Easy Access to Data Maximizes the Value of Laser Scanning Technology
Detective Sergeant Sarah Beninghof, of the New Jersey State Police Crime Scene Investigations Unit, remembers what it was like documenting scenes by hand. Back then, the No. 1 challenge was providing enough data. “When we used to go to a scene, we picked what we thought was important,” she says. Since transitioning to Leica Geosystems laser scanning technology about six years ago, that is no longer the case. “The scanner is picking everything up and memorializing it forever,” she says.
The Crime Scene Investigations Unit started out with a high-accuracy, long-range Leica ScanStation C10 and quickly expanded its scanning toolset to include two ScanStation P30 laser scanners and three BLK360 imaging laser scanners. Unlike other manufacturers, Leica Geosystems ensures verifiable accuracy, which was key in the agency’s selection process. They wanted to be confident that the data they collected today would hold up years later in court as scientific evidence, not just demonstrative. “With Leica, you know it’s calibrated,” she says. “You know it’s accurate. You know it’s precise.”
With the laser scanners capturing millions of survey-grade measurements, Beninghof’s new challenge was getting that comprehensive scene data into the hands of those who need it and providing it in a user-friendly format. “That was our biggest problem when we initially got the scanners.” Beninghof says. “Laser scanning was collecting so much data, but we weren’t getting it to the prosecutor’s office in a way that they felt comfortable using it.”
Cloud-Based Portal Allows Quick and Easy Access to Virtual Crime Scene
Laser scanning gives Beninghof confidence that she’s capturing everything her colleagues will need to process the case. “It’s pretty incredible what it’s capable of doing,” she says. “We’re giving them the actual 360-degree, ceiling-to-floor visual depiction of the scene as it was when I walked in and how I saw it when I got there.”
In the past, Beninghof delivered her scan data to detectives, command staff and prosecutors on a DVD or memory stick. “Then they had a whole list of things they had to do—get onto Internet Explorer, change a plugin, add this, etc.,” she says. “It wasn’t practical, I guess you could say, for crime scene investigations.”
With Leica TruView Cloud, that process has been eliminated. The data is now readily available, simple to access and easy to use. Because the data exists in the cloud, there is no need to download plugins or other software. TruView Cloud features an intuitive panoramic viewer that allows even novice users to easily navigate the 3D point cloud and related scene data. And the portal is accessible from any web-enabled device, including personal computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
With 21 counties across the state to support, Beninghof appreciates both the simplicity and power of Leica TruView Cloud. “A lot of times, getting that data out to different counties was problematic until we had TruView Cloud,” she says. “Now we’re able to push all this data to a cloud that’s in a viewable format right away.”
Scan Data is a Valuable Resource From Call to Court
Without a doubt, laser scanning has proven to be the quickest, the most accurate and the most comprehensive technology available to forensic mappers. “I don’t think it’s completely caught on yet, but that’s the direction we’re heading. That’s where we should be,” Beninghof says. “It’s just getting everyone to see what it can do so people will start using it as a resource and as a tool.” For Beninghof and the New Jersey State Police Crime Scene Investigations Unit, Leica TruView Cloud has been key. The cloud-based, user-friendly portal maximizes the value of the agency’s laser scanning technology by providing colleagues with quick access to the data they need at any point along the criminal justice process—from crime scene to courtroom—and beyond. “We’re here to serve the public,” she says. “We want to give them the best that we can, and a 3D depiction of the scene is the best with such accuracy—millions and millions of points of data. Even if you don’t use it, you’ve memorialized it and have it available later on.”