Creating a New Forensic Crime Scene Survey Camera

A new final technical report, the result of an NIJ-funded project, details the concept of a "stand-off, multi-spectral camera combined with a compact strobed and gated illuminator" for surveying crime scenes.


Brass Board Forensic Crime Scene Survey Camera (pdf, 39 pages)


Milind Mahajan, Karen Zachery, Weiya Zhang, Steven Chen, John Mansell, Andrew Brackley, and Erik Andrews


Contrast enhancement techniques that use forensic light sources (FLS) with spectral bandpass filters, off-axis illumination (for finger prints, shoe prints), and fluorescence imaging (for bio-fluids), are powerful tools already in use by the forensic community. However, the majority of current instruments and procedures are labor intensive, require a darkened environment, and pose significant logistical challenges for field application. The authors’ concept of a stand-off, multi-spectral camera combined with a compact strobed and gated illuminator could provide:

  1. Multiple detection capabilities in a single camera system.
  2. The ability to operate in the presence of ambient light in multi-spectral and fluorescence modes.
  3. The ability to enhance detection using advanced image-processing algorithms.
  4. Intuitive, nearly real-time presentation of the analysis, overlaid on the scene imagery.

The result of such a camera would be increased speed of crime scene investigation and reduced contamination of the crime scene. It would assist planning and prioritization of further investigation, and significantly reduce labor-intensive, non-real-time image processing. Even when fully developed, such a system is not intended to be—and cannot be—a substitute for detailed laboratory work. It is intended to act as a “triage tool” that would work similar to a point-and-shoot camera, thus serving to detect and prioritize evidence for more detailed analysis.

The authors were able to maximize performance and portability while providing a versatile, easy-to-use graphical user interface (GUI) that allows image processing and visualization of the results of contrast enhancement algorithms. This report describes in detail the hardware and GUI design, fabrication, and functionality provided to the user.

The authors also present thoughts on the path forward, which includes market analysis for an integrated crime scene survey camera and for a high-transmission, high-speed tunable filter that can be used as an accessory for cameras, light source, or microscopy.

Click here to read the full paper.

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