North Richland Hills Police Use New Tool to Digitally Scan Crime Scenes

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North Richland Hills police have a new tool to capture and scan crime scenes to better assist investigators.

FARO is a 3D scanning device that allows investigators to capture, measure, and analyze scenes in a real-time format. The piece of technology can capture a scene, in its entirety, using laser scanning.

Crime scene investigator Jennie Espy said once the FARO spins around at 360 degrees, it measures everything in its sight at a rate of about 976,000 data points per second.

“It has an accuracy range, plus or minus, of about one millimeter,” Espy told NBC 5. “We’ll still take crime scene photographs. That’s something we’ll always do but when we do measurements both with traffic, fire, and crime scene – most of that is done by hand with measuring tape, you can imagine this is doing that for us.”

Not every scene will require the scanning device. It will primarily be used on major crime scenes, crashes, and arson investigations which will likely lead to courtroom litigation, Espy said.

Each scan can take as little as five minutes, according to crash scene investigator Office Ken Boyer. Though, most scenes requiring the FARO will require more than one scan.

“Some, you might get away with four or five [scans] but you know, that’s maybe a half-hour,” Officer Boyer said. “Others, it might take more. But when you compare to where we were with what we used to use, with this…it’s a fraction of the time.”

Boyer said this means, crash scenes could take less time to clear which is important for both motorists and first responders.                                        

“One thing as crash investigators we have to worry about on a crash scene is cars coming through. I mean, you see on the news all the time – officers and first responders get hit on crash scenes, so you want to minimize that as much as possible,” he said.

Aside from time efficiency, North Richland Hills Fire Marshal Brent Sauble said the tool could improve accuracy.

"If you’ve ever been in a house that has a lot of burn patterns and things in it, photos get washed out unless you have almost perfect lighting so we either have to wait until the next day to go back to the scene to get those photos whereas, with this machine, they can actually come in without any lighting and give us photos instantly," Sauble said. "This also is kind of a check for ourselves. If a measurement is off, this gives us the ability to go back and check it before we submit that in a case file."

The cost of the equipment and training is more than $70,000, which was made possible through the Justice Assistance Grant Program.

Espy said there are four people who were certified to use the FARO last month, and they have been training ever since.  

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