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Shoeprint Identification (Crime Fighters: Station 5)

Shoeprints can be analyzed to determine the suspects’ type, size, and brand of shoe, as well as individual characteristics such as wear patterns (patterns that form on a shoe, depending on how the wearer walks) or specific damage (nicks and cuts, etc.)

2D impressions of shoeprints (like a dirty footprint on the floor) can be lifted using techniques similar to fingerprinting. (See activities Fingerprint Fun and Fingerprint Fuming for more details). 

3D impressions of shoeprints (like tire tracks and shoe prints) discovered in soft surfaces like dirt, sand and mud are preserved by photographs and casting. Without cleaning the cast or brushing anything off it, detectives put the cast into a cardboard box or paper bag and transport it to the lab, where it can be further examined for trace evidence such as soil, tar or other materials that might reveal where the suspect has been.

Premise: Footprints in the Garden
From the deep footprints found in the garden bed, it appears that the perpetrator escaped by jumping from the second floor bedroom into the garden. The soil had been disturbed,  and the police were able to photograph and make an impression mould (casting) of the footprint. The impression was later bagged and sent to the lab, where no pieces of trace evidence were found. The print evidence would have to be compared to suspect’s shoes.

Objectives

  • Carefully compare, analyze and record  evidence (shoe prints) to infer a likely suspect.

Materials

Key Questions

  • What are the distinguishing features of each shoe?
  • Are you absolutely sure that you matched the suspect/culprit’s shoe correctly? How do you know?
  • Can you be sure that the culprit was wearing the shoes at the time of the crime?

What To Do

Preparation

Activity

  1. Give the “detectives” the three suspects’ shoe prints. Have them carefully analyze the print and record any details about them. Can they tell the size, the brand? Are there any distinguishing features (like broken or damaged areas) that they can identify?
  2. Provide the Culprit Shoe Impression sheet and see if the “detectives” can match any of the suspects’ shoe prints to the one found at the scene of the crime. (If you’ve made your own shoe prints, get the detectives to match the shoe to the print!)