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Up Close From a Distance

NCJ Number
Date Published
3 pages
This article describes a system called teleforensics, which is being field tested as a means of limiting the number of people allowed within the parameters of a crime scene while providing a record of the undisturbed crime scene and assisting in the identification of evidence.

In the teleforensics system, an authorized technician uses a camcorder (handheld or helmet cam) that is outfitted with a wireless transmitter. The camcorder transmits images via radio frequency to a monitor that is viewed by detectives in real time. Concurrently, the recorder makes a videotape for investigators to examine before questioning witnesses or recreating the crime scene. A prototype, which consists of an off-the-shelf microphone and a camera in a briefcase, is being tested by the El Paso Police Department. In the project's first phase, the kit was used in undercover surveillance to obtain audio and video evidence. The second phase involved testing the system during four homicide investigations. This testing of the system proved its assistance in crime scene analysis, but also exposed flaws, such as a weak signal from the transmitter, possible media interception of the live feed (transmissions were not encrypted), and issues of evidence admissibility. The third phase of testing used helmet cameras for SWAT teams at critical incidents. The next step is to send the video feed over the Internet so commanders can view a crime scene or critical incident on their computers.

Date Published: January 1, 2003