Shoe Prints: Often Overlooked Piece of Evidence

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With more training and shoe-print computer databases available, police investigators in the Raleigh, N.C., area, say scouring crime scenes to obtain latent, or hidden, shoe prints is now routine, says the Raleigh News & Observer. “Shoe prints are really one of the most overlooked pieces of evidence out there,” said Andy Parker, a shoe-wear examiner with the City-County Bureau of Identification in Raleigh. “The bad guys, especially robbers, they plan this stuff out. They’re wearing gloves and masks, but they never think to put anything on their feet. I guess wearing booties would look idiotic.”

Of the 9,424 crime scenes the bureau responded to last year, Parker said, shoe prints were evidence in about 200. Footwear and tire tread evidence classes at the N.C. Justice Academy are in such demand that they have waiting lists.

Investigators have different methods of capturing shoe prints that can be visible or hidden from the naked eye. Shoe prints in the snow can be enhanced with dyes, and dental stone powder can be poured into shoe prints found in mud, dirt or other soft surfaces. Shoe prints on carpeting are harder to lift. Prints found on floors or other hard surfaces, such as bank counters, can be lifted with clear film, an electrostatic lifting device or fingerprint powder.

Shoe prints can clinch a case in a case of domestic violence because the better-known forensic evidence of hair, fibers and DNA often are easily explained by the suspect’s having been in contact with the victim before. One investigator said that “a lot of jurors have told me that they felt more confident about the shoe imprint than the DNA because it’s right there, and they can see it.”


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