Forensics under the magnifying glass

August 8, 2003

Brussels, 07 Aug 2003

For most of us, forensic science is the stuff of television drama not real-life science being done in laboratories to solve Europe's crime and fraud cases. A forthcoming EU publication is going to uncover this hidden science.

Crime hurts society in many ways – physically, psychologically and materially. While it affects individuals, businesses and states, society is the 'real' victim. Crime strips European citizens of a secure quality of life, and requires pan-European research efforts to redress the growing threat of organised crime in particular, according to the upcoming publication produced by the European Commission's Research Directorate-General (DGR) simply entitled 'Forensic crime'.

Contrary to public perception, crime levels have generally fallen in recent years across the European Union. According to the International Criminal Police Organisation's (Interpol) latest available statistics, the majority of EU countries have reported a reduction in the 'number of cases known to police'. Of those countries experiencing increased criminal activity in recent years, most reported only moderate upsurges.

'Forensics' is a legal term describing crime detection in general. However, it is often confused with the more specific term, forensic science, which is the application of biochemical and other scientific techniques to the investigation of crime.

On the case with EU research

Oddly enough, our understanding of this mysterious profession often comes from television programmes showing detectives scouring crime scenes for minute particles of evidence to be used in court. What the cameras sometimes miss is the behind-the-scenes detailed scientific analyses – such as DNA identification, trace analysis of chemicals and explosives, and testing human fluids – performed in laboratories and research centres across Europe.

Another application of forensic science is in the fight against the growing cyber-crime problem, where hackers attack computer networks and systems, costing European businesses and governments billions of euros each year.

"The global nature of these abuses makes co-operation at European level essential for developing systems – legal, scientific and technological – which get tough on criminals both on- and off-line," concludes the forthcoming leaflet.

'Forensic science' is one in a series of leaflets produced by DGR's Information and Communication unit to show European research in action. Previous series have covered a wide range of subjects including disasters, global change, antibiotics resistance, communicable diseases, renewable energy, recycling cars, aeronautics, and employment. Topics covered in the 2003 series include nuclear fusion, research for people with disabilities, floods, animal welfare, science and youth and, of course, Forensic science.

DG Research ndex_en.html ines/index_en.cfm

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