Monday, December 13, 2010

The First Steps: Toward Understanding the Nature of Footwear Impression Evidence

From Evidence Magazine: "Since the very beginning, criminals have left their footmarks at the scene of the crime. It is an undeniable law of gravity that even the most intelligent criminal mind cannot circumvent. Criminals may easily don latex gloves but nary a one will commit their crimes wearing shoe covers. These impressions are an unclaimed bounty waiting to be discovered, and all that stands in our way is the proper tools and the knowledge of their application.

Footwear impressions represent the ultimate enigma in forensic science. They are among the most prevalent types of evidence to be found at crime scenes, but they are simultaneously the least sought-after clues. Over the years, a number of myths regarding footwear evidence have permeated our lexicon and drained our institutional knowledge of effective processing techniques. Police officers and criminalists alike are disadvantaged by this condition, resulting in valuable evidence going unnoticed.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution and the learning curve is slight. By understanding the nature of footwear impressions, we can better understand the best practices for recovering them.

Footwear impressions can tell us about both the criminal and the crime. We may be able to determine the make and style of shoe, and even the identity of the shoe to the exclusion of all others in the world. We can even use these impressions to rule out certain shoes and narrow the suspect pool.

Equally important is our ability to use footwear to tell us how the criminals moved through the scene. Did they climb through a window or boot open a locked door? Did they walk away from the scene or run? Did they enter a particular room or leave it untouched? All of these questions may be answered—but only if we discover the impressions ..."

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