tracking crime trends, respectively.
"We currently use Sokkia Total Stations and MAP software," Lt. Miller said. "We also have laptops because troopers are often 75 miles or more from their base, so they use the laptops in their cars to type up reports, visually check the completion of maps, and see that nothing critical is missing. We don't want them to drive back to their base and find out a drawing is incomplete, then have to drive all the way back again, just to get the information."
According to Lt. Miller, high-tech forensic mapping is saving Kentucky considerable funds. "Before we had this equipment, we had troopers spending eight to 10 hours making scale drawings of accident scenes where there were curves and lots of intersections. Now, they go out and get measurements in an hour or so, push a button and the lines are drawn for them in real-world scale. Instead of sitting at a desk for hours drawing, they can be back on the road patrolling."
Miller cited a study by the University of Kentucky, for the Transportation Research Commission, showing that electronic methods enable officers to get 40 percent more measurements at accident scenes in about 40 percent of the time it generally took using conventional methods. "We don't have to shut down the road system quite as long or so often following an accident," Miller said. "With this technology, we can just raise the prism pole up and get our measurements across traffic while it's moving -- at least with one lane open. That also means more accurate and professionally produced exhibits for the courts and juries."
Miller pointed out that the system is equally effective in mapping crime scenes. "If there is a murder scene, we call troopers to go over there and do the mapping for the detectives. They'll set up inside a warehouse or wherever the crime scene is. We've used it inside buildings as well as outside; the principles are the same. If
we need to look at bullet-hole trajectories or blood spatter that may be on a wall or window, we take vertical measurements and map the side of the building. If a vehicle goes off a bridge, or somebody jumps off, we can take the measurements, put them in a CAD program and
get a scale drawing of the
David DeBack, assistant prosecuting attorney for Kalamazoo County, Mich., appreciates the fact that high-tech forensic mapping provides so much more information. At the same time, he cautions that the amount of detail the system can generate is almost overwhelming. "If you're going to be using this kind of information, you have to make sure you're working closely with your expert so that you don't overlook something in that stack of data. There is more information than ever at your disposal, and you really have to have good control of it, or else I'm sure it could overwhelm a jury if you laid all of it out."
DeBack stressed that a final report from an officer or accident reconstructionist "should include a synopsis of all the data gathered and generated, then focus you in on the individual aspects that are being relied on."
INTEGRATION WITH GIS/GPS
Anticipating the integration of forensic mapping with GIS and GPS, Miller said Kentucky's accident investigation report is currently being revised to include latitude and longitude. Forensic maps referenced to previously surveyed points can be put into a GIS database and overlaid onto a basemap of streets and highways. The combined technologies can provide pinpoint locations of crime and accident scenes. "We're already using this system for marijuana eradication," Miller added. "I'm sure it won't be long before we use it to pinpoint accidents."
Mike Capman, a consultant who trains law enforcement agencies in