Technology unlocks the architecture of a crime
On a sultry summer night, police detectives begin investigating the murder of a 30-year-old woman, shot to death in the kitchen of her apartment. A trail of bloody footprints leads away from her body. A gold-plated money clip lies unclaimed in the hallway outside.
As a reporter for the 11 p.m. news reports live from the scene, most viewers see the kind of sad story that is repeated too many times across the country. The homicide detectives arriving at the scene of the crime, however, see a series of events, each one needing to be documented and recorded.
They see evidence that needs to be collected, recorded and analyzed. They also see a mountain of paperwork that needs to be filled out and routine procedures that need to be followed if a conviction is to be won.
In the past, completing a criminal investigation required a labor-intensive, largely manual process. Drawings, photographs, physical evidence and reams of paper-work needed to be collected, maintained and analyzed, often filling file folders and file cabinets to overflowing. Technology is changing all that.
Now, Crime Scene Investigation, Reporting and Reconstruction (CSIRR), a computer-based technology system developed by Graphic Data Systems, Englewood, Colo., is helping investigators thoroughly investigate incidents and crimes, including bombings, arson, homicides and narcotics activity.
The system helps investigators record the information necessary to reconstruct crime scenes in 2-D or 3-D drawings that may be admissible as evidence in court. Rather than generating mountains of paper documents, the investigators are able to keep digital files instead.
The system does this by relying on database and Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology, the same family of computer software that architects and engineers use to design skyscrapers and bridges.
Evidence can be recorded and reconstructed in point-and-click fashion with the widely-used Windows technology and MicroGDS CAD software.
CSIRR contains a library of more than 500 symbols that can be used for preparing crime scene drawings. It also has a built-in calendar and chronology functions for cataloging investigators assigned to the case and names of witnesses, as well as places, items and evidence related to an investigation.
And, because reporting is a vital function to any investigation, the system provides a logical framework for recording and maintaining the kinds of evidence and information that homicide investigators routinely gather at a crime scene.
Users may input information on suspects, arrests, detentions, victims and evidence, in addition to integrating digital photographs, audio and video images taken by homicide investigators.
Solving crimes and keeping police officers on the street are of paramount importance at every level of government, and a new generation of technology tools is helping to achieve these goals.