New forensic tech may nab criminals by the look of their shoes
Although most of our clothes fold and crease with our bodies as we move, our shoes maintain the same shape and appearance pretty much all the time. With that fact in mind, scientists are now developing a method of catching criminals via shoe ID.
The technology is being developed via a partnership between Britain's Staffordshire University and the West Yorkshire Police.
For the system to work, police will require a video or photo of a masked criminal performing their dirty deed, recorded by CCTV cameras, a police bodycam, an onlooker's smartphone, or some other device. At least one of the criminal's shoes will have to be in the shot at some point.
When a suspect is subsequently detained, each of their shoes will be removed, placed on a turntable within a photography light box, and then recorded on video as it's rotated under first visible and then infrared light. Individual frames of video will then be stitched together to form 3D models of each shoe, showing what they look like from any angle under both types of light (infrared is typically used by night-vision security cameras).
If the make, model and size of the scanned shoes matches that of the shoes in the crime scene footage, it will be one more piece of evidence pointing to the suspect's guilt. In fact, if distinctive details such as scuff marks are a match, it may be all the proof that's necessary.
It is hoped that a national database of shoe images will ultimately be established to aid in the identification of shoe makes and models based on 3D scans. Plans call for the existing version of the technology to be tested by select UK police forces sometime next year.
"It is a quick and simple process, taking around 30 minutes in total," said Staffordshire University's Dr. Megan Needham. "The equipment needed for this process costs less than £500 [about US$635]. The aim is for this method to be used by footwear units across the nation, and in the future detention officers in a custody suite to scan a suspect’s shoe."
Source: Staffordshire University