Common Acronyms in Forensics
As authors, using acronyms gives a little realism to your character dialog and shows that you’ve done some basic research into the forensics profession. So I thought I would define a few of the more common acronyms used by CSIs. Don’t be shy about using these in your novel.
- SLR = Single Lens Reflex. The SLR is a type of camera most CSIs use. These cameras have a detachable lens that can be separated from the body. This is different than the small point and shoot cameras popular with most people.
- ABFO = American Board of Forensic Odontology. A very common photographic scale (ruler) is called an ABFO scale. It is “L” shaped with 6″ arms.
- UV = Ultraviolet. Many body fluids like semen, saliva, and urine will fluoresce under UV light and photographed even if they are invisible to the naked eye.
- IR = Infra-red. Infra-red light is used to detect and photograph various forms of secret writing, different inks used on the same document (like a check where someone adds extra zeros to the cash out amount), and even drugs.
- ALS = Alternate Light Source is a device using both ultra-violet and infrared light to discover evidence.
- UAV = Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. UAVs (also called drones) are becoming more popular with law enforcement agencies as a platform for taking aerial photographs and video. Basically they are sophisticated remote controlled aircraft with camera equipment that can be controlled from a ground based pilot.
- ACE-V = Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation, and Verification. This is the methodology used by fingerprint examiners to compare latent crime scene fingerprints to inked fingerprints on an arrest card.
- AFIS = Automated Fingerprint Identification System. This is a ubiquitous term used to describe a variety of computer databases that store and search fingerprint images. Don’t confuse with AFIX Tracker which is a specific brand of AFIS type computer system.
- I-AFIS = Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. This is the national fingerprint database operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that can be accessed by state and local law enforcement agencies.
- CSI = Crime Scene Investigator
- SOCO = Scenes of Crime Officer is the term for a CSI in England
- FMJ = Full metal jacket
- HP = Hollow Point
- DNA = Deoxyribonucleic Acid; our genetic building blocks
- STR = Short Tandem Repeat is a type of modern forensic DNA testing of specific loci on two or more samples.
- RFLP = Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism refers to differences between homologous DNA sequences and is an older testing procedure.
- CODIS = Combined DNA Index System is a computerized database of DNA profiles used in criminal investigations (similar to AFIS).
- BAC = Blood alcohol content.
- LMG = Leucomalachite green is a blood reagent with a strong odor that turns the latent bloodstain a green color. It is not commonly used today.
- LCV = Lueco-crystal Violet is a blood reagent that turns bloodstains a dark blue/purple color.
- GCMS = Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer is a device used to identify chemical compounds in unknown samples like illicit drugs. It is a great instrument to use with mixed samples or for general screening but it will totally consume the sample.
- LCMS = Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry is another method of drug testing that is useful in complex mixtures of samples.
- FTIR = Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy is a devices used to test a liquid, gas, or solid substance to identify it. It is the preferred method if you want to save the sample or if you need to identify an isomer.
- GHB = Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid is a common date rape drug that is both colorless and odorless. It is commonly slipped into victim’s drinks.
- SEM = Scanning Electron Microscope is a device using electrons rather than light to visualize very small evidence about 250 times greater than the typical light microscope.
Professional Forensic Organizations:
- IAI = International Association for Identification
- AAFS = American Academy of Forensic Sciences
- ACSR = Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction
- IABPA = International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts
- RMABPA = Rocky Mountain Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts
- SWG = Scientific working group (several groups based on field of study like SWGTREAD, SWGSTAIN, SWGGUN, and SWGFAST)
Don’t forget that a lot of agencies have acronyms like the FBI, DEA, BATFE, etc. Also, I have left out a number of acronyms that deal with accreditation and safety as I can’t imagine you wanting to use them in dialog (unless you want your readers to fall asleep in which case let me know!)
Posted on October 2, 2012, in Characters, General and tagged Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, BSPA, crime, Crime Scene, csi, detective, fiction, forensics, murder, mystery, police, thriller, tom adair. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.