Centre of Applied Research Technology

No Trace to Waste (Geen Spoor te Verliezen)

More effective trace investigation makes it easier to investigate and prosecute crime


When a crime has been committed, traces of DNA and fingerprints often remain at the crime scene. These traces can play a vital role in investigating and prosecuting crime. The process of seeking, detecting, selecting and securing such trace evidence is therefore crucial. Yet it is not always easy. Which is why, in the No Trace to Waste project (Geen Spoor te Verliezen), Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences is researching how investigators at the site of an incident can distinguish the traces left by everyday actions from traces of a crime. The research also aims to identify the best way to preserve the information contained in the traces during the forensic investigation process.

No Trace to Waste is led by Christianne de Poot, Professor of Forensic Science at AUAS and the Police Academy, and Bas Kokshoorn, professor by special appointment of Forensic Trace Dynamics at AUAS and Principal Scientist at the Netherlands Forensic Institute. The project focused on three lines of research.

  1. Improving the detection and interpretation of traces

Thanks to technological advancements, forensic examiners are becoming better able to analyse and interpret traces such as tiny bits of DNA and gunpowder residue from firearms. ‘While this is naturally an advantage when it comes to identifying potential perpetrators, it also gives rise to certain questions,’ the researchers explain. ‘That’s because the increasing sensitivity and accuracy of forensic science also means investigators find many traces of people and activities that have nothing to do with the crime. Imagine that a tiny bit of DNA from a suspect is found in the victim’s home. What does this tell us about how it got there? Are those traces that were left behind in the course of the criminal act, or is it possible that they ended up there at another time or in a different way? If we want to correctly interpret the growing quantity of trace evidence, we must learn to understand it better.’

  1. Preserving trace evidence during packaging, transport and storage

The second research line focuses on how the various steps in the forensic process influence the investigation of traces. When trace evidence is found on an object, such as an item of clothing, the object is first secured. This means the object is packaged and taken to a police station for temporary storage until it is sent to a laboratory for analysis. ‘Do these steps have an impact on the information that can be obtained from the traces? Do objects bearing trace evidence get lost, or do they get moved around? With the No Trace to Waste project, we want to gain more insight into this,’ Kokshoorn and De Poot explain.

  1. Substantiated decisions when investigating the scene of an incident

The third research line is about enabling forensic examiners to make better substantiated decisions on how to handle trade evidence. Should they move an object bearing trace evidence from the scene of the incident to the laboratory, and thereby risk losing relevant trace evidence? Or should they take samples of the traces at the scene, without using the advanced investigative methods available in the lab, which increases the risk that relevant traces are overlooked? To help investigators make a decision when facing dilemmas such as this, data science applications are being used to research data from historical cases in order to identify the most successful investigative strategies.


Students from the Forensic Science programme cooperate closely with researchers within the projects. During internships and final projects, the students learn to think about what traces can tell them. This enables them to gain knowledge that is in high demand in the field of forensic science, giving AUAS graduates a favourable starting position in the labour market. At the same time, the results of the students’ work help to advance the research in this field.

Partners and grant funding

For the No Trace to Waste project, AUAS cooperates closely with the National Police, the Police Academy and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI). There is also a sounding board group consisting of representatives from all parties in the criminal justice system, the Netherlands Register of Court Experts (NRGD) and internationally renowned scientists. Together with the researchers, they ensure state-of-the-art research that is closely aligned to the needs of the professional field. The project is being funded through the RAAK-PRO scheme run by Taskforce for Applied Research SIA.

AUAS Forensic Science and Forensic Trace Dynamics research groups

No Trace to Waste falls under two research groups: Forensic Science and Forensic Trace Dynamics.

Forensic science is in a state of flux. Technological developments are constantly creating new possibilities for detecting, securing, analysing and using trace evidence during the investigation process. The Forensic Science research group focuses on the development and implementation of new investigative technologies, with the goal of developing knowledge to improve police procedure, education and the training of new officers and investigators.

From gunshot residue and minute traces of DNA to minuscule particles of glass or fibres. Thanks to new methods of analysis, it is now possible to detect even the smallest traces left behind at a crime scene or carried away by the suspect. What can this tiny, often hard-to-detect trace evidence tell us about the precise details of an event? This is the central question in the research conducted by the Forensic Trace Dynamics research group.

Published by  Centre for Applied Research Technology 12 December 2023

Project Info

Start date 01 Jan 2023
End date 31 Dec 2026