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Knowledge Is Power: Using Technology to Gain Forensic Intelligence

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 83 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2016 Pages: 28-34
Date Published
August 2016
5 pages

This article from Police Chief highlights technological advances identified by the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) as having been adopted by police agencies to inform case investigation and develop crime-scene links. 


In each case, the technology required changes in investigation, analysis, information-sharing, and crime laboratory practices. One example is the New Jersey State Police's (NJSP's) long use of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NISBIN) to link firearms to crime scenes. New Jersey's 800 law enforcement agencies took a new approach to ballistics analysis. Administrative and policy choke points were identified, and new processes were established to facilitate rapid turnaround of evidence. Now, police agencies submit all crime guns for inclusion into NIBIN, and the evidence is prioritized and uploaded quickly. Efforts to facilitate the matching of firearms to bullets found at crime scenes through the use of large databases such as NIBIN have also been developed in the United States for DNA, fingerprints, and trace evidence. In the United Kingdom, a similar database has been developed for footwear. Footwear evidence links crimes efficiently and serves as a complement to evidence specific to individuals. The FTCoE currently supports two forensic databases, one at the University of Central Florida that is an online Y-STR reference database that enables laboratories to obtain the Y-STR haplotype frequencies needed to calculate matching or paternity probability with confidence intervals based on five forensically relevant ancestries. The second database (FROG-kb), which is maintained at Yale University, is a database that provides tools, through its web interface, for comparing user-provided data with underlying allele frequencies in populations. It serves as a teaching and research web interface in forensic applications.

Date Published: August 1, 2016