The Wonderful World of Crime Evidence

We’ve heard that what you see on CSI isn’t reality, that one can’t get fingerprint matches or facial recognition as quickly as shown, but the truth is, science and computers are bringing us closer and closer to what is shown. Just a week or so ago the news reported how facial recognition identified a man trying to get through security using fake ID.

On the first night of the Writers’ Police Academy, four presenters gave a presentation on what Sirchie  has available for the various law enforcement departments to help them identify and catch criminals. (Sirchie also offers training classes.)

(I’m going to put a disclaimer in here: The information that follows is based on notes I took, and I was exhausted by the time this session started, so before you quote me, double check this information on your own. On the positive side, using the few notes I did take, I found some sites you might find helpful or interesting.)

One factor the presenters pointed out was most of the 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United State have zero forensic science; i.e., no majors in forensic science and usually no classes on that subject during their college years. What they get is a few hours of training while in the police academy. And that’s it!

Although 50% – 60% of the crimes committed in a year are solved, still that means 40% go unsolved. That’s approximately 250,000 unsolved murders each year.

For those interested in pursuing this topic, James Adcock’s research into cold cases was recommended and his book is used for training law enforcement. Here is his web site: Dr James Adcock

(His book is available on Amazon. It is used as a text and is quite expensive.)

One presenter mention various places where law enforcement officers do get their training. He said there are 90 Federal Agencies (FBI, CIA, etc.). And for training they go to FLETC.

In Florida there’s FDLE:

If you want your law enforcement officer to match the evidence found at a crime scene (such as shoe prints, tire prints, paint chips) with a large data base, read this article for ways for the officer to compare or trace the evidence: forensic databases

A topic of interest to me is DNA testing.

(In researching this blog, I found an article on the history of DNA testing. History of DNA testing )

An important DNA test nowadays is what’s called the presumptive test. Results can be obtained within 90 minutes. It’s rapid and 90% accurate. It’s good enough for a search warrant, which means they can find other evidence before they have to release the suspect.

For advanced clinical and forensic toxicology, endocrinology, and criminalistics laboratory services – there’s NMS Labs.

And the police also have Bode Labs available

They do not have access to the military data base.

Of course, there are other means of finding suspects, and the Sirchie representatives made sure we knew their company sells kits for all sorts of evidence collecting: Shoe prints. Blood spatter. Finger printing. Etc. If you need information about a process, their web site is a good place to start.


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11 Responses to The Wonderful World of Crime Evidence

  1. Melissa Keir says:

    Very helpful information. I am always shocked at how much CSI shows which isn’t real but they do have to solve the murder in one hour!

  2. DNA seems to be solving a lot of crimes that were previously unsolved. In some cases, the wrong person was convicted and DNA evidence has helped correct these serious mistakes.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Jacqueline, I always feel so bad when DNA clears someone who’s been in prison for decades (or even less). How terrible for the person to know he (or she) is innocent and yet be forced to live in a cell.

  3. Lucy Kubash says:

    Thanks for some great resources. I’m always amazed that TV shows can get away with inaccuracies, but let a fiction writer get something wrong and look out. But still, we want to get it right.

  4. B.A. Brittingham says:

    Thanks so much for taking your valuable ‘writing time’ to let us know such up-tp-date info on this topic!

  5. Carole Price says:

    You’re great, Maris, for passing this all important information on to us. I truly appreciate it.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thank you, Carole. I wish I’d had more energy that evening to spend time trying out all of the different gadgets (how to make shoe prints, blood spatter analysis, etc.) Gads, we mystery writers are a weird group.