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Crime Lab: Microanalysis Section - Trace
Trace evidence can be an important aspect of crime investigation. A minute hair or fiber found at a crime scene could be the piece of evidence that links the suspect to the victim.

 

The trace evidence analyst conducts hair, fiber, glass, rope/cordage and adhesive tape identification/comparisons as well as physical match and headlamp/filament examinations. This section is also responsible for receiving and processing paint and gunshot residue evidence that is analyzed off-site.

The majority of the instruments in the trace section are microscopes. Techniques used in this section include: polarized light microscopy, microspectrophotometry, FT-IR microscopy, phase contrast microscopy, thin layer chromatography, refractive index determination, fluorescence microscopy, melting point, solubility, density and comparison microscopy.

 

There are no databases for the trace analyst to use for searches as in some of the other areas of forensics. Typically, trace evidence involves searching and recovery of nearly microscopic evidence followed by comparison to submitted standards. This process can take anywhere from days to months depending on the complexity of the case and the evidence involved.

Standards can be hair from a suspect, paint from a vehicle, glass from a broken window or even a roll of tape.