this info can be pulled from computer analysis and castings of the print.
Maybe not the most practical of methods for catching criminals, chemical tagging refers to a liquid imbued with a chemical code that can be viewed under a long-wave ultraviolet light. Once touched, the chemical agent sticks to the individual and, though it can wear off over a longer period of time, cannot be washed off. The chemical can be added to ink which may then be used in high-value targets - like vital documents or money. The tag first appeared during the 1970s and can be designed specifically for certain users, allowing the ink to be traced back to a specific date.