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Dutch Forensic Institute Uses RFID to Control Crime Evidence

The agency is employing EPC Gen 2 tags to document an item's chain of custody and trigger an alarm if evidence goes awry.
By Rhea Wessel
Oct 22, 2008The Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI), a government agency that collects and evaluates crime-scene evidence from around the Netherlands, has implemented an RFID track-and-trace system for the 100,000 pieces of evidence it collects every year. Guns, knives, cigarette butts, hair samples and other items are placed in plastic bags at crime scenes, and labeled with EPC Gen 2 RFID tags.

The system enables officials to document each item's chain of custody in the event of an accusation that evidence has been tampered with, or is unrelated to a particular case. The system also warns NFI's managers if any items are moved without permission.

Tagged evidence is placed in plastic crates.

Implemented by Atos Origin in Arnhem, the project may be the first item-level RFID project in the Netherlands for objects that are of a wide variety of shapes and sizes, says Johan Klunder, company's RFID project manager. A similar but much smaller system currently operates in Texas (see Travis County Fire Marshall Uses RFID to Manage Evidence).

Atos Origin began designing and implementing the system at the start of 2007, and it was officially inaugurated earlier this month by the Dutch Ministry of Justice, which oversees the NFI. When the institute offered the tender to the market, it had already conducted substantial research on the technologies available, and specifically wanted an RFID system to replace its tracking system, which was based on bar-coded labels and handwritten notes.

The NFI sought an application that would reduce the work and decrease the errors created by tracking, by hand, every movement of evidence shared by investigators and prosecutors. The NFI also faced the problem that 26 police districts around the country used different numbering systems. As a result, several pieces of evidence collected at the NFI in the Hague can carry the same number but originate from different districts.

At a crime scene, police officers place adhesive labels on individual plastic bags holding evidence. The labels include an embedded RFID tag, readable text and a bar-coded serial number. A smaller adhesive label, with the same bar-coded number, is then attached to a sheet utilized for logging the evidence.

The bags are placed in a plastic crate that is then transported to a service entrance at the NFI. At this point, an RFID interrogator installed at the door makes the first of dozens of potential tag reads. Workers go through a receiving process of opening the crates and collecting the documents and evidence contained within, then employ a handheld reader to interrogate the tags a second time.

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