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Using Small Particle Reagent to Obtain
Latent Fingerprints from the
Adhesive Side of Clear Plastic Tape

H.W. "Rus" Ruslander, MS, SCSA

Recently, I was contacted by a former student who now works for a municipal police department. She was having difficulty in processing some evidence from a home invasion robbery case she was working. Her problem was that she had tape that had been used by the suspects to bind the victim. This tape was about 2 inches wide and clear like scotch tape. It is usually used for sealing boxes. This tape, when held up to the light, revealed a very good quality latent fingerprint. Her quandary was how to process the tape to enhance the latent fingerprint so the latent print examiners could compare it to the suspects.

Using a roll of tape she purchased at a local store, she tried using sticky-side powder and gentian violet to enhance prints she had deposited on the test roll of tape. She was unable to achieve the desired results in developing the latent prints to the degree necessary for comparison.

I suggested that she try using Small Particle Reagent. "SPR" is usually used when processing wet surfaces and it adheres to the print. Once dry, it can be lifted off the surface using fingerprint lift tape and put on a lift card. With the tape, it can be sprayed right on the adhesive side of the tape and handled in several different ways. The first, and best method, is to spray the tape and place it directly onto the latent print card. Using a sponge or paper towel, squeegee over the tape and it will adhere to the card. The resulting latent print is of extremely good quality, see example 1.

The second method is to spray the "SPR" onto the adhesive side of the tape and then rinse it off under running water. The tape is again placed on the lift card and squeezed to allow it to stick to the card. The result is somewhat disappointing. See example 2.

The third method is the same as method number 2 with the exception that after the initial rinse, "SPR" is sprayed on the tape again. After letting sit for a few seconds, re-rinse and place on the lift card and squeegee as before, see example 3.

As you can see, the results are a little bit better but still nowhere near as good as using "SPR" and placing it directly onto the card without rinsing.

After my friend practiced a few times to become comfortable with the process, she applied the "SPR" to the evidence and obtained an identifiable latent print! The latent unit was able to identify the suspect because of the print and an arrest was made.

In a similar case, another municipality had a theft case where a sealed package was delivered by one of the national delivery companies. The housekeeper accepted the package and took it into the study and laid it on the desk so the resident would see it. The package contained an item of jewelry that she had ordered and was quite expensive.

< read the complete article and view example photographs. >

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This Month's Featured Resource on the Crime Scene Investigator Network Website

The beginning of this manual is a list of processes and procedures for different surface types. Also included are processing sequences that specifically involve prints that are left in blood. Following these lists are details for each process that is currently implemented in the Latent Print Unit (LPU) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory.

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Developing Latent Fingerprints with Black Powder

Learn the basic technique for processing latent fingerprints by dusting with black powder.

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Crime Scene Investigator I
San Francisco Police Department, San Francisco, California, USA

Final Filing Date: Continuous
The Crime Scene Investigator I is the entry level class of the series, receiving training in collecting and documenting physical evidence at crime scenes, using appropriate scientific methods for the processing, development and comparison of latent fingerprints for identification purposes. As proficiency is gained more complex duties are assigned.
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Criminalist/Crime Scene Specialist
Westfield Police Department, Westfield, Indiana, USA

Final Filing Date: February 28, 2020
The Criminalist – Crime Scene Specialist is responsible for performing the duties of collecting, analyzing, and documenting evidence related to criminal investigations. Additionally, this position has responsibilities related to overseeing the operation of the property room and laboratory.
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Crime Scene Technician
Naperville Police Department, Naperville, Illinois, USA

Final Filing Date: Open until filled
The Crime Scene Technician will process crime scenes including: Identifying, collecting, and preserving physical evidence; Performing crime scene photography/videography; Recovering latent prints and other physical evidence via the utilization of various chemicals, powders, light sources and casting materials, in the field or in a lab environment;
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Property & Evidence Technician
Fort Worth Police Department, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Final Filing Date: February 27, 2020
Receive, document, process and store evidence and other property; assign control numbers and storage locations to property and evidence; Release property and evidence to crime lab, courts, the public or various law enforcements agencies; ensure compliance with applicable rules and regulations and chain of custody procedures;
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Forensic Laboratory Technician I, II, or III (DNA Casework)
Missouri State Highway Patrol, Jefferson City, Missouri, USA

Final Filing Date: February 25, 2020
This position is responsible for providing direct support to the Criminalists in the DNA Casework section by maintaining laboratory equipment, preparing reagents, and performing quality assurance and quality control functions. An employee in this position participates in a formal and on-the-job training program.
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Criminalist I
Kauai Police Department, Kauai, Hawaii, USA

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Performs a variety of standard physical, chemical, instrumental and microscopic analyses of evidence in connection with crime detection and law enforcement work; assists with more complex investigations and studies, and with assigned phases of research projects; and performs other related duties as required.
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Digital Forensic Examiner
Nebraska State Patrol, Lincoln OR Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Final Filing Date: February 26, 2020
Analyze submitted evidence; follow acceptable forensic methods in evidence analysis, and write lab reports on the analysis results. Testify in court hearings and depositions. Obtain data stored in the form of magnetic or electronic coding on computer media or on media capable of being read by a computer, by court authorized search or covert electronic surveillance, assist with search warrants and the seizure of evidence from crime scenes,
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Forensic Scientist III (Latent Prints)
Scottsdale Police Department, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

Final Filing Date: January 22, 2020
Duties include analysis, comparison, and evaluation of complex latent print evidence and the examination, development, and preservation of latent prints on submitted evidence. Duties will also include writing detailed reports and testifying to the methods used and the conclusions reached and conducting the evaluation and quality review of analytical results and reports. May also assist in the training of latent print examiners and on rare occasions provide technical assistance and expertise at major crime scenes.
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