Bonds latest technique could give criminals a nasty shock

A new crime-fighting technique developed by Dr John Bond OBE from the Department of Criminology could leave criminals shaken - and a little bit stirred.

The technique, developed by Leicester researchers working with Zhejiang Police College (ZPC) in China, improves the visualisation of fingerprints on metallic surfaces and could help to identify offenders in gun crimes with greater success.

The new method builds upon Dr Bond's previous research, who in 2012 found a technique that reveals previously undiscovered fingerprints on metal, especially gun shell casings, by applying a large voltage to the metal and then adding ceramic beads coated with a fine powder to the surface.

This latest development refines the technique by applying the powder to a corroded spent shell casing that is electrostatically charged.

This method offers practitioners an alternative means of visualising fingerprint corrosion on brass and may be easier to use in practice than the current method, particularly in difficult situations such as when examining aged fingerprint deposits or fingerprints exposed to environmental extremes – such as being immersed in a fluid, exposed to dust particles or manually wiped.

The electrostatic technique is superior for aged prints as a result of metallic corrosion taking place, which enables the electrostatic technique to work more effectively.

The work was carried out in the Fingerprint Laboratory at the ZPC and arose after one of Dr Bond’s visits to the ZPC in 2015 following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the ZPC and the University of Leicester to share world-leading expertise in forensic science, traditional police work and more.

The team hopes to develop a prototype device by the end of the year and a paper based on the new technique has been accepted for publication in 2017.

The University of Leicester also offers a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), titled 'Forensic Science and Criminal Justice', in partnership with FutureLearn which is taught by Dr John Bond and Dr Lisa Smith from the  Department of Criminology and explores the latest advances in forensic science and how it can be used to solve crimes.