Author Topic: MapScenes Software Give NY Time Savings & Shorter Closures  (Read 29389 times)

Bob Galvin

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MapScenes Software Give NY Time Savings & Shorter Closures
« on: October 18, 2011, 08:46:22 AM »

The Collision Reconstruction Unit (CRU) of the New York State Police describes itself as the “guts and bolts” of collision investigation and crime scene forensic mapping for New York State. “Remember, collisions only occur one way and the evidence tells the story,” the CRU’s webpage asserts. Mapping this evidence is at the core of the unit’s work. And because there is constant pressure to quickly reopen partially closed roads after crashes occur, CRU’s members must work fast and efficiently to investigate scenes and map physical evidence. So, it’s no wonder that the NYSP CRU, like a skilled surgeon, uses the best instruments to perform its crash reconstruction investigations and forensic scene mapping. The combination of highly trained scene investigators and the latest forensic mapping technology underscores the CRU’s success.

The CRU investigates 400 to 500 collision and non-motor vehicle crime scenes each throughout New York state, outside of New York City. It responds to scenes across ten “troops” (a jurisdiction typically made up of eight to ten counties). Presently, the CRU has 16 full-time CRU members and 43 part-timers (Collision Reconstruction Technicians) who provide reconstruction services throughout the state. This equates to about six CRU members per troop.

Handheld Data Collectors Adopted For Easier Data Transfer
“The system (of evidence mapping) we had in place was fine,” explains Sergeant Daniel Bates, New York State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit Supervisor, referring to the unit’s battery of total stations with onboard data collectors. However, technology had vastly improved in 10 years. What’s more, “You can do the same operations in fewer steps,” Sgt. Bates said. Plus, it’s time consuming to re-visit scenes and take more measurements.”

The onboard data collectors are built within a large number of Sokkia total stations that the unit purchased years ago. Since 2010, these total stations have been gradually replaced with Leica total stations. This transition prompted the CRU to purchase Archer handheld data collectors from MapScenes that come loaded with the company’s Evidence Recorder data collection software.

Scene Details Viewed A They Are Mapped
“We decided to go with a handheld data collector and get away from the onboard data collection system primarily for easier data transfer from our total stations to computers,” said Sgt. Bates. More importantly, the sergeant added, “We found it was also more efficient to use the (handheld) data collector where we could see our scenes in front of us to know whether or not we’ve taken a shot. And, we can check our points more easily.”

According to Sgt. Bates, two-thirds of the CRU’s responses are vehicle crashes, and the remaining third non-motor vehicle crime scenes. The CRU is part of the NY State Police Forensic Identification Unit, and therefore responds to homicides, robberies, home invasions and shootings in addition to crashes. “We are doing almost all of their mapping (indoor and outdoor) exclusively now, whether it’s a violent crime or a crash on the road,” Sgt. Bates said.

MapScenes Solutions ‘Seamless’ and Fast
So, what was the CRU seeking for a software solution to allow complete, thorough and accurate mapping of these scenes? Says Sgt. Bates: “We wanted software that integrated very easily with the total stations. It had to be easy to use and navigate. It also had to give us a visual representation of the scene prior to leaving it so that we could verify everything we needed was measured. The total stations combined with the Archer Data Collector, Evidence Recorder and Microsurvey’s transfer program to MapScenes Forensic CAD is seamless.” And, once again, every minute counts, which is also why the CRU had to use software that could do it all, including mapping and then transfer data to the diagramming program faster.

“The need to go faster at scenes is always evident,” Sgt. Bates said. “It never stops.” No wonder. The CRU often must respond to multiple scenes within the same troop at the same time. “We have to be proficient, know what we’re doing (in mapping scenes), and get all the information we need the first time we’re there without having to go back,” Sgt. Bates said.

Forensic CAD/CAPTURE Chosen For Local Usage
To produce scene diagrams, the CRU chose the MapScenes Forensic CAD 2010 and Capture as a network application. Sgt. Bates believes his Collision Reconstruction Unit was the first in the nation to do so. This network application has given the CRU’s members throughout New York State the ability to visit any NYSP installation for the software and use Forensic CAD/Capture.

The CRU has 30 licenses on its network, which means up to 30 people can use the software at any one time statewide even if a power outage occurred. “By installing a license of Forensic CAD and Capture, we can always open up the program and access our files,” Sgt. Bates said.

Learning Forensic CAD/Capture is an intensive experience for CRU members. Sgt. Bates indicates that the unit provides at least 40 hours of training for new reconstructionists, adding “That’s certainly not enough.”  The most proficient troops have added a continual rotation system for part-time CRU members, increasing their confidence and abilities. Yet, once CRU members get past the learning curve, the rewards are rich.

“What’s great about the program is that we’ve upgraded our professionalism with the diagrams we’re able to produce to a point now that prosecutors in New York have come to expect it from us.,“ Sgt. Bates said. Furthermore, the sergeant emphasizes how much the level of reliability and credibility has risen with the quality and detail of diagrams produced with Forensic CAD/Capture.

“Although we are mapping far more measurements than we would have had taken tape measurements, we’re documenting the intricate details so that the diagram speaks for itself,” Sgt. Bates said. “We can do less talking during our testimony.”

Software Allows Verification of Measurements, Accuracy
Sgt. Bates sees some larger benefits with using the MapScenes software products. For example, he notes that the software has enabled the CRU to be part of important cases that have resulted in criminal convictions and fraudulent civil claims dismissed. It is these results, he argues, that stem from the CRU’s high level of investigation it can provide with advanced reconstruction training coupled with the MapScenes technology.

“We’re not there (in court) to convict people, but to merely provide the opportunity for the jury to see what we saw,” Sgt. Bates said. “All of the tools we use—Leica total stations, Archer data collectors, MapScenes EVR, and Forensic CAD--have made this possible. What this technology has provided, especially the MapScenes drawing program, is a way for us to go back and verify measurements as to their accuracy,” Sgt. Bates continued. “We’ve not seen a more complete and powerful program.”

« Last Edit: October 18, 2011, 09:14:23 AM by Bob Galvin »