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Forensic TV shows help criminals escape police?

(Posted September 8, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

Television shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, depicting forensic scientists at work, are helping criminals avoid identification, New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.

Not only are the criminals getting detailed insights into police detection methods and how to avoid them, but the shows have led juries to expect too much certainty from scientific witnesses.

"Jurors who watch CSI believe that those scenarios, where forensic scientists are always right, are really what happens,"  the magazine quoted forensic sedimentologist Peter Bull from Oxford University as saying.

His view was echoed by Jim Fraser, director of the Center for Forensic Studies at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. He said the CSI effect had placed extra burdens on the painstaking work of the forensic scientists.

"Oversimplification of interpretations on CSI has led to false expectations, especially about the speed of delivery of forensic evidence," he told the magazine.

Shows which pride themselves on closely following real police practice are giving criminals valuable tips.

"People are forensically aware," said Guy Rutty from the Forensic Pathology unit at Leicester University.

Burglars were wearing gloves during break-ins and rapists were using condoms to avoid leaving DNA evidence.

Car thieves had even taken to leaving cigarette butts from bins in stolen cars to muddy the forensic trail.

"Suddenly the police have 20 potential people in the car," Rutty said.

Source: Yahoo! News

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