Footprints and shoe prints
Footprints and shoe prints (Forensic Science)
At many crime scenes, shoes prints (and less frequently bare footprints) are present even if they are not always visible to the naked eye. Such prints provide a wealth of information that can link suspected perpetrators to the locations of crimes. Based on the correspondence of shoe type as well as individual characteristics, an alleged perpetrator’s shoe may be positively identified as the specific shoe that made one or more impressions at a crime scene. Potential suspects may also be exculpated by the absence of their shoe prints at the scene. Footprints and shoe prints can sometimes provide evidence that links various crime scenes together in serial crime situations.
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Types of Evidence (Forensic Science)
Footprints and shoe prints are also important because they provide information on individuals’ points of entry into a crime scene and their points of exit. Such prints can also help investigators to determine the number of perpetrators involved in a crime. In addition, by tracking the impressions, investigators can often find other evidence, such as discarded firearms.
When shoe prints are found at a crime scene, investigators can often ascertain information on the brand names and styles of the shoes by running comparisons of the prints with the contents of a footwear database such as the one maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) crime lab, which includes thousands of designs of shoe soles. If the producer of a particular kind of shoe is known, then the size of the footwear can be determined accurately. Even a partial shoe print can provide investigators with a general estimate of the wearer’s size.
Such prints can also provide some evidence on the gait of the person who made the impressions, especially if the person has a medical condition that affects how he or she walks. In some cases, shoe prints can allow investigators to estimate the height, weight, and gender of the person who left them by measuring the stride, step length, and angle at which the feet contacted the ground. These elements can also indicate the rate of speed at which the person moved.
Forensic scientists use a...
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Research on Footprints (Forensic Science)
Impressions of bare feet are found less often at crime scenes than are shoe prints, so forensic scientists spend less time examining footprints than they do analyzing shoe prints. Footprints have been the subject of some interesting research, however. It has been theorized that the ridges in the skin on the soles of human feet are as unique to individuals as fingerprints, but this has not been determined conclusively.
Other research in this area concerns the marks left by bare feet on the insides of shoes, including the marks left by the top of the foot on the inside upper surface of a shoe. If such marks are discovered to be distinctive, they may one day be used to connect particular persons to particular shoes, which may in turn be connected to crime scenes.
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Further Reading (Forensic Science)
Bodziak, William J. Footwear Impression Evidence: Detection, Recovery, and Examination. 2d ed. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2000. Comprehensive guide to handling footwear evidence includes information on the determination of gait from impressions.
Cassidy, Michael J. Footwear Identification. Ottawa, Ont.: Canadian Government Publishing Centre, 1980. Classic text on the topic remains an important resource for forensic scientists.
Hilderbrand, Dwane S. Footwear, the Missed Evidence: A Field Guide to the Collection and Preservation of Forensic Footwear Impression Evidence. 2d ed. Wildomar, Calif.: Staggs, 2005. Provides information about all aspects of preserving, collecting, and interpreting footwear impressions.
James, Stuart H., and Jon J. Nordby, eds. Forensic Science: An Introduction to Scientific and Investigative Techniques. 2d ed. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2005. Easy-to-read introductory textbook covers all aspects of forensics, including the casting and analysis of footprint and shoe print impressions.
Whittle, Michael W. Gait Analysis: An Introduction. 4th ed. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007. Leading text in the field provides good basic information on the study of how humans walk.
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