Toilet Paper: The Newest Tool in the Fight Against Crime

A roll of toilet paperIn July of 2009, the bodies of 43-year-old Alan Grna and his 85-year-old mother Julianna were discovered in their Ohio home—both victims of a violent assault. The lead detective in the case called in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) to collect evidence from the crime scene, evidence that would lead them to the man who was eventually convicted of their murders. One of the key pieces of evidence was a roll of toilet paper.
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Synthetic DNA and Fluorescent Criminals

DNA in a test tubeA high-tech crime-fighting tool that uses synthetic DNA and a fluorescent dye to label would-be criminals is being implemented in the United Kingdom (UK), Europe and elsewhere and may be making its way to America soon. The system consists of a container of fluorescent dye and synthetic DNA with a nozzle that emits a fine spray. If a someone attempts to rob the store, the clerk can activate a panic button, which alerts police and causes a mist of the harmless solution to be sprayed over the everything in the shop, including the robber. This spray is not easily washed away, especially in hard-to-reach areas like nostrils and under fingernails, and can be detected for weeks after the crime. The robber may not even know he has been marked because the droplets are so fine. However, law enforcements agents will know. Continue reading

Forensic Phenotyping: What DNA Can (and Cannot) Tell Us About a Criminal’s Appearance.

DNA in a test tubeAll Points Bulletin: Wanted for Murder: A Redheaded, Blue-Eyed, Left-Handed Smoker Who Likes to Ski, Has an Elevated Risk of Cancer, Is Allergic to Cashews, and Has a Birthmark the Shape of Wisconsin

OK, the thought of issuing such a specific physical description of a suspect seems ridiculous to us now, but can we expect to see such specific descriptions of alleged criminals in the future?

A new field of forensic DNA analysis, forensic phenotyping, is emerging, and it is raising some good questions. How much information can or should forensic analysts glean from someone’s DNA, and how much of that should be made public?
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