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Forensic detection of explosives in the wastewater system: Implications for intelligence gathering

Gamble, SC; (2016) Forensic detection of explosives in the wastewater system: Implications for intelligence gathering. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Forensic evidence has traditionally been used in the detection of crime. However, the potential for such evidence to be used for the prevention or disruption of crimes has not yet been fully realised. There is significant potential for measuring trace levels of explosives in the wastewater system to offer a viable form of forensic intelligence to inform on-going criminal and counter-terrorism investigations. This research addresses the need to provide an empirical evidence base for the monitoring of trace explosives, utilising the wastewater analysis approach to contribute to identifying the provenance of the illegal manufacture of homemade explosives (HMEs) for use in improvised explosive devices. Building upon the well-established approach of wastewater analysis for illicit drug consumption estimates and other important emerging pollutants in the environment, this work identifies the potential for trace explosives detection in situ in the sewerage network by identifying key field- and lab-based methods for this purpose. This research presents the development of solid phase extraction methods for the analysis of trace explosives in influent wastewater samples and the development of liquid-chromatography-mass spectrometry methods for the quantification of trace levels of hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD) and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). In addition, the use of passive sampling devices for the collection, pre-concentration and extraction of trace explosives as an alternative to the frequently used grab sampling and solid phase extraction methods is explored. The implementation of these methodologies to achieve ‘forensic intelligence’ for the prevention and disruption of criminal activity is also explored with examples of how this data could be mapped in future work using electronic data and predictive modelling. The implications for incorporating such findings with other forms of intelligence to determine attribution are addressed.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Forensic detection of explosives in the wastewater system: Implications for intelligence gathering
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
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
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1532828
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