Pima Co. unveils state of the art, 3D scanner

PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - If you've ever been in a traffic accident or victimized in a crime, you've probably seen investigators who come out and take measurements and photographs.

This information is critically important in reconstructing the crime and setting the scene.

Now there's a device that does all that in three dimensions.

And it's being used today by the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

Due to shows like CSI, there's a large gap between what we see on television and what really happens in the real world of crime scene investigation.

But thanks to the Leica C-10 laser scanner, that gap is beginning to close.

Instead of measuring and recording active crime scenes the old fashioned way, the scanner documents everything up to 900 feet, using a camera and a laser.

"It measures everything it touches," says Deputy Brett Bernstein of the Pima County Sheriff's Department.  "It will send a laser light out measures the distance the laser travels and documents that measurement to create a cloud of points using computer-aided drafting software."

With that information and some state of the art software investigators are able to reproduce crime scenes, from virtually every position imaginable.

"The best thing about this is the perspective," Bernstein says.  "So if there's a shooting, we set this down, measure the entire scene ... and then move the eyes of the observer to where we think the shooter might be."

Not only that, but the scanner is able to pick so much more than the naked eye.

Such was the case last weekend, during a fatal motorcycle accident on the southwest side.

Using the scanner, investigators were able to determine how one cyclist slammed into the other.

"Where a motorcycle went down on the ground and scraped the ground for a long distance," Bernstein says.

Had they not used the first of its kind -- and only such scanner in Pima County today -- investigators might still be trying to figure out what happened in the case.

"Now our eyes may not be able to pick up those small scratches on the ground...but the scanner does and it shows in great detail," Bernstein says.

At a price tag of $120,000, the Sheriff's Department and the County Attorney's office hope this is a good investment.

Again, this is the first device of its kind anywhere in Southern Arizona.

Authorities say it will definitely result in stronger cases and more convictions as a result.

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