Immediate Collection of Scan Data Saves Time and Money

Many public safety professionals agree that 3D laser scanning will become the gold standard of forensic investigation in the near future. But for Precision Simulations Inc., a premiere scene documentation, reconstruction analysis, and 3D visualization firm, laser scanning has been standard practice for 16 years. “It is the present of forensic investigation from my perspective,” said founder and CEO Craig Fries.

precision_simulations_scan.jpgSince Precision Simulations’ 1997 inception, Fries has completed more than 1,000 cases, almost all of which are litigation-related. “Usually, when we go out there,” Fries said, “the physical evidence isn’t there anymore because they moved it.” So Fries’ team must scientifically recreate the scene virtually using a 3D laser scan and photogrammetry. “We are limited by the people who do respond to the crime scene and take those first measurements and photographs,” Fries said. “Whatever it is they collect, that’s what we have to work with.”

More Powerful and More Accurate Crime and Crash Scene Data

While cutting-edge technology and strict adherence to the scientific method has earned Precision Simulations 100 percent admissibility in court, Fries looks forward to the time when public safety professionals will laser scan crime and accident scenes immediately with their own equipment. “If they use the scanner,” Fries said, “what we can do is more powerful and more accurate if they were to collect that data right then.”
Learn more about admissibility here.
Although Fries believes this will eventually become standard practice, to date, he’s had only one case in which his clients performed their own laser scan. In this case, Fries was hired by the Office of the Attorney General to analyze an officer-involved shooting in which a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer shot and killed a young male following a high-speed pursuit. The scene had been laser scanned by the CHP’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team, and the scan data was handed over to Fries for analysis. “The beauty of that was they got the resting position of the vehicles exactly as they were, all the tire tracks exactly as they were (because this also happened in dirt, so there were tire tracks that were critical), the location of every shell casing exactly where it was, footprints of the officers—everything,” Fries said. “So we didn’t have to go through that photogrammetry process to reverse engineer it all. It was all given to us in a beautiful point cloud.”

Better Data Analysis with Laser Scanning

Since Fries received the scene exactly as it was when captured by the laser scanner, his team was able to get right down to the business of analysis. This not only saved his client time and money, which would otherwise be paid to Precision Simulations for scanning and scene reconstruction, but also resulted in a highly accurate analysis. “There were absolutely no errors in any of the measurements because there wasn’t any reverse engineering of it,” Fries said. “It was all very clean and very, very detailed.”
“I keep waiting for data like that from the LAPD—because I know they are scanning—and the LA Sheriff’s,” Fries said. “So I know it’s going to happen more and more and more.” Until then, Fries continues to speak professionally to criminal justice agencies across California and Nevada demonstrating what laser scanning can accomplish and encouraging the agencies to implement the technology themselves. “I’m more than happy to forego the scanning and do all the post-production work,” Fries said. “For us, that’s where the fun is.”
Image: Precision Simulations Inc. 
About the author: Wendy Lyons is journalist living in Canton, Georgia, who spent several years writing about surveying technology for POB magazine. She now focuses on covering laser scanning and other geospatial measurement solutions for public safety professionals.

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