CrimeWatch: 3D Laser Scanning Systems

CrimeWatch: 3D Laser Scanning Systems

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Austin Police are hoping to buy a new forensic 3D laser scanning system that will recreate crime scenes and make animations faster.

Detective Ron Phillips is with the Austin Police Vehicular Homicide Unit. He says using the current basic piece of surveying equipment decades old, is time consuming. Before documenting the crime scene, roads have to be shut down. Often times for several hours as detectives investigate. And that means drivers stuck in traffic.

Lt Brian Gruetzner with the APD's Vehicular Homicide Unit says, "It’s just a necessary thing we have to do to tie up traffic to document the criminal case that we have."

The unit is hoping the latest technology by Leica Geosystems will help them cut down on the amount of time it takes to investigate.

Phillips says, "We could go to a very large scene that might take 4 hours with this and go out there with the Leica and spend under an hour."

The new system would also free up police manpower. Lt. Gruetzner says, "Many of these scenes we have to have 10 officers to block on ramps, off ramps, divert the traffic, and the detectives on the scene."

The forensic 3D laser scanning system would be used to map out murder scenes as well.

"You can talk to the witness and say, where were you standing at this scene? The system will allow you to plug in their height and from that."

"You can see what they saw at the crime scene. That's especially important in homicide cases."

Vehicular homicide detectives also respond to special investigations, like officer-involved shootings. It is this unit that made the animation for the three TABC agents involved in the shooting death of a 25-year-old man in East Austin last year.

Using the current equipment, it took the detective two weeks to make that animation. The Scanstation C 10 would save time here too. The system was recently used in two high-profile cases. When Joe Stack flew his plane into the IRS building in North Austin, Killeen Police were called because they had the photo scanner. Stack and an IRS employee, Vernon Hunter, died in February. Killeen Police also used the Scanstation C-10 after witnesses say Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, killing 13.

A Leica Geosystems representative says only San Antonio Police, the Bexar County Sheriff's Department, and Killeen Police have the 3D laser scanning system right now. Austin hopes to be next, saving time for investigators and the public.

The Austin Police Department recently received approval from the city council to start looking for grants to buy one Scanstation C-10. The department originally asked for two. Each costs about $211,000.

Follow Jenni on Twitter @jennileefox7.
 

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