Technical Advances in the Visual Documentation of Crime Scenes: An Overview


National Institute of Justice

The documentation of crime scene images is essential to both the criminal investigation and judicial process. 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. The latter two technologies complement the first two by comprehensively and efficiently recording high-resolution, 360° images or data. The benefits of panoramic photographic imaging and multidimensional laser scanners include having a digitized "walkthrough" of the crime scene. This capability has led criminal justice agencies to adopt this technology for crime scene documentation.

As with any technology, law enforcement agencies need fact-based information regarding the challenges and benefits of panoramic photographic imaging to properly adopt this technology and realize its true value. Accordingly, the Department of Forensic Science at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) through the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE), led by RTI International, conducted an evaluation of panoramic imaging technologies used for crime scene documentation. The purpose of this evaluation was to objectively compare three different panoramic imaging technologies to assess the capabilities, requirements, and challenges of each technology.

The evaluation addressed ease of setup, system calibration, system operation, technology capability under varying scenarios, software processing, and final output preparation. In addition, the evaluation collected information regarding hardware and software requirements, pricing, and training commitments. The three panoramic imaging technologies selected for this evaluation were (1) SceneVision-Panorama, (2) Panoscan MK-3, and (3) Leica ScanStation C10.

A more detailed, results-driven evaluation report is also avalilable on the FTCoE website, www.forensiccoe.org. This longer report provides more in-depth information for each of the evaluated imaging technologies, including graphics, photographs, and technical details.

The Report

Read/download the report (21 pages)



Article posted March 2, 2015

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