Ind. police buy 3-D scanner with grant money

In case of a natural disaster or a search of the building, for instance, having a high-quality digital map help find people


By Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Though she knows the hallways of her school well, Principal Ronda Foster can see many advantages to having a three-dimensional map of Van Duyn Elementary.

In case of a natural disaster or a search of the building, for instance, having a high-quality digital map could point rescuers to closets or void spaces covered by debris. A scan of the school could also be shared with emergency responders who are not familiar with the building when they arrive at the scene of an incident.

On Tuesday, Foster welcomed Sgt. Jim Cody of the Indiana State Police into the school’s hallways and classrooms with a new scanning and imaging device that can greatly enhance the documentation of the school. As a crime scene investigator assigned to the ISP Laboratory Division and working out of the Putnamville Post, Cody has been trained to use the new equipment in central Indiana. ISP’s northern and southern zones have also received the new equipment.

“Threats to schools are in the mind of the Indiana State Police. We want to keep schools safe,” Cody said as he explained the scanning process and the rationale for the equipment.

The computerized map of the school could be a big asset in case of a hostage situation where someone might be barricaded inside the building, he explained. It’s better than just having a floor plan, because the actual structures of the building can be seen in a 3-D setting. It will take only a couple of days to scan the interior and exterior of Van Duyn Elementary, which is located west of Clinton in Vermillion County.

As part of his work at the school on Tuesday, Cody set up six spheres at different heights, moving the spheres through the building as targets, or connection points, for the lasers in the Faro Brand X330 scanner. The work went on while the children and staff were inside the building going about their regular school day. The images recorded by the device can be downloaded to a database that only police can access.

ISP purchased three scanning devices through a grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. As part of the grant process, ISP agreed to scan some Indiana schools and store that information to allow a virtual tour of the schools’ physical characteristics for investigative and tactical purposes.

Cody said that while many schools will be added to the database in the future, the more common application of the technology will be at crash sites and crime scenes. The devices will allow lab personnel to scan any crash or crime scene down to the smallest detail — such as spent bullet casings — in 3-D. It will give high-precision 3-D measurement, imaging and documentation of target areas. The main priority for the devices is to integrate the technology into actual investigations.

Cody said the information would potentially provide a 3-D virtual tour of a crime scene to a jury. It would accurately provide measurements of the scene, and could allow a jury to see the scene as police witness it.

“We can fly the jury through a crime scene or a crash scene, and show them exactly what it was like in an unadulterated state,” he explained.

But, the technology will not be used for all incidents investigated by ISP.

“We won’t scan a burglary or a car-deer accident,” Cody said. “It’s for major crime scenes and major fatalities.”

Copyright 2015 The Tribune-Star 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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