Efficiently Tracking Evidence from Collection to Storage
“The Houston Police Department has discovered evidence from thousands of cases that was improperly tagged and lost in its property room, suggesting that problems with handling evidence may go back 25 years …HPD officials said it appears that evidence from as many as 8,000 cases, from 1979 to 1991, was packed into the 280 cartons.”
Houston Chronicle, August 27, 2004
The above excerpt from a Houston Chronicle article is certainly not what you’d like to read if the evidence in questions was related to an investigation you were involved in. But hey, I watch CSI, Law & Order, Blue Bloods and other crime dramas on TV and this stuff happens. Right?
Kidding aside, keeping track of key pieces of evidence is extremely important and can sometimes mean the difference between guilty or not guilty and even life and death for some. Not only can lost evidence call into question the verdicts of trial cases, but just because the evidence is found does not necessarily mean it can be used immediately to re-open cases in question. According to the Houston Chronicle, it was expected take the HPD approximately 12 months to catalog the lost evidence it found, further delaying its use in the investigatory process.
To address these challenges, several companies are developing RFID-enabled solutions for tagging and tracking evidence as it moves through collection and on to analysis and storage. The result is an electronic record of where the evidence is, where it has been and who has accessed it.
For example, Bode Technology, one of the world's largest DNA analysis firms, has piloted an RFID system to electronically document the chain of custody of DNA evidence. Marketed as Bode-RFID, the system is designed to replace manual processes that use barcodes and handwritten paper manifests that are time consuming to prepare and open to human error and loss. The Bode-RFID solution pulls together all of the key components of a successful solution including an Avery Dennison RFID tags, printers from Zebra Technology, UHF RFID readers enclosed in industrial portals from Jamison Door, and importantly, data integration into Laboratory Information Management (LIM) systems.
By combining RFID-enabled evidence tracking with other uses of RFID like document and file tracking and weapons tracking, it seems like the criminal justice system may be ready to enter a new era – one where visibility can be extended across historically challenging departmental and operational silos.
After all, we’ve got to keep up with the CSI effect.