On Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018 the Hernando County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) unveiled it's latest forensics technology. The FARO 3D Laser Crime Scene Mapping System documents a crime or vehicle accident scene in 3D. The HCSO is only the third agency in the state of Florida to use the latest version, the M70 version of the FARO.
Assistant Chief Deputy Bobby Jones with the Knox County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, a a professional consultant on this system demonstrated its capabilities to members of the HCSO forensics team and representatives from the State Attorney's Office.
Jones remarked, “It can capture everything that is in sight and range in both color and grayscale. The FARO is one of the fastest ways we have of of capturing a crash or crime scene.”
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office acquired the FARO in January at a cost of between $55,000 and $75,000. The Forensic Specialists and Technicians received forty hours of training with the equipment. The new technology will increase accuracy in solving crimes as well as save countless hours during investigations.
“By purchasing this scanner, the agency will significantly cut down the cost of overtime and use of manpower by reducing the time spent on scenes that require in-depth documentation,” stated Mrs. Kinsey Boylan, Director of Forensic Science at HCSO.
The scanner rotates 360°. It takes a matter of minutes rather than the hours or even days it used to take to record a crime scene. Whereas human error can sometimes lead to overlooking something, the scanner will pick up every detail.
“We can measure the length of everything, whether it's the victim's height or the skid marks that a tire makes. It can measure out seventy meters from the scanner - over a football field of information. We can capture data in high-definition. Everything from blood spatter to bullet trajectory,” Jones explained.
He showed a board with holes in it, meant to represent bullet holes in drywall. Trajectory rods are put through the holes. Then the the Forensic Specialists and Technicians use trajectory spheres to project the bullets' trajectory. They mark the spheres and then with the computer identify the shots' directions with an accuracy of plus or minus three millimeters. The shooter's position can be pinpointed with a laser scanning mechanism. Although the FARO doesn't work as well for long-range trajectory outdoors, it can help evaluate those scenarios also.
Jones continued, “In a typical homicide we are tasked with identifying evidence. We have to document the layout of a particular house, position of doors, furniture, length and width of every room, the placement and position of the body, etc. Now we can put more focus on our technical analysis. It's about time and making our job easier and job results better.”
The FARO System will be especially helpful in investigating traffic accidents, which are much more common than homicides.
“In these cases, getting the roadway re-opened quickly is crucial in order to prevent further accidents. The FARO cuts down on the amount of time needed to investigate the accident. Outdoors, it's easy to overlook evidence because of the sun's glare during the day or darkness at night,” stated Jones.
“It actually works better in the dark. Laser is light, thus it needs no external light source. The laser can map and measure in total darkness,” added Boylan.
There are several other aspects to the FARO system. One is “Webshare-to-go,” a self-contained scan project viewer that can allow others to view the scan data collected, as well as take measurements while viewing the scene. This data can be sent to other law enforcement agencies.
The FARO can also create 3-dimensional images or videos of the scans that will take the viewer right to the scene of the accident or homicide. Allowing investigators to see this in three dimension adds clarity.
Another aspect is overhead orthographic imagery (a means of representing three-dimensional objects in two dimensions). It is scaled illustration, which means diagrams no longer have to be drawn by hand.
The FARO system will save time, money, staff resources and perhaps even lives, as well as help solve crimes.
As Deputy Jones stated, “This technology has been a real God-send for us.”