The rate of recovery of identifiable fingerprints on firearms and fired ammunition components has always been small—single-digit percentages being the norm. Thanks to a new application of old technology, this has changed drastically for the Boston police department's fingerprint lab.
The rate of recovery of identifiable fingerprints on guns and fired cartridge cases has gone from the traditional average of around 5 percent to an astounding 32 percent in just more than a year, according to departmental statistics. This jump appears to be the result of changing the way items are processed for fingerprints. Quite simply, rather than packaging guns, fired cartridge cases, and other metal items and sending them to the crime lab for processing, the crime scene unit has begun processing practically everything of forensic interest in the field.
Portable superglue fuming tanks, fuming tents, and fuming wands form the front line of the new approach to on-scene fingerprint processing. Results suggest that it is the packing and unpacking that is responsible for the low recovery rate of fingerprints, particularly on guns and ammunition. The elimination of a lot of extra handling seems to be the secret to getting greatly improved results.
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