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Exploitation of Very Small Particles To Enhance the Probative Value of Carpet Fibers

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International Volume: 252 Dated: July 2015 Pages: 52-68
Date Published
July 2015
17 pages
This study established the usefulness of identifying very small particles (VSP) on carpet fibers acquired post-manufacture, so as to provide objective, quantitative associations between fiber samples.
Environmentally acquired very small particles (VSP), present on the surfaces of carpet fibers, have shown potential for the association of fibers with their carpet source. To unlock this potential, research must address a number of areas, including the application of methods under realistic casework conditions and the use of computational methods for the refinement and testing of the approach. In the current study, field collections of carpet fibers were conducted by crime scene practitioners under realistic casework conditions. VSP were isolated using previously developed methods, and analyses were conducted using SEM/EDS analytical protocols in an operational crime laboratory setting. Computational methods were designed, allowing sets of hundreds to thousands of VSP to be characterized. Classifiers were designed to associate and discriminate among specimens. These classifiers were applied to the VSP data for specimens collected by crime scene practitioners, as well as to a previously collected research dataset. Quantitative measures of correspondence and probative value were designed based on the classification measures and successfully applied to both sets of VSP data. Particle sets larger than 500 showed strong promise for quantitative associations with their sources. The use of larger numbers of target particle types (TPTs) showed strong promise to improve the performance of classification and association. Because VSP are acquired post-manufacture, these methods can address fundamental limitations to probative value that arise when class characteristics, determined by manufacture, are shared among mass produced commodities. These findings are of broad significance for the future of trace evidence analysis. The results of this research are likely extendable, with minor modifications, to other trace evidence types (such as glass, tape and human hair), and are expected to contribute significantly for those types of trace evidence that have long been considered of low evidential value (such as undyed cotton and animal hairs). Furthermore, entirely new approaches to trace evidence are enabled by exploiting VSP profiles, such as comparing different types of trace evidence with one another and comparing VSP defined by crime scene or suspect environments to those on virtually any item of physical evidence. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: July 1, 2015