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New Technology to Connect Suspects to Sex Crime Scenes

Forensic researchers in the U.K. say they've developed a new technique to help law enforcement officers gather evidence at crime scenes.

The technique will reportedly enable detectives to hunt down sex offenders who use condoms to try to avoid DNA identification.

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University say forensic specialists of the sort popularized by the hit TV show "CSI" will be able to identify condom lubricant in the whorls of fingerprints left behind at sex crimescenes.

Scientists at the school's Biomedical Research Centre say increasing numbers of sex offenders use condoms in the commission of their crimes in order to avoid leaving DNA evidence behind. Some offenders also reportedly use the latex barrier devices to reduce the possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

The scientists say their long-term goal is to help police match condom lubricant found on fingerprints with lubricant evidence taken from crime victims. The research team said it hopes in the future to be able to differentiate between condom brands, enabling law enforcement to create more detailed offender profiles.

Their work makes use of a potent technology called matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) that maps ridge patterns in fingerprints.

One of the researchers said offenders are "increasingly aware of forensic issues and it is common now for condoms to be used and removed from the scene of a sexual assault. However, they are less likely to consider the possibility of lubricant transferring onto their fingertips and then into fingermarks left at the scene."

The scientist said if prosecutors can link the suspect to a victim with fingerprints containing condom lubricant, it would put the suspect at the scene of the crime, "having had contact with a condom."

Resource: Moortown Today: "New technique tracks sex offenders": January 25, 2011