Important legal notice
   
Contact   |   Search   
RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N°39 - November 2003   
Top
 HOME
 TABLE OF CONTENTS
 EDITORIAL
 Tribology in the 'nano' age
 A dead end in 30 years
 Moulding public opinion – truth and myth
 Biocultural fervour
 A new ERA of research
 COMMUNICATION
 IN BRIEF
 OPINION
 AGENDA
 CALLS FOR PROPOSALS
 PUBLICATIONS

Download pdf de en fr


FORENSIC SCIENCE
Title  The scientist and the inspector

A scientist and a detective have one thing in common: their work depends on providing material evidence to support their hypotheses. Traditionally, it is the latter who draws on the knowledge and methods of the former. This convergence of science and police work is strengthened when scientific advances – especially in the life and material sciences, as well as information  technology – change the tools used by forensic investigator to fight crime. 

The study of photographic images, processed by computer modelling, is an important tool for forensic investigators. Above, a montage of photographs of the hands to be used in 3D reconstructions, as part of the research carried out by the INRIA (FR) under the European Improofs project.    © Photos: Quentin Delamarre, INRIA (FR)
The study of photographic images, processed by computer modelling, is an important tool for forensic investigators. Above, a montage of photographs of the hands to be used in 3D reconstructions, as part of the research carried out by the INRIA (FR) under the European Improofs project.

© Photos: Quentin Delamarre, INRIA (FR)
There is no escaping the fact that scientific progress not only benefits the cause of justice but also the practice of crime. Technology makes it possible to prevent and crack down on crime, but also to invent increasingly original and sophisticated methods of breaking the law. The growth in organised crime – which benefits from the opening up of borders and technical innovations – is a particularly serious global problem.

The third pillar
In recent years – and especially since the resolutions adopted at the Tampere (FI) Summit in 1999 – the European Union has increased considerably the co-operation between the police forces and the judicial authorities in Member States. In EU jargon, this has come to be known as the 'third pillar' and it has resulted in a number of initiatives, such as the creation, in 2001, of the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN). This vast network federates and supports a wide range of policies – local, national and European – with the emphasis on juvenile, urban and drugs-related crimes.

Various strategies have also been adopted in the fight against financial crime, money laundering and computer crime.

Identifying and detecting
Similar coordination is found in the research field. ‘Advances in metrology are helping to better detect crimes and identify those who commit them,' stressed Kimmo Himberg of the Finnish Laboratory of Criminal Research at a conference entitled “Towards an integrated infrastructure for measurements”(1), held in Warsaw (PL), in June 2002. 'In many disciplines, the scientific basis remains uncertain and the reproducibility of results unsatisfactory. As crime becomes more international, the need to exchange information grows. We also need more methods for rapid verification at the immediate scene of the crime.'

As the examples below illustrate, the Commission has been supporting scientific and technological co-operation centred on this problem for a number of years. 'During the Fifth Framework Programme, the Union invested almost €35 million in projects relating to combating food fraud, industrial counterfeiting, anti-doping measures, as well as forensics – in particular techniques for identifying criminals and detecting forged currency,' explains Luisa Prista, head of unit at the Commission's Research Directorate-General. The Sixth Framework Programme will cover all these aspects – metrology, biology, and the analysis of food safety and its traceability – in its research priorities.(2)

(1) the famous police inspector, hero of many novels by the belgian writer Georges Simenon and translated into many languages. 

(2) This article does not cover European actions to combat computer crime and trafficking in radioactive substances. The latter aspect will be dealt with in a future issue of RTD info devoted to the nuclear sector. 

    
  Top
Features 1 2 3 4

TO FIND OUT MORE

CONTACTS