As technology develops, 3D scanners are being used more and more frequently in law enforcement and especially in crime scene investigation. With this technology, police officers, detectives and forensics teams are able to investigate crime scenes more thoroughly. With more accurate and detailed results, they are able to solve crimes and bring perpetrators to justice, keeping communities safe.
How 3D Scanning for Crime Investigation Works
In essence, 3D scanning is the process of using equipment to scan an object and then create a three-dimensional rendering of it. The process uses lasers to gather details about an object like its surface, depth, size and shape. Then, software programs analyse information about the various scanned points and compile several images to produce one extremely accurate, 3D image of the object.
There are different kinds of 3D scanning technologies, but with new handheld 3D scanners, crime scene investigation teams have portable, cutting-edge technology in the palm of their hand.
To make it possible to use this kind of technology at a crime scene, investigators set up total stations. Total stations are high-tech pieces of equipment that bring things like scene mapping, data collecting sensors, integrated mappers and all the hardware and software needed to make 3D scanning possible just about anywhere.
These scanners are operated by trained professionals who know how to use the equipment and are also trained in crime scene investigation. They know how to use 3D scanning to investigate a scene and can help interpret and analyse results, deducing what they mean to help solve crimes.
3D Scanners Onsite at Crime Scenes
So, what exactly can 3D scanners do at a crime scene? As they scan areas, physical signs of a crime, and forensic evidence, they gather vital data investigators need to tell a story. Investigators use the data and 3D images to piece together what happened at a crime scene, helping them put together a story that solves the crime.
Three-dimensional scanners are capable of helping investigators with this in several different ways.
Professional Investigative Training
Simulating crime scenes and their evidence is an effective way of training investigators, and 3D scanning makes this easier. With detailed 3D scans, training becomes much more realistic for new investigators, helping them prepare for a successful career. A 3D experience is more realistic than looking at photos or reading about a crime scene, so this technology is a valuable teaching tool.
Of course, even seasoned detectives can benefit from 3D scanning in training as it allows them to hone their skills, develop new skills and become even better at what they do.
Capture a Scene for In-Depth Study
Before the days of 3D scanning, investigators relied on their memories, notes, sketches and photographs to document a crime scene. But these tools aren’t always accurate and they don’t have the ability to capture every detail like 3D scanning does.
Three-dimensional scanners are used in crime scene investigations to capture the scene of a crime for later study. Police officers can capture images of the entire scene, portions of an area and pieces of evidence as they are found to take back to the station for further study. This is also beneficial in allowing detectives to go back and review information as the investigation develops.
Preserve Entire Crime Scenes
With things like photography and sketches, an investigator has to make decisions as to what to record and what not to record. On the scene of a crime, this can be difficult, as something that doesn’t seem relevant at the time may end up being very relevant to an investigation.
One of the biggest benefits that comes with 3D scanning is that it allows officers to capture an entire area easily, quickly and accurately. That way they won’t be reliant on decision making in the heat of the moment and they will be more likely to capture all the information they need to solve a crime.
Record Initially Missed Details
No matter how experienced an investigator is, he isn’t perfect and is prone to making mistakes or overlooking details at a crime scene. However, when a scene is captured with a 3D scanner, every tiny detail is recorded just as it was before it was disturbed.
This means that detectives have a chance to go back and revisit a scene virtually to make sure they haven’t missed any details or pieces of evidence. 3D scanning is more efficient at this then photography, because it more accurately records things like depth, spatial relations between objects and scale.
Accurately Study Forensic Data
Investigators often use data like the distance between two points, bullet trajectories, blood spatters and site lines to solve crimes. Time can be limited at a crime scene and 3D scanning makes it possible to capture these things exactly as they are so professionals can study them accurately or revisit them to reduce errors. With a virtual, three-dimensional exact copy of these things, investigators can more effectively analyse them and come to correct conclusions.
Amazingly, 3D scanning also makes it possible for police officers to recreate accidents to piece together what happened. They can scan an area, evidence, and objects involved and then use specialised software to recreate actions.
This is beneficial in determining fault in an accident, understanding the types of injuries involved and even finding ways to prevent future accidents.
Validate Eye Witness Testimonies
During an investigation, it’s not uncommon for police officers to collect testimonies from people who witnessed the crime or who were in the area at the time. It is part of the investigators’ jobs to determine which testimonies are accurate and who is being honest. They can use 3D scanning to make this process easier, as they can confirm details of a scene and determine whether or not actions are physically possible by virtually revisiting the scene through a 3D rendering.
Test and Prove Theories
As investigators solve crimes they must test and prove theories, and 3D scanning makes that a more efficient process. Investigators can refer to scans of scenes and evidence to analyse whether theories are viable or not and come to conclusions as to what happened at a crime scene.
Because of their high-tech abilities to capture details and recreate scenes and evidence, 3D laser scanners are used in crime scene investigations of all kinds, giving investigators a powerful tool when it comes to keeping cities safe.