Laser scanners turn crime and crash scenes into detailed, 3D animations

A mock crash scene demonstrating the use of Faro laser scanners. (FARO)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Documenting crime and crash scenes accurately often can mean the difference between justice served or justice deferred.

What used to take hours and often involved surveying equipment, film cameras and measuring tape, now takes much less time and uses laser scanners and crime and crash scene diagramming and animation software.

Faro Technologies, a Florida company with an Oregon connection, bought Janice White’s crime scene software two years ago, expanding their business to help police and fire departments accurately create 3D models of crime and crash scenes, large and small.

“One thing that an investigator needs to do when they are called to a crash scene or a crime scene is take measurements – they have to capture all the data, the evidence,” White said. ”If it’s a crash scene they may measure skid marks, gouge marks, locations of debris -- all to try to analyze what happened and how the crash took place. Same thing for crime scenes.”

Last week, Gresham police investigators set up their Faro scanner at a convenience store where a man had been run over by a Jeep. The man was critically injured, and he died a few days later. Police captured high resolution details with the scanner, which can capture millions of points of data in seconds.

“Where we used to take pictures and use photo stills, this creates a full, 3D image of what took place so we can go back and understand where things were at the time of the incident,” said Gresham police spokesman, Officer John Rasmussen.

In addition to Gresham police, the Clackamas and Clark county sheriff's offices and Salem Police Department are using the Faro laser scanner to document crime and crash scenes.

“I can go into the software and walk through the scene even creating what are called fly-throughs where I can look at the different sides of the scene; if they scanned down low I can even look underneath vehicles,” White said. “They’re also great to determine bullet trajectories and they can be used to analyze blood spatter and blood patterns.”

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