Delays due to fatal accidents on Alaska’s highways as well as crime scene investigations may be greatly reduced thanks to new 3D laser scanning equipment provided to the Alaska State Troopers. Troopers Lt. Dane Gilmore and investigator Ramin Dunford demonstrated the new apparatus at a Soldotna Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday.
“There’s no way around it — processing a crime scene takes a lot of time. We now have technology available in Fairbanks and Palmer that we can bring to the (Kenai) Peninsula that significantly reduces the crime scene processing time at crime scenes or crashes. What used to take four to six hours can now be done in about an hour and we are looking at bringing additional copies of this same technology to the Kenai Peninsula,” said Gilmore.
“It scans and creates a 3D cloud of your surroundings,” Dunford said, during the demonstration. “So if we were to scan our surroundings here, it would create a laser point for everything it can see from this angle with a scanner mounted on a tripod with about an 280 degree range of motion.”
The system is automated and requires two officers who have access to basic surveying equipment. The estimated cost of the unit, with the high-power computer necessary to run it is about $75,000, Gilmore said.
“We have several of the computers around the state already, so we mostly need the tripod and measuring device itself,” he said.
The instrument has other benefits as well, including improved accuracy, eliminating potential human error and added safety for officers as it is reported that roadside accidents are among the most common ways officers are injured on the job. The new technology is rather simple to use and learn, Dunford said.
“I can train an officer to be an operator for this in about one hour. It doesn’t take much time,” Dunford said. “You just input the date of what you’re doing and the settings for the area, whether there is a lot of sunlight or, if it’s an indoor setting, how much distance and the resolution you want to take (record) the points at and it does the rest automatically.”
The evidence collected at the scene using the 3-D laser scanner is preserved digitally, which allows investigators to use stored crime scene data to continue their investigations. For investigators operating without a laser scanner, measurement not taken at the scene can be lost forever. Using the digitally preserved crime scene, investigators and go back virtually and get the measurements they need, Dunford said.