Sharjah: The Forensics Department at Sharjah Police has seen an expansion in recent times with the introduction of advanced technology, Colonel Adel Al Mazmi, Director-General of the laboratory, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview. Among the new devices introduced to the laboratory are a gene scanner, an electron microscope and a detector for inorganic compounds.
The laboratory tested 58,194 samples in 2020, compared to 49,650 samples in 2019. In January this year, the department tested 3,170 samples to detect chemicals, toxic material, fingerprints, fire incidents, weapons and forgery, and handed over the reports to police, public prosecution and courts. The department received cases from Sharjah Police and from other emirates as well, including Ajman and Umm Al Quwain. All criminal cases in Sharjah were solved with the help of the forensics laboratory last year.
Col Al Mazmi said despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the team achieved outstanding results and no one among its staff members has so far been infected by the virus. The Forensics Department has built a new building for the forensic laboratory. All staff will move to this new building in the Al Rifaa area later this year, Col Al Mazmi revealed.
Need to educate labourers and workers
Col Al Mazmi urged owners of factories and workshops to educate their labourers and workers about the right way to handle equipment for welding and cutting scrap as it considered a major reason behind fire and accidents leading to deaths and serious injuries. The department recorded four incidents in recent times related to welding and cutting scrap that led to death and injuries. Col Al Mazmi urged the owners to keep all flammable material away while undertaking any welding operation and to deploy one person at the site where any welding work is being carried out to monitor the site for about 30-45 minutes after the work is complete and until the site has cooled down substantially.
Dangers of fire accidents
Col Al Mazmi cautioned that electrical short circuits, throwing cigarette butts, random storage and poor electrical connections were the major causes behind fires that took place in Sharjah last year. He urged families to use good quality electrical connections and not to use faulty equipment or material and also to make sure there is no overload or surge in temperature. He cautioned people not to throw lit cigarette butts and to correctly store combustible items at households and at factories and warehouses.
Col Al Mazmi cited recent examples to prove his point, including an incident of a fire in a 43-storied residential building in Al Majaz, where someone threw a lit cigarette butt from an upper floor that landed on the balcony of an apartment on a lower floor and ignited randomly stored material, resulting in a massive blaze that swept from the fifth floor to the tenth floor of the building. A similar incident occurred at a 48-storied residential building in Al Nahda where someone had thrown a lit cigarette butt from an upper floor apartment. In another incident of fire, a worker seated in the front seat of a pickup vehicle, threw a cigarette butt while the vehicle was in motion. The lit cigarette butt landed on the rear panel of the vehicle, triggering a fire in the real panel.
There were several other incidents of fire caused from sparks during welding, gas leaks, chemical leakage and electrical defects. In yet another accident, a laptop in the running mode was left on the bed. The fan vent of the laptop was blocked by the bed linen, causing the laptop to heat up excessively and causing a fire. There were other incidents of fire caused by mobile phone chargers and a toy’s scooter.
Col Al Mazmi said drug smuggling posed yet another challenge for the authorities. Hashish wrapped in a box of cheese, gold concealed in a perfume bottle, gold dust hidden in food supplements, crystal meth stashed in a bag of sesame seeds were just some of the innovative means used by smugglers who were caught by Sharjah Police’s alert force and its forensics laboratory.
Furnishing details of some these crimes, Col Al Mazmi said two men attempting to smuggle 1.6kg of gold worth Dh312,000, had the yellow metal concealed in 42 perfume bottles. In another recent incident, a man carrying a capsule was arrested at the airport after forensic experts detected a mismatch between the small size of the capsule and its heavy weight. The man, it turned out, had managed to pack in 240 grammes of gold inside the capsule. The capsule, in the form of an organic paste, was exposed to a flame following which, the organic substance evaporated, leaving pure 24 carat of gold behind! Similarly, authorities were able to seize 526.8 grammes of methamphetamine after sifting through a bag containing sesame seeds. The forensic laboratory also confiscated a sealed packet of cheese, which, upon examination, was found to be containing Hashish wraps inside.
Forgery of documents and car chassis numbers
Forensic experts solved several cases of forgery, including forged car chassis numbers and fake licence plates, fake educational certificates, commercial products, documents and signatures.
Syed Shaaban, an anti-counterfeiting expert at Sharjah Police’s forensic laboratory, told Gulf News about cases of forgery and urged community members to avoid having signatures that have a simple form. He advised community members to make sure their signatures were complicated enough to make them difficult to be forged. He also advised people that while selling or buying any property, apart from the signature, they should also insist on putting their fingerprint [the entire finger, from all sides] in order to protect their rights.
Shabaan said in one case, a man had signed a blank cheque 15 years ago when he started a business with his partner. The partner took advantage of the blank cheque, wrote Dh12 million on it and deposited it in the bank. The issuer of the cheque denied writing such a big amount on the cheque, but confirmed that the signature on the cheque was his, though it had changed over 15 years. The Forensics Department finally found out that the business partner had forged the cheque amount.
In another case, which took four years to be settled in court, an Arab man bought a restaurant. He obtained a receipt of trust from the seller, but took advantage of that document and claimed that he paid the seller the full amount of Dh1,180,000, though in reality he didn’t.
The buyer had cut the receipt of trust into four pieces and used the part that had the signature and the fingerprint of the seller to forge the document. Forensic experts noticed that there was big space between the upper part of the document and the part where the signature and the fingerprint were. The buyer had used the part of the paper that carried only the signature and the fingerprint and placed it on a different sheet of paper that purportedly claimed that he had paid the seller in full. However, the signature was supposed to be below the printed word ‘signature’, but he had placed it before the word ‘signature’ and the word ‘signature’ was also misspelt.
It took the forensics team four years to solve the case and prove the buyer guilty in court.
Col Al Mazmi also said that Sharjah Police were working on building a DNA database with information on detainees and criminals. Details of police employees will also be included in the database so that, if necessary, they could be excluded during investigations into crimes.
DNA tests conducted at the forensics laboratory have helped solve many cases, even internationally. “Many international experts have used the laboratory’s DNA results and findings [for investigations],” he added. DNA tests help police in cases like murder and rape and help fix an individual’s identity in disasters and in parental disputes. “The DNA is extracted from the blood and analysed using advanced devices,” he added.
Solid evidence-based investigations
Sharjah Police’s Forensics Laboratory has made a unique achievement as it helped identify the suspects in all the criminal cases filed last year. No case was recorded against any unidentified person. He said the laboratory had been producing much better results these days and providing solid evidence to help solve an increasing number of cases. He said that the forensics team — including evidence technicians, crime-scene analysts and forensic investigators — work in close coordination with police investigators and prosecutors. “The work of the forensics lab requires highly-educated individuals with a background in forensic sciences, natural sciences and criminal justice system,” he said, adding that the Sharjah Police Forensics Department has a good team with relevant expertise. He said the laboratory had also carried out a number of awareness campaigns to protect the public from crimes, accidents and dangers of pesticides.