New Report on Detecting Buried Remains Using Ground-Penetrating Radar

Through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, NIJ has made available the following final technical report: Detecting Buried Remains Using Ground-Penetrating Radar.

Geophysical techniques, such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR), have been successfully used by law enforcement agencies to locate graves and forensic evidence. However, more controlled research is needed to better understand the applicability of this technology when searching for clandestine graves in various environments and soil types. The purpose of this study was to determine the applicability of GPR for detecting controlled graves.

The goals and objectives of this project included the following:

  • Provide basic guidelines for forensic investigators for buried body searches involving the use of GPR and electromagnetic induction (EMI).
  • Document the changes in GPR imagery characteristics of bodies buried in a Spodosol soil which result from decomposition and subsequent compaction of the backfill for a period of 30 months.
  • Determine how different burial scenarios (e.g., wrapping the carcass and placing items over the carcass in the grave) are factors in producing a distinctive anomalous response.
  • Determine how advanced GPR 3-D modeling postprocessing software can provide increased visibility of the burials.
  • Compare GPR imagery data between the 500 MHz and 250 MHz antennae.
  • Document the changes in apparent conductivity, expressed on a conductivity map, from bodies buried in a Spodosol soil which result from decomposition and subsequent compaction of the backfill for a 24 month time period.

Click here to download a PDF of the 235-page report.

This report is the result of a NIJ-funded project but was not published by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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