Thanks to television programs such as CSI and Forensic Files, the American people have never been more informed on how law enforcement tracks down and captures criminals. While these shows are a great source of entertainment, they are often fictionalized or amplify the capabilities of most police departments.
There are three things, beyond your fingerprints, that you leave behind everywhere you go. These three things can be isolated and used to track you down, long after you’ve left a location.
It might surprise some people to learn they lose 1 million dead skin cells every day. On average, that amounts to nearly 8 pounds of dead cells lost over the course of a single year. These skin cells shed from every part of the body constantly. They are found in our homes, our cars, our offices, our clothes, and anywhere else we travel.
These skin cells also contain DNA evidence, allowing shed cells to be matched to a living or dead person. These skin cells have been used in trials to show suspects were in the kill zone, had involvement in the crime, or were in the getaway vehicle.
Everywhere you go, little bits of your body fall away, leaving a trail for anyone to follow. People with dry skin or skin conditions, such as eczema, shed more skin cells than the average person, making them easier to find by trained professionals.
Another part of our body we’re constantly shedding is our hair. From our head, our arms, our bodies, our faces, and anywhere else hair grows, we lose hair. These hairs can be matched to a person by DNA and by analysis of the composition of the hair.
The average person loses between 50 and 200 hairs from their head every day. There are equally large numbers of hairs lost from arms, legs, chests, faces, genitals, and other areas. Simply put, these hairs are calling cards we leave behind.
Hairs are larger than skin cells and often settle on fabrics and surfaces, making them easier to be found and analyzed by law enforcement and other professional agencies.
Footprints are another indicator that we’ve been somewhere. While not as precise as skin cells or hairs, footprints are a way law enforcement can eliminate suspects from a crime.
Footprints of bare feet operate in a similar fashion as fingerprints; no two are exactly alike. Suspects can have their feet printed and compared to those found at a crime scene.
For those wearing shoes, the process becomes more complicated but still possible. The police can narrow down the type and brand of a shoe from the sole. The impression into the surface area – carpet, mud, sand, clay, etc – can help them determine weight. The size of the shoe can help further narrow the search down, as can the wear patterns on the soles.
If the police narrow down the search enough, they can find the shoes worn by the suspect and match them to those found on the scene.
We may think we can go anywhere without detection, like a ninja, but no matter how stealthy we think we are, we’re leaving a calling card behind.
- License: Creative Commons image source
George Stein began his career as a latent print examiner while continuing his education to become a crime lab analyst. With his job experiences, he’s able to provide interesting details for his readers and has also contributed to “How To Become A Latent Print Examiner” for people who are interested in one of the fascinating careers in forensic science.