This year at CrimeCon 2019, FARO’s very own Alina Burroughs was invited to present on how the latest technology helps investigators examine crime scenes. We asked her to give us some insights and feedback on the experience of being an industry expert, her background in the industry and her experience at CrimeCon.
By Alina Burroughs, FARO® Application Engineer
Sometimes, you’re lucky to get to do something you know will change someone’s life. As a member of FARO’s application engineering team, I get to teach our customers how to use cutting-edge technology like the FARO Focus Laser Scanner and FARO ScanPlan™ 2D Handheld Mapper to capture and analyze data taken from crime scenes. This summer, I was given the opportunity to bring those lessons to an even larger audience at the CrimeCon conference in New Orleans.
CrimeCon is geared towards knowledge sharing for professionals in the crime investigation field, including private investigators, lab personnel and field investigators. It’s also attended by true crime fans and people who are interested in careers in the field. This year’s conference was attended by approximately 3,600 people who truly share a passion for forensic investigation.
As I planned my visit, I did some reflecting. My crime scene career began in 2003. Do you know what we used to get measurements? Measuring tapes of various sizes, plastic rulers and “L- Scales”, and measuring wheels. Guess what most agencies are still using all these years later? …The same thing we used in 2003 and earlier. Forensic science is one of the most rapidly evolving fields outside of medicine — the tools we use should match that pace. I believe we owe it to our investigations, to the victims and to the courts to provide a more comprehensive and accurate forensic process.
I have personally investigated hundreds of violent crime scenes. Many times, the victims were members of a vulnerable population, such as children, babies and the elderly, and I’ve been present for the painful moments as loved ones grapple with the aftermath of knowing a beloved friend or family member is gone forever.
Likewise, I’ve testified in court many times. In one particularly wrenching case involving a child, as I described 11 long days of crime scene processing, I looked at the jurors. Despite the critical evidence I was presenting in this incredibly sensitive case, they were falling asleep… eyes slowly blinking, heads nodding downward. The evidence wasn’t resonating with them. They couldn’t “picture” it.
It’s important to me personally that jurors understand what they see and hear in a trial. And, it’s imperative to the integrity of the criminal justice system that we provide accurate, evidence-based information.
With all this in the back of my mind, I headed to the Big Easy for the conference. I was eager to discuss how my previous experience as a CSI informs my perspective on why 3D technology is so important to today’s forensic science and public safety work.
My presentation was attended by more than 350 people! I used the FocusS and the ScanPlan to demonstrate the many ways data can be used to create products for courtroom presentations. I talked about my case work and why it is vital that we use this technology to accurately record evidence, preserve the integrity of the data and present a factual yet immersive experience for the jurors.
After the lecture, CrimeCon held an hour long “Meet and Greet” where people could ask questions, take photos or get autographs. I was honored to meet nearly 100 people and advise them on how to bring FARO solutions to their communities. Some just wanted to say thanks or give me a hug — all very much appreciated!
I also had an opportunity to take part in a special event that allowed participants to “walk through” an on-going investigation. Designed by Sheila Wysocki, a private investigator who often uses FARO solutions in her work, the event brought together participants, private investigators and experts to examine crime scene photos and other case information from a case featured on her podcast "Culpable". During the event, participants were able to review the scan data obtained using FARO equipment. It was a unique way for people to learn how the Focus Laser Scanner integrates into major investigations, and I was available to answer questions as a subject matter expert.
People were so engaged that the event didn’t wrap up until after midnight! Because this event centered on a real case, some of the family members connected to it were in attendance. It meant so much to them that the case was being thoroughly investigated and documented with the latest technology.
Throughout the conference, I was approached by multiple people who were moved by the presentations. Even at the airport, people found me (it’s hard to hide when you have pink hair!) and relayed how amazing the technology is and how they had no idea it existed.
For my fellow public safety and forensic professionals: what you do matters. Your work is helping change the game and impacts countless investigations. It makes a difference for families in the aftermath of tragedy… the people we do this for. My whole time in New Orleans really reaffirmed this.
For the current or interested FARO users I met at CrimeCon, thank you for championing a new approach to forensics! You’re holding us all to a higher standard, to go beyond just doing what we’ve always done, just because that’s the way we’ve always done it.
This conference was integral in showcasing what this technology can do, and why it matters. CrimeCon 2020 will be held in Orlando, Florida, and I am excited to report that FARO and I have been invited to participate again. See you there!
Wish you could have seen live case examples and demonstrations of this technology yourself? Check out two of our latest webinars: