Costa Rican forensic science department invests in 3D crime-scene laser scanner to support crime and accident scene investigation

The Departamento de Ciencias Forenses (Department of Forensic Science) in Costa Rica has expanded its crime scene and accident investigation capabilities with the addition of a Leica ScanStation C10 3-D laser scanner.

Jorge Ruiz Ramos, Director of the Crime Scene Unit for The Departamento de Ciencias Forenses states, “The ScanStation C10 is a significant addition to our investigative toolbox. With it, we are able to capture an entire crime or accident scene very quickly in 3D for posterity—something we’ve never been able to do before. The accuracy, reliability and visual nature of the data will provide benefits throughout a crime or accident investigation to analysts, investigators and prosecutors.”

With about 1,600 police and 190 technical experts, the Departamento de Ciencias Forenses handles forensics, data collection and crime scene investigations for all seven provinces in the Central American country (pop. 4.6 million).  On average, the laboratory, based in Heredia, Costa Rica, will work about 150 crime and accident scenes a year.

In the past, the department relied on digital photography, total stations and 2D CAD to re-create a scene.  With the Leica ScanStation C10, scene investigators have an easy-to-use, compact and portable tool that captures 50,000 measurement points per second with an accuracy of 6mm (¼ inch).  The system also features an internal digital camera for panoramic photography. Along with the ScanStation and Cyclone software, the department also purchased Leica CloudWorx for AutoCAD and Leica CloudWorx-VR, a software plug-in for Autodesk 3ds Max.  Leica’s ability to provide software that is 100% compatible with the department’s existing software and workflows was key in their decision to choose Leica as their vendor.

Forensic Analyst Harley Chacón Nuñez comments,“The training ran smoothly.  Since we already were Autocad users, Cloudworx for Autocad was a natural fit for us. We were able to use our existing tools to seamlessly create the same 2D scene diagrams we always have, only much, much faster and with improved accuracy.   Creating scene diagrams from single points, photos, xy distances and connecting dots is now a thing of the past. Now we have to-scale, photo-realistic point clouds.  This allows us to trace in either 2D or 3D, create witness viewpoints, perform ballistic trajectory analysis, take 3D snapshots and even create fly-thrus and animations of crime and accident scenes".

Frank Collazo, Leica HDS Account Manager states, “We’re excited that the Departamento de Ciencias Forenses has joined our growing international community of forensic scientists. In the United States and Canada, HDS applications for public safety usually have one of two distinct focuses; traffic accident investigations or crime scene mapping.  The workflows are different for each.  Being a member of the Leica team that developed both workflows allowed me to better understand their needs and customize their training.  They are now our partners and we‘ll do everything we can to help them succeed”.

The Departamento de Ciencias Forenses is working to achieve international accreditation per the ISO 17025 Standard, General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories.