GENESEO — A new wave of crime solving technology is being utilized by local law enforcement.
On Thursday, the Livingston County Sheriff’s Forensic Identification Unit walked The Evening Tribune through what this technology provides.
The FARO Laser Scanner Focus 350 will help in solving crimes faster and easier with its crisp photo display and increased accuracy. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office has had this system since December. They used it a few times; the most recent being for a snowmobile accident in Springwater on March 14.
Livingston County Sgt. Chad VanAuken set up the scanner, spheres, and mock-crime scene to show what impact this new technology can make.
“The most important thing for us to look at is the measurements,” VanAuken said. “You can go to each individual point, and it will show you the distance. You can get an overview of the crime scene this way.”
VanAuken said the distance is important to the investigators, because it tells the story of the crime.
The spheres are little white balls that are put in place to line up the scanner. They have access to six spheres depending on the crime scene.
The technology is linked to a smartphone, so this can be done through a handheld device.
“Prior to getting this we used what we call Totals Station, which is basically what you see surveyors doing. We had a stick and a laser that takes two plus people to maneuver. This technology is what they call the FARO 360, and it is 3D laser technology. That technology sits on a tripod and spins all by itself,” Sheriff Thomas Dougherty said. “It is capturing measurements, so the distance projects. Also, on top of of that you get good photos. You can do multiple scans and different areas of that scene. It all depends on the size of that scene. You bring it all inside the office. It all overlays to our system.”
Dougherty said this all downloads into one final product.
“It allows our techs to not only have real good quality photos, but it also allows them to have the distances. The dual purpose for us is extremely important in handling crime scenes,” he said. “We have worked with this a few times since we got it late last year. We used it (March 14) in a serious injury snowmobile accident. This technology works basically on its own. You can operate it from a cell phone, so once they set the perimeters they want scanned, it is easy.”
Dougherty said the spheres may look funny, but they mark each scan for the high resolution photos.
“Prior with the old technology we had we could tell you based on the old surveyor style measurements. We could show potentially thousands of photos of a major crime scene. We can tell a story with looking at old school photos. This (FARO) tells a more comprehensive story,” he said. “We can have a potential juror walk right through the scene with this new technology. We can show click by click, which will make it seem like they are at the crime scene in person.”
Dougherty said they came across this technology through the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office. This system would normally cost around $120,000, but with use of the Livingston County Jail revenue, the expense was decreased to $81,000.
“We were impressed by this technology, and saw huge benefits in it. Our whole goal is public safety, and to give the best cases to the district attorney. Anytime there is better technology that will give better distances, measurements, photos, and a better product for our juror to see then we are going to seek that out,” the sheriff said. “We wanted to do a 3D scan of our jail in case we ever had a major incident there. We wanted command to be able to walk room by room through that jail. Part of the training is taking this technology through the jail piece by piece. We want the whole structure at the click of our fingers. In the event of a major case this technology could be brought in to show that scene.”
Dougherty provided another example
“Let’s say we had a fatal crash, and months from now that goes to trial. Maybe the driver was impaired or reckless. Those jurors could walk through that scene click by click. It is a very very accurate 3D laser.”
The scanner takes nearly a million points-per-second so it provides many points of reference to the scene. There is also an ability to maintain the integrity of the crime scenes. This takes away potential contamination of a crime scene by focusing on the scanner. The new tool helps limit the number of people who must visit a crime scene.
Dougherty said this also eliminates the need to use fire trucks to illuminate the scene, because the scanner takes excellent photos in the dark.
Only six members of the Livingston County Forensic Identification Unit and Sgt. VanAuken have been trained on this technology.
Advantages are being able to scan in rough environments while providing protection from dust, debris, and water; confident data quality, reality-like scanning, future-proof investment, and an easy to handle touch screen.
The key features include real time on-site registration, overview map generator, enhanced images, advanced filters, and improved webshare.