Computers match shoeprints to finger criminals

Computers match shoeprints to finger criminals

Trainers provide the best match

Shoeprints could soon become as important as fingerprints or DNA in the hunt for criminals, thanks to a new computer system that records their patterns.

A trial version of the system has already been set up by Professor Nigel Allinson of the University of Sheffield, and early tests were able to match 85 per cent of the shoe prints taken.

"We all leave footprints. Although they are not as unique as DNA or fingerprints, they are good intelligence and can be good evidence," Professor Allinson said at the Future of Forensics conference organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Shoeprints left at crime scenes have become a further tool in police evidence gathering since the Serious Organised Crime Police Act 2005 made them as admissible in court as fingerprints or DNA testing.

Professor Allinson explained that the computer search is made easier by the fact that most criminals tend to wear trainers which leave very distinctive track marks.

"If criminals all wore Oxford brogues we would be in a very difficult position," he said.

According to statistics released by the Home Office, shoeprints were recovered at almost 15 per cent of crime scenes in 2004 and 2005.

As part of the police procedure for processing suspected criminals, shoeprints can now be taken along with fingerprints and DNA samples.