Sunday, December 03, 2023

Application of the Criminologist Mindset and Forensic Science as a Crime Solving Technique

Authored by,

Ishara Archarrie

Criminologist, USA


Crime and causation, as well as the criminal mind in the 21st Century, have evolved over time and become more complex in nature; thus, the Criminal Justice System (CJS) faces great challenges when it comes to, for example, policing, criminal investigations, evidence collection, identifying criminals and making the right arrests, prosecution, sentencing, incarceration, reintegration, and crime prevention. All these processes are incumbent upon the initial stages of conducting a thorough and pristine criminal investigation if the CJS is to function optimally, efficiently, and with greater accuracy and success thus negating issues such as tainted evidence, wrongful arrest and incarceration, life or death sentences based on shoddy evidence,  paroling of offenders who are not fully rehabilitated, reducing high costs incurred during these process and the list is endless but most importantly it will maintain the investigative integrity of all agencies within the CJS. 


Criminology, Psychology, and Forensic Science have expounded in leaps and bounds, and even though they are independent disciplines, they are co-dependent during the criminal investigation process by lending their unique crime techniques and knowledge to solve crime. First responders, law enforcement officers, detectives, forensic experts, emergency services coroners, and sometimes behavioral analysts/profilers are usually the first to arrive at a crime scene, especially if it concerns serious and violent crimes. Thus, as lead investigators, their actions are crucial to maintaining the sanctity and integrity of the crime scene, cordoning off the crime scene, proper collection of evidence, and so forth as this will ultimately determine the success or failure of a case as it moves through the CJS.  This process very often comes under severe scrutiny and criticism of the courts and society when there have been gross lapses in this initial stage of the investigation, as we have seen in cases such as Madeline McCann (2007), JonBenèt Ramsey (1996), Sushant Singh Rajput (2020), Trayvon Martin (2012), Danial Morgan (1987) and numerous others. 


In my observational experience and case study investigations, I have found that some crime scene investigators often lack a multi-disciplinary crime-solving mindset and function with tunnel vision that is, they only operate from within their own discipline or area of expertise, that is one-dimensionally focused. These experts lack the ability to synthesize their academic knowledge of Criminology, Forensic Science, and Psychology, all of which are the foundations of becoming Criminologists, Forensic Experts, Forensic Psychologists, or Behavioral Analyst / Profilers when conducting criminal investigations. Working on a crime scene requires a multi-dimensional mindset, that is, to apply academic knowledge of the afore mentioned fields and experience to an active crime scene. This ability I call, a “Criminologist Mindset”. This is an expert who possesses the ability to apply various fields of knowledge as mentioned above to a crime scene by create mental associations (pictures) of the crime, the crime scene and the possible suspect/s. Creating a film reel in the mind  as you walk through a crime scene documenting everything by using the greatest  tool that is unique to each crime scene investigator which is their mind and its ability to put the crime scene puzzle together as they combine their criminological, forensic, law of evidence and psychology backgrounds thus, setting the stage for an imminent arrest and conviction of the perpetrator/s. 

All law enforcement officers may not be equipped with the same level of knowledge as these experts, but they can be trained to see through the eyes of a Criminologist Mindset however, there may be some officers who may be naturally gifted with this ability and or academically qualified. Although Forensic Science has many new technologies to detect evidential matter the investigative mind cannot be underestimated to solve crimes especially when an area or country may not be well equipped with such technology or knowledgeable experts. Good old “police work” can also be undertaken by Criminologists and Forensic Experts when resources are unavailable thus, the Criminologist Mindset is a valuable crime solving tool. Back to basics inculcates the ability to think outside of the box per se. 


Having a Criminological Mindset means being able to navigate a crime scene whilst forming mental associations through synthesizing all academic knowledge and experience, utilizing all five innate senses, methodical thinking, assimilation of observational information at the crime scene, making logical deductions and exclusions when collecting and preserving evidence as per standard operating procedures (SOP), resulting in a successful and legally solid investigation, accurately identifying and apprehension of the suspect/s, and prosecution. As a Criminologist or Forensic Expert, it is essential to have these skill sets or Criminologist Mindset. Academic knowledge by itself therefore has limited value if it cannot be translated into a technique / tool to solve crime.


The Criminologist Mindset is a mental operational system (MOS) that reads a crime scene systematically and enhances the investigative process by negating errors and omissions as well as decreases the possibility of tainted evidence during what I call the “contamination phase”. This process will have a ripple effect on the CJS ranging from processing the crime scene, the arrest phase, trial, conviction, and sentencing phase through to the reintegration phase. Criminologists and Forensic Experts should therefore form part of the first responder teams when investigating especially serious and violent crime such as murder, sex crimes, kidnapping & abductions, pornographic crimes, trafficking crimes, serial offender crimes, cash in transit (CIT) crimes, terrorist related crimes and so forth. With this learned technique (Criminologist Mindset) law enforcement will reduce sloppy crime scene investigations, evidence collection, and also leave less room for wrongful arrests, minimize legal technicalities, increase convictions rates, refine the parole system in order to reintegrate genuine parolees, thus, reducing chances of recidivism and ultimately creating safer societies.


The Criminologist Mindset views a crime scene holistically and multidimensionally by incorporating Criminology, Psychology and Forensic Scienc into their thought processes thus eliminating tunnel vision because crime is fluid in nature and has a multitude of elements, reasons and possibilities which need to be explored from a Criminological, Forensic and Psychological standpoint in order to solve the crime. Crime scene investigators can hone their investigative skills by adopting a Criminologist Mindset when working on a crime scene.


Saturday, November 05, 2022


Cyberbullying, also known as electronic bullying or online social cruelty, is the intentional use of digital devices like smartphones, laptops, and tablets to harm another person. People can see, engage in, or share material by SMS, Text, applications, or online in social media, forums, or games. Basically, it refers to the act of transmitting, uploading or disseminating hurtful, erroneous, or nasty material about another person. Some of these behaviors may border on being illegal or criminal. According to one of the sources, the following locations saw the most cyberbullying:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter
  • SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Messages sent through devices
  • Instant Message (via devices, email provider services, apps, and social media messaging features)
  • Email etc.


Cyberbullying can affect people of any age, although young adults have been identified as the most frequent victims. Where he uses technology to his advantage, the offenders are frequently unknown, allowing him to hide. The offender may be acting out of pure levity or for any other reason, such as egotism or slander. The most often committed crimes in relation to cyberbullying are impersonation, harassment, and flaming. Flaming is an example of online fighting where vulgar language is used, whereas harassment often involves the perpetrator sending the victim abusive, insulting, rude, and obscene messages.

How does Cyberbullying affect an individual?

An online bully victim could experience despair, anxiety, rage, shame, low self-esteem, subpar academic results, trust difficulties, etc. In any of these situations, it is more important for friends, parents, or guardians to assist the victim through social and psychological counseling. One can also engage in correct legal action with sufficient proof. Whatever the cause of cyberbullying, there are ways to combat it and, in many circumstances, avoid it.

What to do with bullying messages?

1. Examine the Message: Instead of freaking out, attempt to examine the bullying message you have got since, according to forensic analysis, each word or image has information that has shown how the message came to be on your computer. Look for those specific words, phrases, or usage of language. It could occasionally help you identify the perpetrator.

2. Don't reply or delete the message (or email), as the cyber forensic expert may need it in its entirety in the future. Additionally, avoid sending it to anybody else to spare yourself any extra emotional stress. Even if the communications are frequently anonymous, they may still be tracked out since the company that runs the website will store records and information about them. This information is not accessible to you or your parents, but it is available to the police as and when required.

3. Keeping the proof: If you receive offensive comments via instant message, print them out so you have the proof. As a general guideline, when reporting online bullying, copy the terms and conditions that have been violated and snap a picture of the offending comment or image as proof.

4. There is still work to be done: Block any contact with online bullies. Never distribute any remarks or messages that entail cyberbullying. Learn about the preventative measures and reporting of online bullying.

Preventive Measures:

1. A parent's responsibility is to ensure their children read privacy rules before giving them any personal information. Before providing any information, it is a good idea to make sure the website has a secure connection. 

2. Be aware of what's happening: Keep an eye out for any friends, classmates, or other people who are connected to you acting strangely. Every encounter leaves evidence, according to Locard's principle of exchange in forensic science, thus there will undoubtedly be some characteristics that the investigators check for frequently. 

3. Maintain an internet activity log: Your gadgets and most social networking sites have auto log recording summaries installed. You can, however, exercise caution if you see any routine activity or log into your account at any moment.

4. Adhere to the following internet safety advice: Unless absolutely necessary, never reveal your true identity to a stranger. Never provide sensitive information online to a stranger or someone you are just conversing with. Never meet someone you met in a chatroom alone; always go with a buddy, your parents, or another adult. They will be delighted to accomplish this if they are indeed who they claim to be. If someone makes offensive comments to you online or otherwise makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to a close friend or family member about it.

5. Recognize the warning indicators There are some indications that might be received from the individual on the other side of the computer screen. None of these might be 

If the individual insists that you reveal personal information such as your address or phone number, you should refuse. 

If the sender of an email or text message makes you feel uneasy 

If the guy assures you that he will keep your conversations private and not disclose them to anyone else, you may trust him. 

If the individual requests that you email or give them images of yourself or use a webcam in a manner that makes you feel uneasy, you should decline. 

If the individual discloses information with you and requests that you keep it confidential, you must keep the information to yourself. 

If the individual wants to meet you and asks you not to tell anybody, you should comply. 

If you observe any of these warning signals, it is imperative that you inform your parents or another responsible adult.

6. Machine learning can aid in the fight against online abusers: Today's offenders will not request data since they already know they can web scrape it from public social media postings in the amount they want. Therefore, our overarching objective should be to employ artificial intelligence at a certain level (device knowledge, app knowledge, etc.) to avoid cyber victimization. In such cases, we should attempt to identify and block, ban, or quarantine problematic users and accounts, or we should immediately delete (inactivate) content that algorithms predictably flag and label as abusive, or otherwise restrict the posting, sharing, or sending of messages that violate acceptable online conduct standards.


Dr. Bhoopesh Kumar Sharma, Forensic Expert and Professor,

Department of Forensic Sciences, SGT University Gurugram, India.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Forensic Science for Healthcare Professionals

 Healthcare practitioners are very likely to be confronted with forensic cases. However, due to a lack of awareness among healthcare professionals about these problems, these forensic cases are often skipped. The group of healthcare providers includes everybody who works in the hospital, from physicians to nurses, caregivers to administrative staff. Since there is no particular job description for forensic nurses in India and some other developing countries and hence, such shortcomings cause insufficiency in collection and preservation of evidence in forensic cases. It is very much required that the nurses, who manage the legal process in forensic cases, should receive training in forensic nursing in their training process and should be completely equipped with technical and legal knowledge to handle the crucial evidences in specific criminal cases. Any physical injuries caused by weapons, explosions, sharp objects, traffic incidents, fall occurrences, attack cases, intoxications, burn injuries, electric shocks, asphyxia, or any suicide attempts, murders, or suicides presented to emergency responders or health care providers are considered as police case and further subjected the forensic investigations. In such cases the legal process starts as soon as the patient gets in and received in the emergency rooms (ERs). The injuries along with the victim’s clothing may be critical in criminal investigations in order to locate the suspect, accused and/or victims. Apart from this, paediatric forensic cases are also observed as child abuses (physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse). Nurses and other staff have tremendous responsibilities in managing the any sort of forensic cases. Healthcare professionals should know that those are forensic cases and should be informed about the relevant process. Furthermore, since emergency medical personnel are often the first to witness forensic cases, they are often associated with writing forensic reports. Healthcare practitioners and administrators who work in healthcare facilities that offer 24/7 healthcare services should be knowledgeable about the forensic case process, both to support the legal process and to protect public health. It has been observed by many researchers that most of the healthcare professionals, did not have adequate information regarding evidence protection. On many occasions, it becomes too difficult for doctors and nurses to report such cases efficiently in the court room with specific legal knowledge, liabilities, and consequences. Hence, the negative outcomes for both the victim and the assailant are possible when forensic cases are not treated properly. The healthcare professional must be informed on how to act in forensic cases, on the issues they should be careful while taking the medical history, and on the whole process. Given the frequency at which forensic cases present themselves in health facilities and the fact that healthcare professionals are constantly confronted with forensic cases, scheduling in-service trainings on a regular basis and notifying all healthcare professionals about process-related issues that must be addressed will help to avoid problems in forensic case management.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Types of Documents in Forensic Examination (By Ms. Megha Walia, Assistant Prof. SGT University)

 Types of Document


Any writing surface containing invisible, partially visible or visible matter or writing strokes and convey certain meaning can be defined as document. 


·       Forensic documents can be classified into two categories i.e. 


(i)                      Disputed documents or questioned documents or     

suspected documents and


(ii)                     Standard documents.  


The disputed documents are the documents which are under scrutiny and are of unknown origin. 


The standard documents are the documents of known origin.  Standard documents can again be sub-divided into two categories.


(a)            Specimens or sample writings/signatures and are obtained by the I.O. from the suspect or accused in presence of witnesses or before the court


(b)           Admittedly genuine writings/signatures are normal writings written by the accused in routine course of business.


Questioned Documents are further included in the following classes:


Ø  Document with questioned signatures.

Ø  Document containing alleged fraudulent alterations.

Ø  Questioned Holograph documents

Ø  Disputed or Questioned age of dates in documents.

Ø  Question of materials from which documents are produced


·      Questioned Documents are further included in                                               

     Following classes:


Ø  Questioned Documents including typewriting’s (ascertaining source, date, alteration or substitution of pages)

Ø  Documents with questioned handwritings includes:


ü  Anonymous and suicidal notes/disputed letters.

ü  Superscriptions, registrations and other miscellaneous writings.

Ø  Genuine documents erroneously or fraudulently attacked.


1.     Document with questioned signatures.

ü  These are most common disputed documents may be commercial or legal papers such as cheques , note , receipt , draft  order , contract , agreement , assignment , will , deed etc.

ü  Signatures are generally obtained by tracing or simulating or copying process.

ü  Beside writing characteristics, ink examination is also very important. 


2.     Document containing alleged fraudulent alterations.

 Alterations are made by

ü  Erasures:- Chemical or mechanical

ü  Additions

ü  Interlineations or substitution 

ü  Sequence of strokes is also important to be examined in such cases.

3.     Questioned Holograph documents

ü  These may include rare stamps, valuable manuscripts, certificates, letter of introduction and recommendation, letters of credit, letters of famous people etc.

ü  Scrutiny includes examination of Paper & Watermarks 

         Ink, Writing, Seal impressions & Folds etc. 


4.     Disputed or Questioned age of dates in documents.

ü  These types of documents include which are purported to be ancient documents of great importance.

ü  Use of instrument for writing and origin of paper are most important for examination. 


5.     Question of materials from which documents are produced.

ü  A document dated many years before the paper was made comes under this category. (or when relative age of the document is required to be decided)


6.     Questioned Documents including typewriting (ascertaining source , date , alteration or substitution of pages)


7.     Documents with questioned handwritings include:

ü  Anonymous letters and disputed suicidal notes.

ü  Superscriptions , registrations and other miscellaneous writings.


         Beside examination of paper , writings or instrument used for writing Forensic Stylistics also plays an important role to identify the writer.


8.     Genuine documents erroneously or fraudulently attacked.

           Sometimes writer , at his command , writes more than one pattern of signature or some of the characters in writing in a document may be treated as questioned document erroneously.



Bank Documents

·      Drafts, cheques, gift cheques.

·      Account opening forms , specimen signature cards 

·      Share Certificates

·      Bank Securities 

·      Time Deposit / Fixed Deposit Receipts 


 Postal Documents

·      National Saving Certificates , Kisan Vikas Patra, Indira Vikas Patra 

·      Fixed Deposit / Time Deposit Receipts

·      Money Order forms & Cheques

·      Envelopes / Inland letters

·      Postal Stamps / Revenue stamps 


 Educational Documents

·      Degree / Diploma certificates

Marks sheets

Transfer certificates

Date of Birth Certificate

Question papers / Answer sheets of important competitive examinations

Registration / migration certificate


 Court Documents

Bail orders 

Release orders

 Judicial / Non-Judicial Stamp papers

Important Judgments of the apex courts


 Police Documents

Vehicle registration certificates

Driving licenses

Firearm licenses


Security Passes

 First Information Report formats

 Non-Cognizable Report formats


 Government Documents

Important agreements

Memorandum of understanding 

Reports / Inspection reports / Postmortem reports / expert reports


Service Books 

 ACR formats 

Cash books

Railway tickets / air tickets 

Insurance Policies