Forensic Science is the application of science to the law and it plays a very important role in police work and solving crime. It has been popularised by TV dramas but the reality of forensic work is far more complex than its portrayal on screen.
Forensic science has been used for hundreds of years and is constantly evolving as new technologies are discovered and improved.
Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies run a highly effective forensic service consisting of a number of departments including:
- Fingerprint Bureau
- Fingerprint Development Laboratory
- Photographic and Imaging
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Forensic Support
These departments, based principally at Wymondham, Norfolk, work closely together to provide a timely response to forensic requests. For more information on these departments please see below.
Crime Scene Investigation
Role of a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)
Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary CSIs are based at seven stations across the two counties and are responsible for investigating crime scenes and recovering and recording physical evidence that may help to solve a crime.
There are three levels of CSI:
- Volume Crime Scene Investigators (VCSIs) - deal with incidents such as burglary, theft and vandalism.
- Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) - deal with any type of crime, from criminal damage to murder.
- Senior CSIs - are managers who allocate resources where they are needed and will usually attend at major crime scenes. They are also responsible for ensuring that levels of service are maintained to the highest standards.
To be an effective CSI requires an eye for detail, a methodical and practical approach and the ability to extract necessary details from often hectic and confusing scenes. They also require a composed attitude and a strong constitution due to the nature of some of the cases they may encounter.
Typically a CSI will start their day by being allocated a number of crime scenes to cover. These will normally be from incidents that have occurred over the previous day or night. If a major incident has occurred then it may require a team of CSIs to go out to the scene and this will be coordinated by a Senior CSI.
CSIs have a range of techniques that they can use to help recover evidence, much of which may be initially invisible to the naked eye. A CSI’s van will contain all of the necessary materials that they require to effectively collect evidence. This includes sophisticated photographic equipment, chemicals and powders to detect fingerprints and footwear marks and a range of light sources that will fluoresce various substances such as blood and other bodily fluids.
Once the CSI has finished collecting and recording evidence from a crime scene, it is then documented and, if necessary, sent for detailed analysis to extract further information in the form of fingerprints and DNA profiles. Some of this analysis is carried out at independent forensic laboratories on behalf of the police.
CSIs use a bespoke computer system to record details of a crime scene. This is a powerful resource as it is linked to other departments within forensics and allows instant access to and sharing of data relating to a crime.
Photographic and Imaging
The role of a Forensic Photographer is varied and constantly changing. You could start the day by photographing bullet casings that were found at a murder scene and finish it by photographing VIPs. This variety requires the ability to prioritise operational tasks that can occur at very short notice, especially if related to a major crime.
Forensic photographers may be called upon to use their specialist knowledge to provide photographic techniques that cannot be covered by conventional photography, such as Ultra Violet and Infra-Red.
The standards set by forensic photographers provide a benchmark for all photographic practitioners within Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies and they will also provide advice and training to ensure that these standards are maintained across the organisation.
Fingerprint Development Laboratory
Adjoining the Fingerprint Bureau is the Fingerprint Development Laboratory. A small team of Fingerprint Development Officers use specialised chemical and non-destructive treatments to detect fingerprints on objects retrieved from a crime scene by Crime Scene Investigators and Police Officers. The chemical treatments they use adhere to the residues left behind in a fingerprint and make them more visible when viewed with certain light sources.
Fingerprints that have been retrieved from a crime scene can be compared against others using a national database system known as IDENT1. This powerful computer resource links fingerprint records from all police forces across the country and holds the records of approximately 7.5 million fingerprint forms.
To be an effective Fingerprint Officer requires dedication, a keen eye for detail and the ability to work to very exact standards. They have to undergo months of training, compile a portfolio of their work and be constantly assessed to ensure that their skills are up to the required standard.
Fingerprints form a vital part of forensic investigation as they are unique to an individual and invaluable in providing positive identification of an offender or eliminating someone from an enquiry. In Norfolk and Suffolk, more than 6000 cases are dealt with a year, identifying fingerprints left at approximately 2000 crime scenes.
At Wymondham there is a dedicated Fingerprint Bureau which is responsible for the identification of individuals through fingerprints on behalf of Norfolk and Suffolk.
The Fingerprint Bureau offers the facility of taking fingerprints of anyone who requires them for overseas clearance, or for foreign passport renewal.
The following information is required to be seen at the time of fingerprinting:
- A current passport of all persons to be fingerprinted.
- All supporting documentation from the requesting embassy or agency.
How much does it cost?
- For an initial set of fingerprints the cost is £71.50
- For each additional set the cost is £35.70
Payment can only be accepted by cash. We are unable to process card payments.
How do I book an appointment?
To book an appointment, please contact the Fingerprint Bureau on 01953 424256, Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 4.00pm.
The fingerprinting service is only undertaken at the bureau based at: