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Archive - General > Introducing the Forensic Outreach Team!

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Forensic Outreach (forensicfix) | 6 comments Hi everyone!

We'd just like to stop by and say "hello." We're very excited to interact with Mysteries & Crime Thrillers and hope we can engage you in some very intriguing discussions about crime science and security as we read about them in novels we love.

Nice to meet you all.


message 2: by Jonquil (new)

Jonquil | 4 comments Hi back at ya! Looking forward to what y'all have to share.


☼♎ Carmen the Bootyshaker Temptress ☼♎ | 601 comments Hi. I'm curious as to what you have:)


message 4: by Chava (new)

Chava | 2788 comments Hi guys,
My question to the experts is: what's your biggest pet peeve when it comes to wrong techniques or procedures we read about in books or watch in series/movies?


message 5: by Etain (new)

Etain Feeley | 23 comments I would be just as interested to hear about this, as I'm trying to write a section on forensics and so far its proving very hard to do with limited knowledge.


Forensic Outreach (forensicfix) | 6 comments Great question. Here are our answers (from various members of the team):

- The use of luminol: this technique is quite a bit more complicated than is commonly demonstrated. Since we don't where the fluids are likely to be, we have to spray a potential area of interest first, angle the camera properly and take a photograph - all while it is fading. It's not something that can be applied to a scene ubiquitously - and it certainly doesn't last for as long as is portrayed. It's also quite toxic. Finally, not all that glows with luminol is necessarily blood (e.g. lots of people use bleach, which glows, especially when cleaning up blood).

- The time it takes to process DNA and toxicological results (this is hardly instantaneous!) Perhaps this has less to do with procedure or technique, but you don't see a fair amount of the whole process anyway - possibly because it takes much longer to handle and analyse these samples than is shown.

- Finally, the problem of contamination when handling evidence - especially at the crime scene. A few of our team members pointed out that they often see the tendency (on television) to pick up evidence with a hanky or a pen. This would render it inadmissible in court.

We actually have a fair amount about this on the site, but we'll let you follow that on your own as we don't want to self-promote here.


message 7: by Etain (new)

Etain Feeley | 23 comments Forensic Outreach wrote: "Great question. Here are our answers (from various members of the team):

- The use of luminol: this technique is quite a bit more complicated than is commonly demonstrated. Since we don't where th..."


Thanks for your comments, but after reading the above, I have some misgivings in the sense that in a crime scene we are assuming that the perpetrator has not got a lot of sense, some killers surely would be very careful not to leave traces of bodily fluids at the scene etc, unless of course the attack was a random event.

I cant recall where or what program, but I did see a documentary where the team were removing evidence using a calliper or pair of tweezers, the handkerchief seems somewhat old hat, to say the least.


message 8: by M.A.R. (new)

M.A.R. Unger | 127 comments DNA results. Yes, the process is more lengthy than shown on TV and in films. Here in Vegas, depending on the workload, results may be as long as a year in coming. With a rush and a low workload, about two weeks. Writers certainly have to keep this in mind. And yes, the hanky, pen pickup makes me cringe . Looking forward to this topic. Too often, I find book promos and more book promos…thought this was supposed to be limited? Oh, well. My book BITS AND PIECES has a forensic facial reconstruction artist as the main character…not your norm.


message 9: by Forensic Outreach (last edited Nov 05, 2014 01:55AM) (new)

Forensic Outreach (forensicfix) | 6 comments MAR -- very interesting indeed. We actually were engaged in a very long conversation with a senior law tutor here in the UK about the oft-overused word "forensic." By definition, it is meant to be any kind of science that can be applied to some end in a court of law. However, facial reconstruction - as a technique for positive identification - is inadmissible as evidence in the US (last we checked) and probably also in the UK. Under the previous definition, you would have to use the term pretty loosely.

Thought it might be something worth sharing for your book, although you're probably aware of this debate already.

PS. We're with you on the book promos! To be clear, we're not promoting anything :)


Forensic Outreach (forensicfix) | 6 comments Hi Etain,

Not sure why you would have misgivings about our comment but we'd be happy to clarify anything. Is there something specific you were after?

With regard to picking up evidence with hankie, it's something we still (surprisingly) see in some form on popular TV shows (often, it's a tissue around a doorknob being turned before entering a room).

Finally, it's an interesting comment you make about "some killers" being too seasoned or saavy to leave bodily fluids behind. Locard's exchange principle - every contact leaves a trace - is the bedrock of forensics. Whilst a perp may not leave behind bodily fluids (as this would depend also on the nature of the crime), we are making the assumption that in the course of any crime, something useful and testable will remain that could implicate him/her.


message 11: by Etain (new)

Etain Feeley | 23 comments Forensic Outreach wrote: "Hi Etain,

Not sure why you would have misgivings about our comment but we'd be happy to clarify anything. Is there something specific you were after?

With regard to picking up evidence with hanki..."


Thanks for clarifying, I think that your comments are very relevant, however killers these days are getting more and more sophisticated, yes, they are human and mnake mistakes but they like the rest of us, watch the documentary's, learn to cover their tracks effectively and are great manipulators of certain situations, when I am writing crime fiction, I wan't to make sure that my stories potray the reality, the characters may be fictituous, but the crime scene has to be believable so hence the need to do some proper research with this in mind. That's incredible re the tissues, surely latex gloves would be more appropriate though prob more expensive in the long run., also there have been some recorded cases, where the perp was trained in forensics and you are 100pc right in stating that the term forensics is too widely based.

Am writing a short crime story for publication in two years from now, but its not for profit, as its loosly based around an event that happened in Ireland some years ago.


message 12: by M.A.R. (new)

M.A.R. Unger | 127 comments Yes. The term used by local police is "Forensic facial reconstruction artist." I do not use the process for legal identifications. In fact, my main character remarks that some reconstructions of King Tut look like Barbra Streisand. ( I've seen that one). Personally, I don't like the computer model reconstructions I've seen….they don't approach the realism of 2-d or 3-d art…look like statues.

Also police/CSIs in my jurisdiction (Las Vegas) do not refer to criminals as "perps" but as suspects.


message 13: by M.A.R. (new)

M.A.R. Unger | 127 comments QUESTION RE: Luminol. Digital photos of luminescence seem to require f 2.8 and 30-60sec shutter speed. Is this your understanding?
I've also read about repeating with 1 stop above and under for HD photos…alternately with a flash at about 27sec into the timed exposure. Any thoughts?


Forensic Outreach (forensicfix) | 6 comments Very interesting MAR! And to be clear, it was a tongue-in-cheek nod to TV lingo. We don't use that terminology either ;)


message 15: by Forensic Outreach (last edited Nov 05, 2014 10:44AM) (new)

Forensic Outreach (forensicfix) | 6 comments Hi MAR,

I'm not the bodily fluids expert, so I'll check with him in the next few days - but it's my understanding that these factors change with the circumstance/setting. For instance, exposure is somewhat dependent on the intensity of the reaction. A crime scene that's been wiped, for instance, will require a longer exposure time. If you're looking at bloody residue, an exposure time of 45-90 seconds can be typical.

So, as far as I know, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to photographing a luminol reaction - which is something interesting to play with in a story!

I'll ask the expert and confirm this - hope it helps! One recommendation I can make is picking up one of any number of texts on Crime Scene Photography.


message 16: by M.A.R. (new)

M.A.R. Unger | 127 comments Thanks. Have to look for the latest books as HD and digital photography technology changes quickly. Blood splatter is at the bottom of a settee in the salon of a yacht…rug was changed out but not the upholstery….6 months. Dry climate, southern Nevada. Yacht owner's in jail, so the boat hasn't moved.


message 17: by Vikki (new)

Vikki (silverstarz) | 47 comments Etain wrote: "Forensic Outreach wrote: "Hi Etain,

Not sure why you would have misgivings about our comment but we'd be happy to clarify anything. Is there something specific you were after?

With regard to pick..."


Can I ask what event your short crime story is based on? I'm a little curious as I'm from Northern Ireland and wondering if it's one I've heard about at all.


message 18: by Brendan (new)

Brendan Hey.

Is it actually possible to make oneself immune to a specific poison by taking in tiny, then slightly increasing doses over a period of time?


message 19: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) What a great chat


message 20: by M.A.R. (new)

M.A.R. Unger | 127 comments Brendan….hmm. I've read that it's possible with some poisons..not all. Then there's an area in the Argentine Andes where the water source has a high arsenic content…over generations they've become immune to it. Of course there's the opposite, where a poisoner administers small dosages to induce certain symptoms and then gives the victim a large amount….bye, bye.


message 21: by Feliks (last edited Feb 24, 2015 10:35AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Well its certainly the principle behind hard drug addiction so I don't think its something 'far-fetched' or, 'found only in crime novels'. Its part of many walks of life. Lots of products and activities induce users to increasingly larger amounts to 'repeat the initial effect'.


message 22: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | -19 comments I'm very impressed! I would love to participate.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) I've wondered on the poison dose too. Works a little with homeopathic medicine theories, and of course there was vaccine inventions. I know they had that in mind with Riddick in the last trilogy movie where he slowly got used to the venom before fighting the monster. And reverse with allergies (again homeopathic)

But yes I'm sure there' tons this doesn't apply to. Big dose will just kill, that's all.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) Forensic Outreach wrote: "Great question. Here are our answers (from various members of the team):

- The use of luminol: this technique is quite a bit more complicated than is commonly demonstrated. Since we don't where th..."


I know little about it - don't write it or research it. So handkerchiefs are out with being convincing. I'm curious what should be used then if TV is showing it wrong? What should police use when investigating, some other kind of material?


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