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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Carbon footprint for the planet: Forensic footprint for the clink

The UK's Forensic Science Service (FSS) set up a footprint database in 2007 and access to this database has helped police with new leads in some difficult cases. The national database of shoe imprints allows police to link the scenes of unsolved crimes to suspects, identify when the same person is involoved and eliminate others all at the press of a button. The current database holds detailed information about the shoes of thousands of suspects and about shoe marks found at all crime scenes across the country. Footwear marks are found at around 40% of crime scenes, making them the second most common type of evidence found by the police after DNA. Most are subtle impressions that cannot be seen with the naked eye but forensic experts use UV light to reveal the shoe impression from all manner of surfaces including carpet and bodies. The footprints have unique patterns of wear and scuffing which make it possible to match a mark to an individual shoe, rather like a fingerprint. The Footwear Intelligence Tool is updated daily with new shoe profiles and crime scene marks. Software automatically looks for matches which can later be confirmed by forensic scientists. Now by law arrested suspects who are not charged can have a shoe profile recorded which includes photographing their shoes and making an ink impression of the sole. Footprints at the scene of the crime do not prove guilt but provide tangible information which can then to used with other evidence to secure arrest and final conviction.

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