Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $172,991)
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Crime Lab Latent Fingerprint Section (CMPD Crime Lab) has never recovered an identifiable print from a discharged cartridge case using the traditional cyanoacrylate fuming method.
To address this failure of methodology, the CMPD Crime Lab is requesting Paul Coverdell Grant funds to purchase a latent fingerprint recovery system that will expand our capability to identify individuals from prints deposited on cartridge cases and other metallic surfaces. The expected success rate of recovering an identifiable print using this new chemical processing method is estimated to be between 5-20% for each item of evidence. While a 5% increase in identification may seem insignificant, this success rate represents a significant increase over the current success rate of 0%.
The value of this type of investigative information is immeasurable. During a June 2020 shooting incident, approximately 200 rounds were fired. Four people were killed, five more were shot, and multiple people were struck by vehicles fleeing the scene. This was one of the largest criminal Mass Casualty Incidents in Charlotte’s history. While dozens of spent cartridge cases have been linked to other shooting cases through NIBIN database hits, not one of these investigative leads has led to probable cause for an arrest to this date. The ability to identify one or more individuals linked to the fired evidence from this scene may have changed the course of the investigation and resolved the case. Even a 5% success rate may have yielded 10 new suspect names to detectives.
The goal of this project is to protect the community by increasing the number of suspects identified as violent offenders from the latent fingerprints left behind in shooting cases and to increase the trust between CMPD and community members by providing detectives with more evidence to solve crimes. The objectives of this project are to purchase the new latent fingerprint recovery system, install and receive training on the system in the CMPD Crime Lab; begin using the system to identify latent fingerprints in new and cold cases in which latent fingerprint identification was not possible; and evaluate use the new system in these cases, documenting the number of new identifiable latent prints and comparing the success rate of the traditional method versus the new method, with the goal of at least a 5% increase in identifiable prints per item.