Zurich Forensic Science Institute


The Classics of Criminalistics

The field of criminalistics is concerned with the classic areas of evidence-gathering.

Specialist Unit Areas of Expertise

Fingerprints are THE classic examples of crime-scene evidence. The Fingerprints Unit identifies individuals based on the papillary ridges made visible in a fingerprint.

The Marks Unit deals mainly with shoeprints and toolmarks. Based on the tiniest remnants of shoe soles left behind, in a best-case scenario the corresponding shoe can be identified.
If screwdrivers, crowbars and spanners are employed outside of their intended purpose, the resulting impressions and scratches are examined. The marks can then be linked to a tool type or even the specific tool itself.

Textile fibres may be transferred in the course of contact between two people or a person and an object (e.g. a sofa). When glass breaks, the immediate surroundings are blanketed in countless tiny glass splinters. Biological evidence can be visible (e.g. blood) or invisible (e.g. dander) to the naked eye. The Microtraces/Body Fluids Unit specialises in the evaluation of this type of evidence, which encompasses far more than the DNA profile.

Biological evidence, which can be used by the Institute for Forensic Medicine to create a DNA profile, has revolutionised forensic work. The DNA Administration Unit ensures that these valuable findings are sent in a professional and timely manner to the relevant police departments and investigative agencies.

The Firearms Unit compares marks left on spent bullet casings and projectiles to those on samples fired from confiscated weapons. In addition, residues left on body parts or textiles after a weapon has discharged – so-called gunshot residues – can be identified using chemical methods. Together with findings from shooting scene reconstructions, a complete picture of the sequence of events is revealed.

Under the direction of the Swiss Police Chiefs Association (KKPKS), the FOR maintains the headquarters for matching open cases involving firearms both nationally and internationally.