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  • I-Witness
Published 14 September 2023
3-min Read

Police Life reveals the science behind crime scene processing!

By: Amanda Wong

Two Forensic Specialists squatting at a mock crime scene. The first Forensic Specialist in the foreground is picking up blood stains on the floor with a cotton bud for further testing and the second Forensic Specialist in the background is shining a Forensic Light Source containing UV light on some artefacts.
PHOTO: Nur Ihshana Shaheen Binte Babajahn

A crime has been committed, and officers are on the scene. In the room where the offence was carried out are numerous clues that are invisible to the human eye, but which could lead to a breakthrough in Police investigations... And that’s where science and technology come in!

Police Life discovers how Forensic Specialists with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) use a host of leading-edge tech tools to assist the Singapore Police Force’s Criminal Investigation Department in crime scene investigations.

A gif showing the hands of two Forensic Specialists squatting on the ground of a mock crime scene. They are coordinating to squeeze solution out of a test tube from a blood screening kit onto a suspected bloodstain to test whether it is real blood.
Forensic Specialists use a blood screening kit to determine whether a suspected bloodstain contains traces of real blood. GIF: Amanda Wong

Scene Processing: Blood Screening Kit
Blood evidence can be found at certain crime scenes and is crucial in providing potential leads. Forensic Specialists use presumptive blood screening kits to differentiate between blood traces and stains that could be mistaken for blood. This allows officers to identify relevant blood traces for collection and screening.

A gif showing two Forensic Specialists squatting at a mock crime scene. One is holding a flashlight so the other can see in the dark. The second Forensic Specialist is squatting on the floor and spreading aluminum foil over a black vinyl sheet as part of deploying the ESLA.
Forensic Specialists spread aluminum foil over a black vinyl sheet as part of the process of deploying the ESLA. GIF: Amanda Wong

Recovering Evidence: Electrostatic Lifting Apparatus (ESLA)
Footwear prints can reveal important clues about the identity and movement of the suspects involved in a crime, as well as the sequence of events that occurred.

Two Forensic Specialists reveal a transferred footprint mark on the ESLA black vinyl sheet, after successfully deploying the ESLA. One is holding the torchlight to shine on the sheet, while the other is holding the sheet up.
A footprint mark is recovered on the surface of the vinyl sheet. PHOTO: Amanda Wong

To preserve and collect footwear prints found at a crime scene, Forensic Specialists will deploy the ESLA. The ESLA contains a high-voltage power source to transfer impressions from the scene’s surface to a black lifting film.

A Forensic Specialist's hand is seen holding a Forensic light source containing ultraviolet light and shining it on a window grill. Under the light of the Forensic light source, some trace evidence is seen, which is previously not visible under the naked eye and under normal light conditions.
A forensic light source reveals trace evidence left behind on a window grill that’s barely visible to the naked eye. PHOTO: Amanda Wong

Searching a Crime Scene: Forensic Light Source
Movement at a crime scene can be tracked when trace evidence, such as fingerprints, hair strands, bodily fluids or clothing fibres are transferred through physical contact or left behind. But trace evidence may not always be visible to the naked eye.

However, Forensic Specialists are undeterred. They employ specialised light sources to increase the visibility of trace evidence.

A gif of two Forensic Specialists at a table setting up the Portable Fingerprint Development Chamber.
Forensic Specialists prepare the portable fingerprint development chamber for the fingerprint recovery process. GIF: Nur Ihshana Shaheen Binte Babajahn

Preserving Evidence: Portable Fingerprint Development Chamber
Fingerprints serve as crucial identifiers of suspects. To recover and develop fingerprints at a crime scene, Forensic Specialists utilise the portable fingerprint development chamber.

The Portable Fingerprint Development Chamber fogs up after use due to cyanoacrylate fuming.
The portable film chamber fogs up after cyanoacrylate fuming occurs. PHOTO: Nur Ihshana Shaheen Binte Babajahn

The exhibit containing fingerprints is hung within a portable film chamber, inside of which cyanoacrylate fuming will take place. After the cyanoacrylate gas has crystallised, latent fingerprints will be detected on the non-porous surface of the exhibit. These can then be recovered and preserved.

A cyanoacrylate fuming standing up and operating the Integrated Virtual Crime Scene System (IVCSS) to scan the entire mock crime scene and obtain a consolidated visualisation of it.
A Forensic Specialist operates the IVCSS to obtain a consolidated visualisation of a crime scene. PHOTO: Nur Ihshana Shaheen Binte Babajahn

Documenting a Crime Scene: Integrated Virtual Crime Scene System (IVCSS)
The IVCSS combines traditional scene documentation methods such as photographs with panoramic, high-resolution images of a crime scene. A consolidated visual interface provides officers with perspective views with related crime-scene information, allowing for a more comprehensive overview of scenes of interest.

Mixed Reality (MR) Training for Bloodstain Pattern Analysis
Besides crime scene processing, the HTX also leverages technology to enhance training. Human Factors and Simulation engineers have developed a MR training system to help officers recognise bloodstain patterns.

The image is a collage of two different pictures. On the right, a close-up of the Mixed Reality training goggles are shown. On the left, a trainee wearing the Mixed Reality training goggles is pictured with her right arm extended and pinched together, an action meant to interact with the virtual scene.
The MR training headset allows trainees to access the virtual crime scene. PHOTO: Nur Ihshana Shaheen Binte Babajahn

The trainer will first design a virtual crime scene with items of evidence such as weapons and bloodstain patterns. Trainees then process the scene virtually through a headset by marking out evidence, recording measurements and capturing photographs. These practice sessions can also be consolidated into a report for review and discussion.

“The MR training system is extremely versatile as it can project different bloodstain patterns in a real-life environment,” explained Ms Gladys Lim, Officer-in-Charge of a team of Crime Scene Specialists at HTX’s Forensics Division. “Training effectiveness is also increased as officers can learn the foundational concepts of bloodstain pattern recognition quicker, compared to conventional training!”

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