Vacuum Metal Deposition system will recover latent prints from items that once yielded little fingerprint evidence
VALHALLA, NY – February 13, 2020 — Westchester County Police unveiled new technology today that enables it to lift latent prints from a broad range of materials that previously yielded little to no useable fingerprint evidence.
Known as Vacuum Metal Deposition, the technology allows detectives in the Forensic Investigations Unit to retrieve fingerprints from multiple items where there was once a low rate of success. These items include fired ammunition, plastic bags and flexible plastic packaging, thermal paper, fabrics, wood and paper money.
The VMD technology is also successful at obtaining fingerprint evidence from items that were submerged in water or exposed to high temperatures – conditions that generally destroy fingerprint evidence.
“This tremendous technology will not only enhance County Police investigations, it will also be available to assist all municipal police departments in Westchester,” County Executive George Latimer said. “Obtaining VMD technology is just the latest way that the County reaffirms its commitment to support every police agency in Westchester with specialized resources and highly trained personnel at WCPD.”
The VMD technology was recently obtained by the County Police from West Technology Forensics in the United Kingdom. WCPD joins the relatively small percentage of U.S. law enforcement agencies to have the latest VMD technology.
Public Safety Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason said VMD will also enhance investigations into Cold Cases.
“Every technological advance creates an opportunity for our detectives to take a fresh look at items of evidence recovered at crime scenes years ago, even decades ago. VMD technology has been shown to reveal prints from items that are more than 20 years old,” he said.
VMD technology works by coating items of evidence with an atomic layer of metal inside a vacuum chamber. Miniscule slivers of gold, zinc, silver or copper – inserted in the VMD machine – are vaporized to cover the evidence and reveal fingerprints and other evidence.
The VMD system does not alter the physical structure on items tested and independent studies show that subsequent DNA testing is still viable. It can process items as small as a single shell casing or a slip of thermal paper to larger items such as firearms, large garbage bags or articles of clothing.
According to West Technologies, VMD technology was first developed in the 1970s by the UK Home Office, Police Scientific Development Branch. However, the old systems were industrial, high maintenance and extremely expensive, resulting in only a few crime labs worldwide being able to utilize the powerful process.
Detectives in the Latent Print Section of the Forensic Investigation Unit were recently trained in the use of VMD equipment by West Technology personnel. FIU detectives are now prepared to utilize it in investigations and testify as expert witnesses about its findings.
Latent Prints is just one area of expertise maintained by FIU detectives. In addition, FIU provides expert analysis and testimony in the forensic disciplines of Ballistics, Crime Scene and Digital Evidence.
The FIU crime lab is recognized as a public forensic laboratory under New York State Executive Law. It is regularly assessed and accredited by outside experts to confirm it is meeting the highest standards and best practices in the forensic law enforcement community.
FIU remains the only Forensic Lab in New York State, and one of the few nationally, that is accredited in the disciplines of Ballistics, Latent Prints, Crime Scene and Digital & Multimedia Evidence.
“The expertise of the detectives in our Forensic Investigations Unit is second to none,” Gleason said. “VMD technology enables FIU to take its expertise to an even higher level than ever.”
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About Westchester County
Westchester County, located in the heart of the historic Hudson Valley, covers 500 square miles and has a population of just under a million. Originally home to Native Americans, who were members of the Lenape tribe, it is today a rich mix of many cultures and landscapes. The County is a blend of bustling cities, quaint villages and picturesque towns as well as open spaces and a network of beautiful parks. Westchester is made up of 6 cities, 19 towns and 20 villages. Westchester County is known for top-notch public schools, and a high quality of life. The County is also an intellectual capital, boasting a highly educated workforce, competitive colleges and universities, Fortune 500 companies, world changing non-profits, and cutting-edge research centers. Westchester is led by County Executive George Latimer, who took office in January 2018 as the ninth County Executive.
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Joseph Sgammato, Esq. | Deputy Director of Communications | Office of Westchester County Executive George Latimer