A device normally used to help solve traffic crashes is now being used to solve crimes.
For the first time, Westerville police say the technology, called Total Station, will be used to plot out crime scenes.
“If we have a suspect that we interview and they’re giving a totally different story, we can use the information that we gather from the scene and from exact measurements to put it together and refute their story,” said Westerville Detective Larry French.
Westerville police say the technology, which plots and points with precision, has already proven its value.
Sgt. Anthony Rudd demonstrated how Westerville first used Total Station to solve a recent crash investigation involving a pedestrian who was hit by a car in the Meijer store parking lot off Polaris Parkway.
“This would be from the pedestrian view,” Rudd said, as he showed CrimeTracker 10 animation of the accident from a computer screen. “We measure the overall scene, we set up the Total Station in an area where we can see just about everything we want to see.”
Rudd explained how it takes two trained officers to run Total Station.
One holds a device that marks the point to be measured. Another officer measures the data through the Total Station prism. Once all the points are measured, police input the data into a computer software program that translates it for investigators.
Rudd said that the beauty of the technology is that it gives investigators critical perspective with its 3D animation. And it’s not just from one point of view.
It shows at least four points of views, giving investigators first-hand eyewitness perspective based on data and not hearsay.
“As you can see, the pedestrian is located behind the a-pillar of the car, which blocks it from the driver’s view until the very last minute,” Rudd said as he described how the pedestrian in the Meijer case was at fault for darting in front of a car..
When it comes to crime scenes, Total Station allows investigators to plot specifics of a crime, like the type of a suspect’s car down to the year, make and model.
They can also choose types of weapons, such as rifles, shotguns, switchblades, scissors, debris and bullets, Rudd said.
It is a re-creation that helps investigators determine who is telling the truth and what really happened.
“You can walk a victim through after we create the animation and say, ‘Is this how this appeared to have happened? Is this the direction the suspect came from? Is this the direction that he left?’” French said.
The technology is only as good as the eye of the human investigator, who, police say, is the real expert behind solving crime cases.
Westerville police said the other added benefit of Total Station technology is the amount of time it saves.
Investigators who normally spend several hours drawing out crime scenes are now doing so in 45 minutes.
There are only a few central Ohio police agencies that use the same technology.
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