Necessity and invention.

FORENSIC SCIENCE is constantly changing. We have all heard that phrase before. But while flipping through the galley pages of this issue of Evidence Technology Magazine, I realized why that change is constant. It’s not that criminals keep getting smarter. It’s not that juries are increasingly demanding. Instead, the element that keeps the tides of change moving is very basic:

When faced with a problem, the professionals in law enforcement, crime-scene investigation, and forensic science find a way to fix it.

For example, take a look at the article entitled “How to Build a Portable Superglue Fuming Chamber for Vehicles” (Page 26). Special Agents at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation needed a way to look for fingerprints on the exterior and interior surfaces of a vehicle involved in a major crime—and so they built a giant fuming chamber.

And then there’s Kerstin Hammarberg, a property-and-evidence room supervisor at the Minneapolis Police Department and the author of “Guidelines for Long-term DNA Storage” (Page 24). She had trouble getting a straight answer on how long she should keep DNA evidence around. So Kerstin took the next logical step: She researched the topic with a number of local and national agencies and professional organizations and compiled what she learned into a clear-cut article to serve as a guide for other property-and-evidence managers facing the same dilemma.

The Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Department of Transportation noticed that when a crash occurred on the state’s highways, the troopers who were investigating the crash scene were put at risk—and the drivers waiting impatiently in long lines on the road were in danger of being involved in secondary crashes. In an effort to open the blocked lanes of traffic sooner, the Florida Highway Patrol did some research and realized they could save time in documenting and measuring the crash if they utilized close-range photogrammetry. The agency realized a need and, instead of continuing to do things the old way, they found a solution that worked. You can check out that story: “Photogrammetry” (Page 20).

In the laboratory at McCrone Associates, Kirsten Kelley-Primozic noticed that inefficient techniques for separating sperm from other cells and body fluids were contributing to a backlog in the DNA analysis of sexual-assault evidence. She took techniques originally developed for completely different industries and made them work for isolating and recovering sperm. You can read more about that innovation in “Sperm Recovery” (Page 18).

It is far too easy—and too common—for people to slouch, sigh, and give up when they hear the phrase: “It didn’t work.” But I get the strong feeling that most of the professionals in the fields of crime-scene investigation and forensic science treat the phrase “It didn’t work” as a personal challenge and a call to action. That’s the spirit of the inventor. And that spirit appears to be alive and well—as you will see when you read the articles in this magazine.

Kristi Mayo, editor
Evidence Technology Magazine

"Necessity and invention", Written by Kristi Mayo
November-December 2008 (Volume 6, Number 6)
Evidence Technology Magazine
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Item of Interest

The language barrier between English-speaking investigators and Spanish-speaking witnesses is a growing problem. (Updated 28 February 2011)