Using 3D laser technology results in significant savings for inter-agency investigation team

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The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office (Oregon) leads an interagency Criminal Reconstruction and Forensic Team (CRAFT) that includes reconstructionists from eight different police agencies. Criminalist Bryon O’Neil commented on how effective the FARO Focus3D X 330 laser scanner is at capturing crash and crime scenes, “By using the scanner, we spend less time on the scene, we get better data, and we can use a smaller crew. I prefer to have two people to set targets and move the scanner but, if necessary, I can do it all myself.” O’Neil calculated that using the FARO Focus3D X 330 scanner has saved the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) more than $28,000 in overtime hours in just 16 months of operation.

Better courtroom presentations created with point clouds

Two dimensional diagrams are an important part of courtroom presentations, but sometimes the case requires more. O’Neil explains, “I like to use my 2D diagrams as a quick reference in court because it’s easy to explain what we found at the scene and 2D diagrams are always accepted. When we need to show more details, like line of sight, we bring up the point cloud on a big monitor that is set up in the courtroom.”

Clackamas CRAFT also purchased the CZ Point Cloud module add on with their FARO Focus3D X 330 scanner. This add-on allows them to utilize their Crash Zone™ software to quickly create accurate, 2D, and 3D diagrams, as well as animations from the point clouds they capture in the field with their Focus3D X 330 scanner.

CCSO investigators utilize the data that they capture with their FARO Focus3D X 330 scanner to create crash animations in FARO Crash Zone software. Officers at the scene use evidence placards to mark important data points, such as the start and end of skid marks or gouges, then investigators create their animations in the Crash Zone software so the vehicle symbols pass through each data point. This allows them to step through the animation and verify its accuracy. They can also run the animation through the point cloud of the actual scene, which creates a realisitc digital replication.

O’Neil has presented some animations to Grand Juries that included the point cloud data, with favorable results. He comments, “Running an animation through the point cloud is my new favorite thing to do. It’s so quick and easy to do in Crash Zone. When we present it in court, the animation is much more realistic. The point cloud adds a big impact and the Grand Juries just love it.”

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3D diagram of the scene, completed in Crash Zone

FARO Focus3D X 330 scanner allows CRAFT to be utilized more often 

The Clackamas CRAFT is an interagency team with one full-time and 18 on-call Reconstructionists. They have traditionally been called in to investigate fatal and serious injury crashes in Clackamas County and to assist with crime-scene investigations. Now the team uses the FARO Focus3D X 330 scanner, CRAFT members are able to be involved in more investigations than ever before.

The CCSO has a web page that introduces CRAFT to the community and explains their goals ( This page claims “The Sheriff’s Office recognizes the inconvenience that roadway closures may cause, and makes every effort to re-route traffic and re-open the roadway as soon as possible. FARO laser-scanning technology helps to limit this road-closure time by speeding up the process while at the same time making it more accurate — and at a higher level of detail — than any other method being used around the country.”

The Lake Oswego Police Department is one of the CRAFT member agencies. Lake Oswego’s Sergeant Clayton Simon, explains how his police agency has benefited, “The capabilities of the scanner have allowed for a more flexible approach to utilizing CRAFT resources on a variety of calls. The ability to work a scene with fewer resources and at a more efficient rate, have opened up the possibilities for more frequent use of the team.

Past incidents that may not have fit CRAFT call out criteria, but were still incredibly important to participating agencies, can now utilize CRAFT resources without  large cost in time or resources. As a smaller agency, this has proven incredibly valuable.”

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CRAFT is now called out to scan scenes whenever there is an officer-involved shooting, an officer-involved crash, or where a county or city liability may exist. The scanner provides the investigators with a unique ability to accurately verify line of sight issues in a crash or shooting incident. According to Criminalist O’Neil, “In an officer-involved shooting, you can position the view of the point cloud to be at the officer’s eye level. As you move through the cloud, you can see the scene exactly as they saw it.”


City Bus Vs Skateboarder

O’Neil and CRAFT were called out to investigate an incident where a Portland TriMet bus hit a skateboarder, who sustained serious injuries. While it might have been easy to believe that
the bus driver was at fault, the point cloud captured at the scene and O’Neil’s analysis proved otherwise. “A skateboarder was on the sidewalk, at the top of the hill, when the bus started its turn.
The guy rode down the sidewalk and right out in front of the bus. I created an animation in Crash Zone and used the point cloud to verify the driver’s line of sight. I was able to show that it was the fault of the skateboarder – not the bus driver,” explained O’Neil. With the evidence exposed, the case did not go to court, potentially saving the city from an expensive liability case.


View of accident scene, created in Crash Zone

Point Cloud 2Point cloud of the bus-skateboarder crash scene, as captured with the scanner

The Focus3D X 330 scanner has become so important to CRAFT’s investigations, the agency has taken special precautions to make sure they are never without access to a scanner. The Gresham Police Department also has a FARO scanner and they have a cooperative agreement with CCSO to scan scenes for each other, if needed. O’Neil said, “If our scanner is out for calibration, I like to have multiple options to make sure we are always covered.”

Point Cloud 1

Bus Driver’s view, as shown in the point cloud


By | 2018-02-20T02:50:40+00:00 October 12th, 2015|Focus 3D X, Forensics|0 Comments

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