Hello Alexander, to start things off, what is your dissertation about?
My dissertation is on vein patterns. Vein patterns have been found to be reliable in identifying criminals in child sexual exploitation videos, when the footage does not depict any identifiable features of the perpetrator, such as tattoos or characteristic scars. I am particularly looking at applying this identification technique to other crime contexts that involve footage where a criminal is not easily identifiable by traditional means. However, in doing so, there are some expected variations between footage of child sexual exploitation and say, daylight robbery filmed on a victim’s phone. Namely, the location is expected to be different, with the first crime taking place indoors, with artificial lighting, while the second taking place outdoors. Additionally, the distance between the camera and the recorded veins could vary significantly. Therefore, for my dissertation I decided to look at how environmental factors such as lighting (whether it is artificial or natural) and distance from the recording device, as well as what region is captured (the back of the hand or the wrist) affect vein visibility and by proxy vein pattern analysis.
Would you say the analysis of vein patterns is similar to that of say fingerprints?
Absolutely! Like fingerprints, the prevailing methodology for examining vein patterns identifies features that tend to appear in a unique combination on an individual’s region of interest. Based on Dr. Meadow’s vein pattern analysis (VPA) methodology from the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHiD), there are four features that have been identified in a superficial vein pattern:
- Line: each individual uninterrupted vein
- Branch point: a spot where one vein splits into two lines
- Island: an area of skin surrounded by veins
- Intersection: the crossing of one line over another, a vein crossroad if you will
The amount and location of each feature is traced on the image of vein pattern and that is how footage is readied for comparison.
What does the future hold for vein patterns?
The methodology has been used for at least one UK court case and accepted as a legitimate form of evidence, so with that precedent having been set, I expect that multiple other opportunities where the technique could be applied will make themselves apparent, even beyond the scope of child sexual exploitation cases.
What are two publications you would say shaped your literature review the most?
One would be the book “Vein Pattern Recognition: A Privacy-Enhancing Biometric” by Chuck Wilson, which takes a closer look at the use of vein patterns for the purposes of biometric recognition, outside the scope of crime. The book does a great job explaining why vein patters are coming to be considered one of the most reliable biometrics.
A second ‘publication’ is in fact a video Dr. Sue Black did for Wired, where she explains vein pattern analysis, how it was used in its first case in court and the need for a more preventative approach to crimes of child sexual exploitation so that techniques such as vein pattern analysis become obsolete for this type of crime.