Clearing up crime evidence
An increasing number of crimes are being caught on videotape, closed circuit TV systems, digital video cameras and even cell phones. Popular television shows that feature forensics and crime scene investigations give crime victims and jury members high expectations for forensic science and crime scene video. To address those expectations, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) crime scene analysts focus on forensic science, while other officers are responsible for conducting raids, pursuits, arrests and interrogations that otherwise advance investigations.
Last year, the LVMPD Forensic Video Unit began using Boston-based Salient Stills’ VideoFOCUS Pro forensics system to capture and process crime scene video. Forensic Multimedia Analyst Erik Tufteland analyzes much of the analog and digital video evidence the LVMPD receives. “We create massive amounts of images for our police officers,” Tufteland says. “With [the new system,] we can quickly email stills to officers.”
The system was put to work immediately when video surveillance caught a suspect robbing a Las Vegas convenience store. The team used the video forensics system to isolate the video it wanted from other video feeds, enhancing it to produce clearer still images. A detective showed residents the images of the suspect, who quickly was identified. When the suspect saw the images, he confessed to the robbery and was arrested. Criminalist Photo Supervisor David Phillips says the new system cleaned up the video and created a still with enough detail to make a positive identification.
“What you see on TV is not possible. Technology can’t clarify details that were not recorded in the first place. The systems are designed to see, for example, a woman slip, but not the grape she slipped over,” Tufteland says.
Project: Video forensics to analyze crime scene video
Jurisdiction: Las Vegas
Agency: Metropolitan Police Department
Vendor: Boston-based Salient Stills
Date implemented: July 2009