Law Enforcement – Pursuit IX Tracking

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We were recently privileged to deliver our Law Enforcement Pursuit IX Tracking training to the Netherlands Police Department. They now have a capability that allows them to identify the “action indicators” attributed to criminal or terrorist activity and if required, actively and offensively pursue in all environments in order to successfully arrest or interdict. Great people, who are out there on the streets keeping us safe 24/7.

Thank you and stay safe.

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Crimescene: Looking For Shoe-prints? Don’t Look For Shoe-prints!

Although the title may seem contradictory and look like a way to attract attention to this article (and if you’re reading this, it worked!), there’s more to it. Please allow me to explain.

First of all, the correct terminology in the forensic field is footwear outsole impressions. Recovery and examination of footwear impression evidence is an important tool in the forensic investigators’ toolbox and can provide essential evidence in a crime scene investigation. The clearer and more defined an impression is, the higher the chance that specific identifiers, like unique wear patterns, cuts and defects, can be recovered and a specific impression can be tied to a specific boot. A series of impressions can help reconstruct a sequence of events, as well as give an indication of the actions and movement patterns of an individual. Additionally, individual gait specifics may be identified and tied to an individual.

But what if your crime scene is on a substrate that is not conducive to crisp and clear impressions? What if your crime scene is, say, in the middle of a mixed deciduous and coniferous forest?

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Mixed forest floors consist of multiple layers of pine needles, leaves, detritus, humus and other debris in several stages of decay. This makes for a very soft, almost cushion-like flooring that absorbs the pressure of contact with a human body part. Also, it will leave no clear impression that will show footwear class information, let alone any specific identifiers. How can we find a usable impression?

If you’re looking for usable outsole impressions, you will have a hard time. This has to do with perception and expectation. If you expect to see a print or (part of) tread marks, you might miss all those small subtle clues that show you someone set a foot on that forest floor. Trackers look for “sign”, which can be defined as “any change from the natural state, inflicted upon the environment by the passage of man, animal or machinery”. There are several characteristics to sign, but the most prominent in this example are what in tracking is called flattening, colour change and disturbance.

Although it probably has been an important part of man’s survival since humans started hunting 2 million years ago and has been an integral part of early religion, tracking and searching for sign is above anything about visual perception and object and pattern recognition. Imagine your brain having file folders with images how objects and shapes and people around you look, a process of constant registration, storing, and learning. In order to create order in the seemingly chaotic world around you, your brain will compare what your eyes see with what is stored in your file folders. When a match is found, you will recognise what you see. “Look, it’s my uncle Bob!”

Understanding this principle helps to understand tracking and how to learn how to see sign in different substrates. By exposing a student tracker to as much sign in different substrates, environmental conditions and age of sign and effectively filling his/her file folders, he/she will be able to learn to see sign in seemingly very difficult terrain.

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Back to the pine forest. After being exposed to tracker-based training the forensic investigator may be able to identify the subtle flattening, colour change and general disturbance associated with human impressions. Two kneeling positions identified under and partially on the victim link these specific impressions to the victim. From these sign patterns the investigator is able to identify the entry and exit route of this specific subject. Linking the subtle marks on the ground together into an uninterrupted chain of evidence the investigator is able to retrace the steps of the subject. Stride length, straddle, pressure, dwell time and pitch angle all serve as indicators of the suspects’ actions. Until the investigator hits a “track trap”.

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In tracking a track trap is defined as an area conducive to good sign. In this case the subject stepped on an old molehill. The soft, relatively moist sand leaves a very clear impression. As an isolated print this impression would be of limited value, but the investigators’ ability to link the incident to this track through an uninterrupted chain of subtle clues increases the value of this piece of impression evidence, effectively enabling him to link this print to the incident.

If you’re only looking for clear recoverable prints you may miss a potentially large amount of clues and evidence, which may help you reconstruct scenarios, effectively steering your investigation. In some instances these “breadcrumbs” will lead you to a good impression, a secondary crime scene, discarded evidence in an area where the suspect felt safe and dropped his/her “forensic guard”, or maybe even the suspect.

(No humans were hurt during the writing of this article. All pictures were taken during a training scenario.)

PENCARI – Offensive Exploitation Training for Contemporary Operations

“The ‘color change’ was obvious, the ‘regularity’ more subtle. A change in the Operators position, placing the ‘Sign’[1] between himself and the sun increased the amount of ‘contained shadow’ created by the ‘emplacers’ footwear. Another shift of position and the disturbed soil created by the burying of the pressure plate was clear to see. Within seconds the Ground Penetrating Radar confirmed the presence of a low metal content Improvised Explosive Device (IED)”.

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CIED Sign Awareness ( CIED SA) is a derivative of Combat Tracking – the ability to actively follow and pursue a Quarry or Target in order to gain information or close with and interdict! It has enhanced the ability of both military and law enforcement personnel to identify the visual and in some instances non visual (scent, audio even ‘6th sense) ‘action indicators’ associated to/with an IED placement. Fused with the considerable technological advances made in detection and surveillance equipment over the last eleven years it is now proven to increase both our Military and our Law Enforcement Officers survivability by 70-80%!

So, are CIED Sign Awareness and Combat Tracking (CT) purely a defensive ‘Force Protection’ capability therefore only suited to the realms of a ‘Defeat the Device’ concept? Or is there scope to offensively utilise CT as an Information Exploitation (IX) asset enabling active Follow and Pursuit style operations and therefore truly ‘Attacking the Network’, whatever that ‘Network’ may be? PENCARI[2] have been working towards a fresh and updated version of what is widely termed ‘Awareness Training’, and have actively encouraged the fusing of technology to enhance what is ultimately a low level yet undeniably crucial tactical skill-set.

The PENCARI Combat Tracking Information Exploitation or CTIX as it is more widely known, is successful in ‘Training the Force’ to both identify and subsequently exploit any area of insurgent or criminal activity including IED, Ambush Sites, LUP’s and Distribution Points (to name a few). CTIX is multi faceted and works hand in hand with technology such as Ground Penetrating Radar, C-IED Metal detectors, UAV’s and other ISTAR[3] assets such as handheld and vehicle mounted optics, cameras and even thermal devices. It is not however reliant on any of this technology for its successful application and therefore does not add additional weight to the Operator (Military or Law Enforcer) in the form of extra equipment. CTIX is enhanced training and knowledge that weighs nothing yet delivers a punch in the form of valuable ‘immediate use intelligence’ negating any sacrifice for speed of manoeuvre, imperative to our already over burdened and heavily laden troops.

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CTIX is suitable for all environments and weather conditions, not every ISTAR asset can make this claim. Climatic and geographic problems such as cloud cover or triple canopy rainforest is not susceptible to Satellite or UAS penetration. In a close country tropical environment Combat Trackers can and will be a primary source of intelligence along with both HUMINT[4] and EW[5]. After listening to our clients needs, PENCARI have enhanced their training adding fresh impetus and focus on ‘mobile IX’ training. Looking for and positively identifying Sign from an elevated position while moving at speed is very different to that of a foot patrol or an EOD Operator making a slow and methodical approach towards an IED.

The multi environment approach to PENCARI’s training recognises that future contingency style operations may take our forces into the jungles of West Africa or the arid desert regions of the Sub Sahara. With current and future conflicts revolving around and at times entering into population centres the urban environment is not forgotten. A portion of each CTIX is dedicated to operating within this hazardous environment, factoring on both Force Protection and Information Exploitation alike.

The Law Enforcement and the Commercial Security Sector, especially the Oil and Gas industry recognise CTIX as a valuable force multiplier. The US Border Patrol have employed Tracking and various exploitation techniques successfully for many years both as a means of identifying cross border incursions and also along with other assets, to actively pursue and interdict illegals. The UK Police and other European based Forensic Agencies are increasingly using the skills associated with the CTIX to prevent and decrease the escalation of metal theft from critical infrastructure such as the National Rail Networks and critical communication hubs.

“The Tracker moved stealthily along the ‘trackline’, every few feet confirming his quarries ‘Sign’. He could clearly identify where the emplacer had squatted, while resting and smoked a cigarette, the sign was becoming fresher, they were gaining on this guy and he didn’t even know it! Now that the insurgent’s direction was established additional assets were being brought to bear on his path of flight. A UAV was already flying along the search ‘cone’. The real-time video feed linked back to an Operations Room ready to launch an interdiction force, by vehicle or aviation means. For the CTIX trained operators the result was inevitable……”

[1] Sign – Any evidence of change to the natural environment created by Man, Animal or Machinery.

[2] PENCARI – meaning ‘Seeker or Searcher’ in Bahasa Malay, many of PENCARI’s Instructors are ex UK and UKSF Instructors who taught at the UK Military’s Combat Tracking School based in Brunei, SE Asia.

[3] ISTAR – Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance.

[4] HUMINT – Human Intelligence.

[5] EW – Electronic Warfare.

PENCARI deliver bespoke training solutions to both Military and Law Enforcement professionals ‘worldwide’. For further information concerning the CTIX and other training contact PENCARI Defence and Security at: info@pencari-training.com  or alternatively visit their website: www.pencari-training.com