With Data Visualization from 3D Laser Scanning, Investigators Rebuild Crime Scenes in Court
Written by Devin Kowbuz   

Data visualization is a major component of modern forensics work for its ability to accurately depict the relational aspects of each piece of evidence so investigators can reconstruct crime scenes in their end states.

Using 3D scanners to capture large amounts of data quickly, investigators can capture crucial evidence by completing 360-degree images of scenes in minutes, and document precise dimensions, evidence and features for later analysis.

These data visualizations have the power to bring a crime scene to life in the courtroom through photorealistic 3D models using methodical, scientific approaches. They also provide judges and juries much more than photographic imagery as they consider cases.

Geospatial technology benefits forensics
Advances in geospatial technology for the surveying and construction industries has expanded the forensics investigator’s toolbox. Besides the traditional forensic tools of cameras (still and video), tape measures and measuring wheels, crime scene investigators today can use drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), photogrammetric analysis, total stations, GNSS systems, and more recently, 3D laser scanners.

Crime scene environments faced by law enforcement agencies may be logistically challenging, which makes 3D scanning solutions desirable because they are fast, easy to operate and complete in their data. Better workflows for 3D laser scanning technologies also make it easier and faster to achieve storytelling that holds up in court.

Until recently, adoption of 3D scanners by forensics teams was slow, mostly because of tight resources. Crime scene units are often the earlier adopters because they have more access to newer technologies due to the seriousness of the offenses they investigate.

With 3D scanning, just about any object the laser hits can have a coordinate within a point cloud from the scans. In addition, point cloud data can reveal missed evidence, such as footprints from a dark setting, or enable evidence to be collected in new ways, such as examining wall defects from a shooting.

Advances in 3D scanning increase access, speed and ease-of-use

Barriers to acquiring 3D scanning solutions continue to come down. Recent advances have decreased the cost of ownership while providing new features, such as automatic infield registration, elimination of the need for annual calibration, longer (two-year) warranties, and data capture capabilities from highly reflective and dark surfaces.

In addition, built-in integrations are enabling varying geospatial forensics technologies to work together so investigators can collect evidence and create diagrams, animations, and fly-through models that tell an accurate story of the events. These models bring clarity and build understanding of complex testimony and exhibits, delivering immense value to the criminal justice system.

Trimble X7 Solution combines performance with simple operation

The Trimble X7 with Trimble Forensics Capture and Trimble Forensics Reveal software helps investigators confidently capture a scene, reduce office processing time, and tell the real story through data visualizations.

The Trimble X7 3D Scanning System provides automatic calibration, with no service downtime or annual costs, and data confidence in every scan. It is also self-leveling, which makes set-up time at the scene easier, and re-adjusts down to millimeter accuracy. With Trimble Registration Assist, the Trimble X7 reduces idle time at the scene and completes point cloud capture and automatic registration while scanning.

With Trimble Forensics Capture software, investigators can gather scene evidence, diagram a scene in 2D or 3D as it is shot and quickly zoom in on evidence-rich areas. The software seamlessly transitions to Trimble Reveal desktop software for analyzing scene evidence and creating 2D and 3D diagrams and 2D animations to tell the story of events, taking reconstruction to a new level.

About the Author

Devin Kowbuz PLS is Portfolio Manager for Trimble Forensics.

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