AMAZING new fingerprinting technology is now just months off being used in criminal investigations and subsequent court cases, researchers say. Results from the ground-breaking ‘lifestyle-profiling’ technique, that can indicate what and how criminals were thinking when they offended, will soon be admissible evidence.
The technology can detect a vast range of ‘forensic interest’ objects. These include drugs, alcohol, blood, birth control devices, cleaning products and personal grooming items. Investigators are thus poised to not just be able to ID criminals but also discover how they lived their lives. Such insight could produce quicker, more solid - or quicker and more solid – convictions.
The new fingerprinting approach draws on a technique named Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry Imaging and Profiling (MALDI-MSI/MALDI-MSP). Evolved by Sheffield Hallam University researchers, the system’s since been co-trialled by its developers and the West Yorkshire police force. The UK Home Office’s Innovation Fund has so far supported these trials to the tune of approximately £80,000. The technology’s now on track to be deployed very soon.
“I would want to see this technology in high-profile cases such a murder or rape”, Dr Simona Francese, who leads the project, tells the BBC. “It’s very sophisticated, it’s expensive but it’s worthwhile.”
She continues: “When you think about what a fingerprint is, it’s nothing else but sweat and sweat is a biological matrix. It contains molecules from within your body but also molecules that you have just contaminated your fingertips with, so the amount of information there potentially to retrieve is huge.’
This next-gen forensic system has already showed its potential by detecting blood in a fingerprint dating from the late 1980s. This means it could be the key to helping solve decades-old cases.
“We’re very, very keen to keep up with criminals quite frankly, and this is one way that we can do that”, West Yorkshire Police’s Neil Denison enthuses. ‘It confirms our hopes because that’s what this work is about…looking to the future. Fingerprints have been pretty dormant for 80 or 90 years but, in the future, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to get more useful intelligence from fingerprints that will help us in the prevention and detection of crime.”