Technological Advancements In Crime Scene Investigation

Ever since there has been crime there has been Crime Scene Investigations (CSI). Throughout the 1900’s and continuing into current day, technological advancements in CSI have been taken for granted. In the past, law enforcement (LE) agencies and investigators were not capable of having regular access to the tremendous amount of information that can be found and analyzed from a crime scene. Present days CSIs typical “tools of the trade” range from flat out boring every day devices to the technologically astonishing, but overall they have all greatly impacted how evidence is collected, documented, and evaluated.

Modern technological advancements such as DNA analysis or image enhancement have made forensic investigations much easier. Along with the technological advancements, criminals have had to change the methods they are using to commit violent and non-violent crimes. Today’s CSI not only have to attempt to solve violent offenses such as murders, but also chemical attacks, cyber-attacks, and any other acts of violence that comes in present day society. Present and Future of Crime Scene Investigation Technology Advancements in sketching the Crime Scene

One of the most vital stages in both the present and for the foreseeable future in the CSI process is and will be crime scene documentation. CSI scene documentation is a critical stage because it is the stage that’s purposes creates the enduring written or visual record of the scene, the conditions at the scene and the evidence on the scene (Budowle, Murch & Chakraborty, 2005). To begin the process of scene documentation sketches must first be made of the crime scene, but to ensure an accurate interpretation of the scene, meticulous measurements must be taken to ensure they can be admissible in court.

CSI sketches are usually an overhead view that replicates the crime scene to show specific items of evidence, the positions of these items and the relationship of the items to the evidence. In the past and being applied currently, CSI investigators have had to rely on devices like 25 and 100 foot retractable tape measures made up of nonconductive fiberglass tapes (Budowle, Murch & Chakraborty, 2005). But technological advances have brought about new devices such as the 1000 foot walking wheel and the Electronic Ultrasonic Measurer (EUM).

The walking wheel allows a solitary investigator to walk certain distances in and around the crime scene while digitally displaying the distances in many different forms of measurements (Budowle, Murch & Chakraborty, 2005). The EUM is an electron device that is able to transmit a pulse, upwards of 250 feet to a stationary surface. Just like the convenience of the walking wheel, the EUM allows for a lone investigator to measure crime scene distances as well as allowing the investigator to measure in almost any unit and resolution they wish (Budowle, Murch & Chakraborty, 2005).

Another benefit of the technological advancement in the EUM is that investigators can take measurements in situations where in the past, hand held measurements might not have been likely, such as in measuring the heights of arched ceilings or overhanging objects. Teleforensics Another tool that investigators are currently using is teleforensics. Teleforensics is drastically changing how crime scenes are viewed and minimizing the time between when the initial investigation of as crime scene takes place and when the crime lab can begin to process the crime scene (Buckles, 2007).

Teleforensics is a capability that allows remote viewing of a crime scene through electronically transmitted images (Buckles, 2007). LE agencies use this technology by having an investigator walk through the crime scene with a helmet mounted or handheld recording device which then wirelessly transmits the images to the crime lab so that crime lab experts can view the scene and determine what evidence or materials is and is not needed from the scene.

This advanced technology allows the crime scene and evidence to be protected from contamination and from being disturbed as well as allowing the crime labs more time to process the scene and make a more detailed plan for investigation and overall scene processing (Buckles, 2007). Future use of Teleforensics. Not too far in the future, LE forces will use teleforensics as the primary means for many of the crime scenes that will be investigated.

Thermal imaging will be used in conjunction with teleforensics technology to identify parts of the crime scene that show warmth which in turn will allow investigators to know if there are humans still inside the crime scene and whether are not they are alive, dead or injured (Buckles, 2007). This advancement could end up saving lives of first-responding officers to help identify if there is a hostage situation or a criminal with a weapon on the scene.

The documentation of crime scene images is essential to both the criminal investigation and judicial process. Panoramic photography, two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) imaging used to document crime scenes can include traditional still photography, videography, panoramic photographic imaging, and multidimensional laser scanners. For more than 100 years, photography has been an effective means in the CSI process, with specialized applications for firearms, fingerprints, and ultraviolet photography for bloody shoe prints being introduced as early as 1902 (Buckles, 2007).

With the advancement of photography from black and white media of the 1940s to digital imaging, the admissibility of digital photos in the courts was challenged in the mid-1990s and involved several high profile and landmarked cases, including State of Washington vs. Eric Hayden (1995) and State of California vs. Philip Lee Jackson (1995). In both these cases, photography in digital format was accepted and pivotal to the final decision of the court. Panoramic Photography

Panoramic photography was used years before by oil companies, automobile manufacturers, engineering and constructing companies before CSI teams learned of its value. Currently CSI are using panoramic photography in conjunction with scanning technologies for trajectory analysis as well as for analyzing blood stain patterns (Stow, 2004). This advancement is also being used in trial proceedings to demonstrate “walk-throughs” of crime scenes as well as allowing court viewers to “zoom in” to be better able to see the crime scene (Stow, 2004).

Additionally some LE agencies have indicated that they now have implemented procedures for panoramic imagine technologies for a multitude of needs and specific applications such as sending a scanning team into a crime scene prior to collecting evidence so evaluation of the scene could be done quicker which in turn allowed the department to send detectives and officers out more quickly to investigate outside of the immediate scene (Stow, 2004). 2D Photography 2D pictures are created by using software along with panoramic photography to attempt to create a virtual tour.

This program combines multiple digital images to create a high-resolution panoramic image which allows panoramas to be viewed right alongside diagrams of a crime scene, and can then be linked together to recreate a virtual walk-through of a scene (Stow, 2004). 3D Photography 3D pictures are created by a piece of equipment called the Leica ScanStation C10. This equipment accomplishes this by projecting laser beams across the crime scene that captures a wide vertical field of view while simultaneously rotating 360 degrees along its horizontal axis (Komar & Davy-Jow & Decker, 2012).

The scanner then measures the distances and angles of the reflected laser energy and records 3D coordinates in a point cloud. The Leica’s software then can generate a 3D navigable model of the crime scene, thereby providing the ability to measure the entire scene without having to make traditional physical measurements (Komar & Davy-Jow & Decker, 2012). Digital photographs utilizing this software has made some incredible achievements, to include adding sound to images and even showing all the relationships between objects in a crime scene to compare and match them.

Making this an incredibly fast way to help solve mystery cases and putting multiple crime scenes together to find out any leads or suspects. Most of these computers allow the investigators to record detailed information from the images for example any distinct smells or other surrounding objects that are not in the scene for when the evidence is turned in the playback recording will also be transferred with the evidence to help back up the data and strengthen it (Stow, 2004). Alternate Light Photography

Alternate light photography allows doctors and nurses to actually ascertain how much physical damage a patient has suffered even before it is visible on the skin. Certain cameras such as the Omnichrome uses blue light and orange filters too clearly show bruising below the surface of the skin (Stow, 2004). Multiple color brands or wavelengths are needed because different colors penetrate to different depths within the skin and therefore depending on the depth of the bruise or wound, investigators will need to vary the color band of the instrument. Collection Advancements CODIS

For the past two decades technology has been constantly changing in the laboratory examination of physical evidence. CSIs must be sure to keep up with these seemingly ever-changing methods and techniques in technology. In the past blood and other evidence were sent to serological testing labs. Currently those labs have given way to newer Forensic Biology sections which utilize the Combined DNA Index Systems (CODIS), which is changing the way blood and other tissues are being identified (Learner, 20009). CODIS are an electronic database of DNA profiles administered through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

CODIS allows Federal, State, and local crime labs share and compare DNA profiles (Budowle, Murch & Chakraborty, 2005). Applying CODIS, investigators can match DNA from crime scenes with convicted offenders and with other crime scenes using computer software, just as fingerprints are matched through automated identification systems. This new system is now allowing DNA results to be available in a matter of days, and final reports are finished in a few weeks rather than older systems which could take several months to fully complete a final report.

Other advances on the horizon for the CODIS is the wide spread implementation of the CODIS database with not only all the Unites States but with the well-developed convicted felon database possessed by Great Britain (Learner, 2009). Along with the database expansion CODIS users will soon see an increase in automated procedures and the use of computer analysis. While these approaches will save time, they are not expected to replace human judgment in the final review of data, but will overall cut costs considerably (Learner, 2009). CODIS and Portable Devices.

Future advances in the CODIS will allow hand-held portable devices to access the system which will permit DNA evidence to be analyzed quicker and closer to the crime scenes (Budowle, Murch & Chakraborty, 2005). These devices will be able to remotely link to the CODIS which could speed up identification of suspects or even eliminate innocent people from being considered suspects in the first place (Budowle, Murch & Chakraborty, 2005). Fingerprints Automated Fingerprint Identification System Along with the advancements in the CODIS, advancements in fingerprints are another important aspect of collection at a crime scene.

Fingerprints, palm prints and footprints are still some of the best types of evidence that can help place an individual at a crime scene. Even though fingerprint individualization has been used and accepted since the 19th century, the actual practical applications has really only been realized within the last 20 years with the invention of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). The AFIS automatically compares a latent print taken from a crime scene to a databank of known and recorded fingerprints in a short period of time (Gardner, 2012).

All the investigator has to do is enter the required information into the terminal and the system does the rest. Future innovations of the AFIS are said to be able to include palm print identification which are commonly found at crime scenes as well as the ability for prints to be digitally photographed and then entered directly into the AFIS from a crime scene from a cell-phone or any other hand-held device (Gardner, 2012). This updated technology would allow investigators to get a suspects picture, name and address while still processing the crime scene.