To safely say: No crime scene evidence left behind!
Insights from a crime scene forensic mapping expert.
With decades of experience as an Italian crime scene forensic mapping expert, Ivan Macella knows the pain points of real-life crime scene investigation.
Helping his father to survey land meant holding a pole steady under the relentless Calabrian sun. But no 12-year-old wants to stand perfectly still in 40°C heat while his father painstakingly measures and writes down point after point.
“No wonder I vowed never to work in any area of metrology” laughs Ivan as he goes on to explain how he nevertheless studied land surveying before joining the Italian police force and finally ending up as a public safety solutions expert at Leica Geosystems.
Today he traces his passion for getting the job done more efficiently back to his tedious experiences as a child, but his forensic mapping expertise was not homegrown. “I bought the first software for forensic drawing from a Canadian company in 2003, and I flew to the US almost every year to study crime scene mapping and reconstruction. I was also mentored by some of the great pioneers in the field to whom I am truly grateful.”* Soon he was working all over Italy, appointed by a prosecutor or judge to support local police investigations as needed.
Ordering ‘chaos’ efficiently
When you arrive at a crime scene you never know what to expect – not that you have suspenseful music and criminals watching you from the shadows. In real life, you don’t know what to expect, what has really happened, and how the case will develop, so you don’t know, upfront, exactly what type of evidence you will find and what evidence will be most important in court. Furthermore, the number of possible items of evidence can be overwhelming.
Social degradation and chaos are common features of crime seems. Victims often have too much stuff and too little living space, making it hard to take measurements without changing the position of something or contaminating the evidence in some way.
Real crime scene documented with the Leica RTC360 laser scanner.
Small spaces and messy people pose one challenge, but if firearms are involved a stray bullet could hit a point hundreds of metres away and that requires a completely different forensic documentation approach. Thus, one investigation often needs to combine different tools and methods.
This is where solutions from Leica Geosystems make all the difference. “Most investigators are like my twelve-year old self. We don’t like slow procedures. We want to be able to get all the positional information that we need as quickly, accurately, and safely as possible. Furthermore, we want to combine different methods, and no one wants a steep learning curve” explains Ivan Macella.
Specialised forensic solutions
Crime scene investigators follow standard operating procedures for the preservation of evidence and work in consultation with their local forensics laboratory. Those who rely on traditional point-to-point measurements have to make fateful decisions about what they think will be relevant to the investigation and focus on those measurements only. But changing witness testimonies, bloodstain pattern analysis or forensic ballistics evidence can all serve to suddenly alter the direction of a criminal investigation.
Capturing the crime scene with forensic mapping software Leica Map360
Capturing the entire crime scene in a Forensic Digital Twin (a digital 3D representation of the real scene) using the Leica RTC360 laser scanner and Map360 software is therefore a major advantage as it means you always have the original data to confirm or rebut the latest hypothesis or evolving witness testimonies.
For example, if you have a spatter of blood on the wall or floor of a crime scene, you can position the victim decisively using physical rules and trigonometric calculations. This process, which was developed more than 70 years ago, used to be done with physical pieces of string to render expert testimony with regard to the physics and trigonometric calculations regarding bullet travel. Now the analysis can be simply and quickly conducted using the 3D laser scans in Map360 software and the results can be used as evidence in court. Both bloodstain pattern analysis (BPA) and ballistics analysis can now be done in the digital domain to position the firearm or the victim and the results can be used as evidence in court.
XYZ-view of a crime scene captured with forensic mapping software Leica Map360
A company that listens
“After many years as a frontline investigator, I love my current role as a forensic advisor. I know the real pain points I experienced and how the Leica portfolio addresses them. With our Public Safety & Forensics solutions, investigators can work faster and more safely on the scene, and can depart with peace of mind, knowing that no evidence was left behind,” Macella exclaims with typical Italian enthusiasm.
“But new technology creates new questions. So, for me, it is important to be working for a company that listens to customers and has an open system because together we can make the daily work of investigators less tedious and ultimately help to make court decisions more decisive.”
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3 good reasons to choose the Leica RT360 laser scanner
With a Forensic Digital Twin – a precise 3D digital copy of the original scene – investigators, experts, and even trial jurors can evaluate the scene virtually from any angle.
With a Forensic Digital Twin created by the Leica RTC360 system, no evidence is left behind, which helps to bring the truth to light. The result: more decisive court verdicts.
Our solutions help investigators to work safely, maintain the chain of custody, and protect the crime scene evidence in its entirety.
Forensic Expert: Ivan Macella
Business Development Manager - Public Safety & Forensics
Author: David M. Taylor
Editor: Malgorzata Krol
Director Marketing Communications - Public Safety & Forensics
Ivan Macella would like to acknowledge the great work and personal mentoring that he received from pioneers in the field of forensic mapping namely:
Vincenzo Ivan Macella – His father
Micheal A. Greenfield – Pheonix Police Dept (retired)
Mick Capman – ‘The Grandfather of Forensic Mapping’ (†)
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