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Cost-Benefit Analysis of 3D Imaging Technology as a Crime Scene Investigation Tool

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2017
89 pages

This project conducted a cost-benefit analysis of 3D capture technology in crime-scene investigations and crash scenes, comparing two 3D scanning technology alternatives with traditional crime-scene diagramming techniques.


One of the technologies was a stationary tripod-mounted LiDAR scanner represented by the FARO Focus 3D, and the second technology was a handheld depth camera scanner represented by the Panoscan PointGun. The project assessed the average annual net benefits of adopting each technology for use by law enforcement agencies. The project team was commissioned by the Living Environments Lab at the University of Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID) for the purpose of conducting a cost-benefit analysis of the two technologies for diagramming crime scenes and automobile crash scenes. The project was conducted in partnership with WID and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) in Wisconsin. The two 3D imaging technologies compared were under consideration for purchase and use by the DCSO. After the testing and cost-benefit analysis of the two technologies, the project team recommended that the DSCO adopt the LiDAR technology for diagramming crime scenes and traffic accidents, because it would yield higher annual net benefits; however, either of the two technologies would provide positive net benefits compared to traditional methods of diagramming crime and crash scenes. Law enforcement agencies considering either of the scanning technologies should be aware that most of the benefits are due to avoided time costs because it takes less time to scan a scene than it does to measure the scene with traditional techniques. In assessing the prospective cost-benefits of a 3D imaging technology, law enforcement agencies should estimate the volume of the types of cases they customarily manage in which 3D technology would provide a cost-benefit.  33 tables, 9 figures, and appended supplementary data  

Date Published: December 1, 2017