Meanwhile, in the real world…

THE HEADLINE OF THE PRESS RELEASE that dropped quietly into my e-mail inbox in mid-June—just a little more than a month ago—was something that grabbed my attention:

Justice Department Evaluation Finds DNA Technology
Increases Chances of Arrest

Intrigued, I read on to learn that when DNA evidence was collected at the scenes of property crimes, the chances of an arrest and subsequent prosecution were twice as high as when traditional investigative techniques (such as latent-print identification) were used. The first question that came to mind was: Where is the money for training and laboratory resources going to come from?

As I worked to assign the DNA story to one of our freelance writers, evidence of the real world walked into my office:

One of our team members returned home from a weekend trip to find that someone had broken into her home. She called the police. When the officer arrived, she pointed out a full handprint visible on the rear sliding glass door, which had been cleaned just before she left for her trip. The officer glanced at the handprint and stated, “They’re probably just kids and aren’t in the system anyway.” And then he left.

Sure, it wasn’t a serious crime. But after talking with someone in the burglary division, our team member was encouraged to push for someone to come out to collect those prints. The second officer to respond seemed more willing to help, but admitted it had been years since he was anywhere near a fingerprint brush or lifting tape. He muddled through lifting the prints, but our team member noticed that no photographs were taken, the officer didn’t take notes, and nothing was written on the lift card.

As I listened to her story, the press release about the study on collecting DNA at high-volume crime scenes seemed to stare up at me from my desk. The study showed that trained patrol officers were equally as capable of collecting DNA evidence as crime-scene or laboratory personnel. But how can law-enforcement agencies even begin to think about training their officers to look for and collect DNA evidence at crime scenes when they lack the resources to keep them up to date on more traditional methods, such as latent-print collection?

I hope that our team member’s experience was not representative of the skills of law-enforcement officers across the country. But since the day we started this magazine, I have been made aware by those in the field of the lack of funding and resources available for training law-enforcement personnel in crime-scene techniques. Understanding that, we have always made this magazine available for free, and we encourage you to pass along articles that might be of interest to your colleagues. It’s a small thing, but we hope it helps.
Of course, we also work to bring you the latest news about developments in the technology of evidence collection, processing, and preservation.

And in that regard, you will find the article about using DNA evidence for solving property crimes on Page 12. We encourage you to read it. And to pass it on to someone else. Because sharing information and ideas is the real purpose of this magazine. It is just one way that we hope to make things run a little smoother—even out there in the real world.

Kristi Mayo, editor
Evidence Technology Magazine

  July-August 2008 (Volume 6, Number 4)
Evidence Technology Magazine
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Court Case Update

FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE went through a nearly three-year ordeal in the New Hampshire court system, but eventually emerged unscathed. On April 4, 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision of a lower court to exclude expert testimony regarding fingerprint evidence in the case of The State of New Hampshire v. Richard Langill. The case has been remanded back to the Rockingham County Superior Court.