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June 28, 2015 Richard Hartley

Fingerprints Could Be Used for Drug Detection

Innovative technology being developed at Sheffield Hallam University could be used to help police detect when a suspect has handled drugs, even if they are no longer in possession of the drugs. The new technology can even help to determine the sex of a person as well as the presence of toiletries, caffeine, condom lubricants, and medications, potentially making it a very powerful forensics tool.

The technology itself isn’t new, with the system receiving funding from the Home Office since 2011 and is currently being trialled by the technology developers in conjunctions with West Yorkshire Police. Dr Simona Francese, who is the name behind the trial, has said that she hopes the technology will become a part of all future forensic investigations, and pointed out that it can be used in conjunction with existing tests.

Dr Francese and Sheffield Hallam University have published a paper following work with the Department of Fingerprint Research at the Netherlands Forensic Institute and the Home Office’s Centre for Applied Science and Technology. The paper has been published in the journal Scientific Reports and it extols the benefits of being able to detect whether a suspect has come into contact with any of a range of drugs by using just a single fingerprint.

Previously, police have had to have evidence of the existence or possession of drugs for a suspect, but by being able to test a fingerprint of the suspect, this will no longer be the case. A criminal profile will be created that can indicate everything from caffeine use to whether or not the suspect is on any medication, and even whether they have been using certain toiletries and cleaning products. The paper also points to the possibility of testing secretions from fingerprints to further aid forensic investigation.

The analysis can detect the presence of cocaine, cannabis, heroin, amphetamine, and a number of designer drugs, and it can be used alongside traditional tests and forensic analyses, which means that the technology has a much greater chance of being incorporated into investigations because it will not interfere with technologies and methods that detectives already use.