Geo Week News

October 28, 2011

The Crime 360 effect


Back when I was covering the security industry, we talked a lot about the “CSI effect.” Essentially, people saw the guys on that TV show CSI zooming in on their video images to read the dog tags hanging from the neck of a murderer sprinting away from a crime scene and expected their local police squad to be able to do the same with the surveillance video they grabbed from their local convenience store (which probably wasn’t even digital video). Explaining to them that there are only so many pixels in an image, and that there’s no real-life way to zoom in past a certain point, was pointless. They just thought you sucked at your job.

But the “CSI effect” worked in favor of security companies and police departments, too. It made video surveillance look really handy in catching criminals, so that when communities went to vote on a new investment in a surveillance system, more often than you’d think there would be little of that “big brother” resistance.

“Hey,” the locals said, “video cameras are cool. I saw how they catch criminals on television.”

At least one show on television is starting to do the same thing for laser scanners in the forensic arena.

Just look at the lead paragraph from this article about how the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department just purchased a new laser scanner:

Local investigators have a new weapon in their case-solving arsenal that helps them preserve and map out crime scenes potentially for years: A 3-D laser scanner. The Leica Geosystems ScanStation C10 is a portable 3-D laser scanner created by the same company that built the scanner used on the A&E television show “Crime 360.” 

A point cloud from Crime 360. Is that a body or rolling hills?

Oh, well, if it’s the same scanner the guys on Crime 360 use, it must be top drawer! (I can’t believe that’s actually the subhed of the story: “Homicide investigators using 3-D scanner like the one used on A&E television show ‘Crime 360.'” If that’s not news, I don’t know what is. The police using the same equipment as the guys on an A&E TV show? Well, I never.)

It doesn’t matter how silly that seems – really, we’re holding up the guys on an A&E TV show as the gold standard for technology? – it just matters that the investment in the C10 is instantly validated by the local press. Perception is reality, and in this case the perception is that it’s money well spent. It’s a high-tech crime-fighting tool!

Just as laser scanners can be good PR for surveyors, they can be good PR for police departments, too. The public likes to see the cops outsmarting the common criminal, and whether the laser scanner does that or not, it’s easy for the public to believe it does. Just look at how high-tech that thing is.

The question is, how can you use the Crime 360 effect to get one of these scanners for your department (and, when will that Crime 360 show come back to bite you in the butt?).

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