“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”—Sherlock Holmes
What do Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Byomkesh Bakshi have in common? Deduction and Logical reasoning. These popular literary detectives, undoubtedly, paved the ground for what is today known as Forensic Science; the branch of science which deals with criminal investigation. With criminal masterminds around the globe devising unimaginable methods of committing crimes each day, forensic science plays an indispensable role in the investigation of serious crimes.
One of the first significant achievements in the field was the development of techniques for identifying individuals by their fingerprints. In the 19th century, it was discovered that almost any contact between a finger and a fixed surface left a latent mark that could be made visible by a variety of procedures (e.g., the use of a fine powder). Historically, searching fingerprint collections was a time-consuming manual task, relying on various systems of classification. The development in the 1980s of computerized databases for the electronic storage and rapid searching of fingerprint collections has enabled researchers to match prints much more quickly. The FBI, for example, reportedly held millions of prints in its electronic database at the beginning of the 21st century. Fingerprints found at crime scenes thus can be matched with fingerprints in such collections. Fingerprint evidence was first accepted in an Argentine court in the 1890s and in an English court in 1902. Many other countries soon adopted this system of identification as well.
Since the late 1980s, DNA fingerprinting (e.g., hair, sperm, and blood) has been used to exclude a suspect or establish guilt with a high degree of probability. Other substances, such as fibers, paper, glass, and paint, can yield considerable information under microscopic or chemical analysis. Fibers, for instance, discovered on the victim or at the scene of the crime can be tested to determine whether they are similar to those in the clothing of the suspect. Computer networks allow investigators to search increasingly large bodies of data on material samples, though the creation of such databases is time-consuming and costly.
Biometrics is yet another emerging and fast growing technology in the field of forensics. Hand geometry, iris scan, ear matching, facial and voice recognition, vein patterns, and human body odor are some of the biometric-based methods that are either in use or are in the pipeline. Iris scan faces challenges many a times since iris is affected by drug use, alcohol, pregnancy and aging. Veins like fingerprints are unique to every individual. Vein Viewer and Palm Secure are two of the systems that use vein imaging. Electronic noses or E-noses have many applications including food quality control, and to an extent detecting human body odor. In 2006, in China, the government began gathering odor database, thereby, successful in solving many cases.
The changing role of forensic science is evident from the fact that earlier forensic analysis entered the investigative process post crime, post investigation, post suspect arrest but before prosecution, whereas now, forensic work often precedes an arrest. In other words, its role begins immediately after a crime is committed to assist investigators in developing leads and/or to identify possible suspects. This transition highlights the increased significance of forensic science in the criminal investigative process.
For our reports on safety and security, visit http://www.bccresearch.com/market-research/safety-and-security