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New tech will speed up car crash investigations

By: Thomas Franz | C&G Newspapers | Published October 18, 2016


MACOMB COUNTY — A new piece of technology is soon going to help speed up crash scene investigations on roads patrolled by the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office.

Approved for purchase during a Justice and Public Safety Committee meeting Oct. 5, a laser scanner from Faro Technologies will replace the current Total station, which has been used since 2002.

“We’re always looking at technology that’s out there and what pieces of equipment we can use to do our job better and be more accurate,” Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said.

Sheriff’s Office Capt. David Kennedy gave the presentation on the new technology to the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.

The scanner has the ability to create 3-D images of crash scenes and crime scenes through the use of lasers.

With the Total system, officers manually diagrammed crash scenes in a similar way to how civil surveyors diagram for engineering purposes.

“That takes up quite a bit of time, as you might imagine,” Kennedy said. “(The new technology is) going to cut down significantly on time for crash scenes, which is going to have a big effect for the motoring public in Macomb County. It basically cuts time in half. It requires less people to operate the machine and less time to gather the data than necessary to recreate a crash or crime scene.”

Wickersham said that time to investigate a crash scene varies widely, but typically takes between two and five hours currently.

A tripod stand will still be utilized for the new equipment, but millions of data points will be able to be scanned, as opposed to those collected by hand.

“It will gather all of these points on the computer. It will download into our system back at the office and be able to create 3-D representations of crash scenes and crime scenes,” Kennedy said. “We will then be able to present to the (Macomb County) Prosecutor’s Office a 3-D representation.”

Wickersham said that a crash investigation unit has been created in the Sheriff’s Office over the last year, and that will be the primary beneficiary of the Faro device. It will also be used at crime scenes, in addition to serious or fatal car accidents.

The complete cost of the system has been budgeted by the Sheriff’s Office for $99,732. That includes the scanner, software and training.

Wickersham said his department will only need to purchase one scanner, and it hopes to receive the technology sometime in November to begin training.