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Trace evidence dynamics of cocaine on banknotes: A comparison study of paper and polymer banknotes

Amaral, MA; Gibson, AP; Morgan, RM; (2022) Trace evidence dynamics of cocaine on banknotes: A comparison study of paper and polymer banknotes. Science & Justice , 62 (2) pp. 221-228. 10.1016/j.scijus.2022.02.008. Green open access

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Abstract

It is well established that a large proportion of paper banknotes in circulation contain traces of cocaine. Being able to discriminate between the innocent transfer of illicit drug particles acquired through everyday interactions with surfaces such as banknotes, as opposed to transfer resulting from criminal activities can provide valuable intelligence that can inform an investigation. With many countries adopting polymer banknotes as legal tender, it is important to consider the transfer of cocaine from these surfaces as well as the retention of these particulates on polymer banknotes for evaluative interpretation in crime reconstruction. This comparison study assessed three contact variables (force, time, and rotation) on the transfer of cocaine particulates from paper and polymer banknotes onto a human skin proxy. The persistence of cocaine particulates was assessed through a realistic scenario which mimicked a cash transaction. Quantifiable amounts of cocaine were transferred onto the human skin proxy across all of the contacts assessed, with a greater transfer observed with contacts involving polymer banknotes and those contacts which involved rotation. Following extensive handling, cocaine persisted on both banknote types, with paper banknotes retaining larger amounts of cocaine than polymer banknotes. These findings show that cocaine can persist on both paper and polymer banknotes for extended periods of time following handling and is therefore available for transfer. This transfer then readily occurs, even when contact is brief and involves relatively small forces. A key distinction between the banknote types was that cocaine particulates are more likely to transfer from polymer banknotes due to the lower retention rate of particulates on this surface. Such insights can aid in evaluating the relevance of illicit drug particles identified on items or persons of interest in crime reconstruction approaches.

Type: Article
Title: Trace evidence dynamics of cocaine on banknotes: A comparison study of paper and polymer banknotes
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2022.02.008
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scijus.2022.02.008
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Forensic science; Experimental studies; Transfer; Persistence; Crime reconstruction; Instron ElectroPuls
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10145056
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