Though my view on today’s crime solving methods might be skewed by what I see on Law and Order, CSI, or NCIS, I do actually have some real-world knowledge on the science behind modern day crime solving (I took a class on forensic science as an elective in high school, who knew it would come in handy?). Ever since the 1980s, when DNA analysis established itself as a major crime-solving tool, a lot of the evidence used in criminal cases has become much more scientific. Even though DNA analysis gets most of the credit on television, modern-day investigators rely more heavily on other methods in order to get a full picture of what happened at a crime scene. Though DNA is able to link a perpetrator directly to a crime, investigators only have access to DNA from past convicted felons or samples that were willingly taken from suspects to work with, leaving their database limited. Fingerprint analysis, which also gets a lot of credit in movies and TV shows, has the exact same limitations.
Instead, modern day investigators rely heavily on making an objective picture and story line behind a crime scene. For example, though the investigators might not be able to link a hair at a crime scene directly to a person, they are able to determine whether a hair is actually a hair or is rather a fiber from an article of clothing, if a hair/fiber is from an animal (including humans) or if it is synthetic, if a hair is dyed, and much more. Though rather sickening, forensic scientists use what are called body farms in order to investigate how the human body decays under different conditions. The scientists use cadavers that have been donated to the cause and leave them in different scenarios—buried/not buried, clothed/naked, young/old, for example—to observe what happens to the bodies over time. This way, when a body is discovered, the investigators are able to have an accurate time of death. Investigators also rely heavily on the physics behind injuries, splatters, broken items found at the scene, et cetera.
However, forensic science can unfortunately only do so much. It does not prove motive or necessarily find all necessary suspects. My class did not go into the rest of the investigative process, although, I would assume that it involves a lot of interviewing, and connecting the victim’s life to the evidence found. After all, the majority of crimes are committed by someone known by the victim. To a certain extent, modern day crime solving and Sherlock’s methods are not too different since they require large amounts of deduction.