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Implications of Three-Dimensional Laser Scanned Images for the Criminal Justice System

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $160,300)

As submitted by the proposer: Technological advances have allowed for a decrease in the costs associated with 3D laser scans and an increase in the availability of scanners to crime scene analysts. However, the recordation value of this new technology in crime scene documentation as compared to traditional techniques (i.e., hand-drawn maps, photographs) is largely unknown. The goal of this project is to provide the National Institute of Justice with quantitative data on a layperson’s and a forensic professional’s interpretation and assessment of traditional scene documentation and 3D laser scanned representations of potential crime scenes. To achieve this goal, a two-phase, two year project is proposed. During Phase I, a variety of indoor and outdoor crime scenes will be documented using a 3D laser scanner and via traditional means, which includes photographs, hand drawn and total station/GIS maps, and detailed notes. A total of four indoor and eight outdoor mock crime scenes with human remains, or a proxy, will be documented. The outdoor scenes will include human skeletal or mummified remains on the ground surface and in burials and will be staged at the Anthropology Research Facility at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Phase II is the evaluation research component of this proposed study and the goal of this phase is to collect data on which documentation method most clearly depicts the crime scene and associated evidence. As a result, we will have quantifiable data regarding the effectiveness of 3D laser scanned images as compared to traditional documentation images. During Phase II, approximately 200 volunteers comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Tennessee, community members, and medicolegal professionals will be surveyed and asked to rank which documentation method best represents a given crime scene scenario and evidence. In addition, we will conduct cost/benefit analysis for all documentation methods. This will provide agencies with data in making training and budgetary decisions regarding the acquisition of such an instrument. This project will provide NIJ with data on the application of 3D laser scanners in a variety of crime scenes, how 3D scanned products perform compared to other documentation methods, and how much novel data can actually be gleaned from the scans as compared to traditional mapping methods. As a result, this proposal would provide the forensic community with data regarding the monetary, temporal, and interpretative advantages or disadvantages of utilizing 3D laser scanners in scene documentation as compared to traditional documentation methods. Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 16, 2016