Technology sheds new light on fingerprints and other evidence

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Forensic science manager Greg Mason calls it the Ferrari of crime scene processing.

He’s talking about the new full spectrum imaging systems designed to detect and capture images of fingerprints and other evidence without the need for powder or chemicals. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is now equipped with two.

“There’s nothing else like it,” Mason said, adding it could solve crimes faster. “It’s just unheard of.”

The Sheriff’s Office obtained the systems in January with federal grant money. The mobile version, which can be taken to crime scenes, cost $41,000 and will be utilized in major cases, such as homicides and sexual assaults.

Evidence brought into the forensics division will be analyzed by a lab version of the technology, which cost $39,000.

The new equipment is also now available at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, where specialists are “experimenting with various types of functions,” said agency spokeswoman Cristal Bermudez Nuñez in an email.

Greg Mason, section manager with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office’s Forensic Sciences Division, works with the full spectrum imaging system at the forensics lab in Largo.

It works like this: specialists shine a shortwave UV light on evidence in order to find fingerprints, narcotics residue, bodily fluids, gasoline, and even alterations in documents. Once evidence is located, the specialist can step on a foot pedal that will capture the image.

Chemical and powder processing will continue to be used since some residues might surface better with other techniques, Mason said.

In the past, technicians trying to detect evidence on documents would have to spray the papers with chemicals and wait up to 24 hours for it to dry.

Detectives trying to make an arrest can also bring in a piece of evidence, such as a receipt for prescriptions in a drug case, and have it scanned by the UV light for any traces of fingerprints.

A pair of fingerprints on a receipt are illuminated by Greg Mason

Representatives of the vendor, Arrowhead Forensics, visited the Sheriff’s Office and trained the crime scene investigation supervisors, as well as the unit’s major case response team.

Source: Tampa Bay Times