University academics in Sheffield develop pioneering fingerprint technology to help police

Dr Simona Francese
Dr Simona Francese
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Drug dealers and users could soon be caught out thanks to Sheffield Hallam University academics.

New technology being developed in the city can detect the presence of a range of illegal and designer drugs from a single fingerprint.

Dr Simona Francese

Dr Simona Francese

The journal ‘Scientific Reports’ has published a new paper confirming the technology can detect the presence of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, amphetamine and other designer drugs from a fingerprint.

It also points to the possibility of being able to use the methodology developed to detect drug use through analysing secretions found in a fingerprint.

The paper is the work of Sheffield Hallam University, the Department of Fingerprint Research at the Netherlands Forensic Institute and the Centre for Applied Science and Technology in the Home Office.

Dr Simona Francese, from Sheffield Hallam University, developed the technology, which is able to used alongside traditional crime scene investigation methods used by the police.

Her team can detect traces of toiletries, cleaning products, the presence of caffeine, medications, condom lubricants and the sex of a person - information vital in building a forensic picture of a suspect.

The technique has received funding from the Home Office since 2011 and is currently being trailed at crime scenes in collaboration with West Yorkshire Police.

Dr Francese said: “Proving that someone had come into contact with these kind of substances could be a major tool for forensic investigations, particularly if they involve suspects coming into contact with illegal drugs.

“We want to see the technology integrated into standard forensic procedures.”