The Watch with Will Kennedy: Charlotte CSI Fighting Crime with Technology

CHARLOTTE, NC — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police crime scene investigators have some powerful tools at their disposal. They are fighting crime with cutting edge technology, including a high-tech laser scanner that can map out a crime scene in 3D, helping CMPD retrace the steps of a killer.

“This is going to spin 360 around in circles, and the camera right here is going to also do the 360,” says CMPD CSI supervisor Roy Patterson. “And it captures everything up and down, as well as around.”

Cutting edge crime fighting tech at the disposal of CMPD’s crime scene investigators. This is the Faro Focus 3D X-130 laser scanner.

“It takes photos and then it measures,” says Patterson. “And then it all goes together into one raw file data.”

“We then build models, the 3D models, so it gives you this interactive pop up,” says CMPD CSI supervisor Rachel Clark.

The scanner uses a spinning laser, combined with a high-resolution camera, to scan an area in about 10 minutes, with accurate measurements down the millimeter.

“From the sunglasses on the victim to the opening of the book bag is three feet, six point seven inches,” says Clark.

It records everything before a crime scene can be compromised.

“We scan a scene before anything has been moved, manipulated,” says Clark. “It’s exactly how it was when we get there, so that we are, again, capturing it to its truest form.”

Investigators can take as many as 30 overlapping scans depending on the scene. It takes about a week for those scans, along with pictures taken at the scene, to be stitched together with a computer program for an accurate, 3D recreation that can be viewed from all angles.

“We can hyper-link the photographs that we take on a crime scene into our scans,” says Clark.

The scanner can pickup details as small as blood drops on the floor, a bullet shell casing, or a handgun.

“We can click on it, and it will bring up the image that we took,” Clark continues.

The renderings can then be shown to detectives, or, in the future, to jurors in the courtroom.

“A big thing is being able to recreate, to go back if a jury needed to kind of see, you know, where were things,” says Clark. “If they wanted to do a walk through three years later, five years later.”

“I think as the profession is progressing it’s becoming more technologically advanced,” says Patterson. “Like the 3D scanner, it’s very new and it’s constantly improving.”

CMPD also uses this technology to reconstruct vehicle accidents. The 3D scanner, software and computer cost the department more than $80,000, and were paid for through the asset forfeiture fund.