Catching more criminals with innovative forensic imaging
EU-funded researchers are ready to market new, accurate and fast footwear detection and tyre-tracking technology to help solve more crimes and increase security across Europe.
© 3D-Forensics consortium, 2018
Footwear prints and tyre traces left behind at a crime scene are valuable pieces of evidence used to help catch criminals. However, the advanced methods used to gather such evidence in television dramas are far from the techniques used at a real crime scene. Today’s forensic investigators typically rely on photographs and traditional plaster casting to gather footwear and tyre evidence to help find felons.
The EU-funded 3D-FORENSICS/FTI project is hoping to revolutionise crime investigation technology and boost the number of crimes solved with an innovative 3D forensic information-capturing and data-analysing system for footwear and tyre tracks.
“Our expectation is that our system will help contribute to solving more crimes, more quickly and ultimately to reduce crime rates,” says Max Lucas, project coordinator and general manager at LUCAS Instruments in Germany.
Slow traditional methods
Currently, in more than half the countries in the EU, the crime detection rate is less than 70 %. In some countries, this rate falls below 50 %. While gathering and analysing forensic evidence like footprints is a crucial part of crime investigation, investigators rely on slow and perhaps outdated techniques. Photographs cannot provide key information such as tread depth, while plaster casting is time-consuming which mean this evidence is frequently left out of a case and the process can destroy forensic traces.
Now, 3D-FORENSICS/FTI scientists have developed optical 3D scanning technology that will make the work of investigation and identification experts easier. It will lead to the recording of more, better-quality information on crime-scene evidence.
The technology is made up of two main parts. The first is a hand-held or tripod-mounted 3D scanner used on-site by crime-scene investigators to record footwear and tyre traces. The device captures contact-free, colour images while carrying out 3D measurements.
The second part is the analysis software used by forensic experts based in the office. Once the data from the 3D scanner has been uploaded, the software analyses the characteristics of the footwear and tyre impressions. An investigator can then make comparisons with images from manufacturers’ databases and with marks found at other crime scenes.
3D-FORENSICS/FTI’s system can be used during the whole investigation procedure, from gathering the forensic evidence to a trial.
“Statistics show that footwear and tyre impressions are common traces at crime scenes after all, criminals must enter and leave the scene,” says Lucas. “Our system can significantly improve the recovery of footwear and tyre impressions, overcoming the disadvantages of the old methods and making the recording and analysis of these kinds of traces much easier.”
The project is now taking the prototype system developed by its predecessor EU-funded 3D-FORENSICS and making it ready to launch on the market. It has already successfully been demonstrated outdoors under conditions typically found at crime scenes by the Dutch police in the Zeeland-West-Brabant region.
The team is in talks with five police authorities and one forensic institute to further test the system for factors including resolution and accuracy. “As evidence from forensic processes can be used in court to determine guilt or innocence, it is absolutely critical to be able to rely on it,” says Lucas.
The next step is to finalise the business strategy for market launch, which is likely to happen in the first half of 2019.