More than 70 burglars have been caught by detectives using cutting-edge technology that allows officers to match suspects’ shoeprints quickly to the scenes of crime.
Police keep a database of more than 50,000 past offenders’ shoeprints as well as fingerprints and DNA samples.
Now, thanks to a breakthrough, Scotland Yard officers can scan the prints of a suspect’s shoes in just two minutes and compare them with prints on the database.
The previous paper-based system took up to three weeks to provide results. Seventy-six burglars have been arrested in Colindale, North London over the past year after a trial scheme with a new scanning machine – which is the first of its kind in Europe.
Scotland Yard has been awarded a 300,000-pound Home Office grant to fund the pilot scheme. A Yard spokesman said : “The device captures shoeprints of individuals who are arrested and brought into custody and then compares these against those shoemarks found at crime scenes.”
He said that a dedicated Metropolitan Police team will work in collaboration with the national Footwear Strategic Group and private sector partners to expand the current pilot across London.
“This will enable wider evaluation to be carried out of its impact on reducing crime,” he said. It is expected shoe scanning will eventually be extended across Britain as an extra way of fighting crime.
The pilot scheme has been the brainchild of Detective Inspector Julie Henderson.
Police Commander Simon Letchford said: “The Metropolitan Police is committed to finding new and innovative ways to use technology, not only to reduce crime but to hold more criminals to account. “We have been awarded 300,000-pounds from the Police Innovation Fund which means we can now roll out footwear scanners across our custody suites. “An initial pilot at Colindale Police Station showed that not only could we reduce the time and cost of taking individual shoe prints from offenders, but we could also detect more crimes.
“We will have the capability to scan and quickly analyse the shoes of offenders arrested by the police against existing marks from crime scenes. “Burglary is already at its lowest level for 40 years. This new tool will only further boost police’s crime fighting ability and help keep communities even safer.”
Mr Letchford added : “Suspects walk across a panel which is a bit like a photocopier and it immediately uploads an image to the national database.
“The scanner may not always be able to solve crimes on its own but it is extremely useful in building a case against an individual.”
One man arrested recently for a minor offence was linked to seven different burglaries through his unusual shoes.
Police say they can lift shoeprints from many surfaces including carpets and linoleum using sophisticated forensic techniques.
Experts can even tell a shoe’s colour and markings from the pattern of a shoe’s tread.
The number of burglaries in London has fallen by 14 per cent in the past year to the lowest level since the 1970s.
The footprints of all people are unique — regardless of what kind of shoe they are wearing.
Parts of the foot press upon the ground with different degrees of force and leave behind a unique topography on the surface. This means forensic experts can compare not only the tracks of bare feet, but also the tracks left behind by shoes or boots.