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Forensic science
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Background

Crime in Europe

Crime hurts society in many ways – physically, psychologically and economically. It is perpetrated on individuals, businesses and states, but society is the real victim. Crime strips European citizens of a secure quality of life.

Contrary to public perception, generally crime levels have fallen in recent years across the European Union. The International Criminal Police Organisation’s (Interpol) latest available statistics show that the majority of EU Member States have reported a reduction in the ‘number of cases known to police’.

Of those EU countries going against this positive trend – including Sweden, Finland, Germany and Italy – the increased criminal activity has been marginal. Improvements in crime detection and international co-operation have played an important role in controlling crime in Europe.  

Keeping up the guard against cyber-criminals

EU-funded projects like CTOSE (Cyber tools on-line search for evidence) provide a framework of best practices for collecting, analysing, storing and presenting electronic evidence.

Forensic science and the law

Forensics, a legal term used to describe crime detection in general, is frequently confused with the more specific term – forensic science. Forensic science is the application of biochemical and other scientific techniques to the investigation of crime.

People’s understanding of forensic science is heavily influenced by television programmes showing detectives scouring crime scenes for minute particles of anything relevant which may be used as evidence in court. What the television camera sometimes fails to catch is the behind-the-scenes scientific analyses in laboratories and research centres. DNA identification, trace analysis of chemicals and explosives and testing human fluids all fall into this category.

In addition, forensic science is turning to information communication technologies (ICT) to clamp down on the mounting problem of cyber-crime. Computer hackers, on-line fraudsters and the deliberate spreading of viruses, which attack computer networks and  systems, cost European businesses and governments billions of euros each year. The growth in computer and Internet use means that cyber-crime can affect just about anyone at any time.

The global nature of these abuses makes co-operation at European level essential for developing systems – legal, scientific and technological – which get tough on criminals both on- and off-line.      

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Background