New process developed for obtaining fingerprints from fired ammunition casings

West Technology Forensics has developed a new process for obtaining fingerprints from fired bullet and shotgun casings, which the company says could potentially enable law enforcement to solve thousands of gun crimes around the world.

The newly developed technique has success rates of up to 68 percent from some casings.

The process uses Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD) technology, which has been used in forensic processes for decades, the company says, on materials such as paper, plastic, and fabrics. Tiny amounts of metal are vaporized, and attach to evidence placed in a vacuum chamber to make invisible or latent prints visible.

West Technology Lead Forensic Scientist Eleigh Brewer discovered dramatic improvements in results on metal surfaces when silver or sterling silver is vaporized, rather than the gold or zinc traditionally used.

The procedure can be applied to other metal items, and a West Technology system was recently used to solve a murder in Austria by collecting evidence from a knife which had been wiped clean, the company says. The process could potentially also be applied to smartphones, IEDs, and fabrics to collect fingerprint, according to Brewer.

“We have had a lot of interest from police forces because of the high success levels we have had with our research,” Harris adds. “And the success rates of our tests also have the potential to save valuable time and money for police forces who are under increasing pressure to solve high-profile violent crimes and murders.”

BCC Research projects the market for forensics in the U.S. alone will reach $19.2 billion by 2022.

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