Whether they like it or not, Law Enforcement officers and Crime Scene Investigators need to draw. They usually have many other things they would rather spend their time doing, but having an accurate, neat diagram of the crime scene is critical to their investigation.
The Crime Zone drawing software (The Crime Zone web page) is the ideal tool for Crime Scene Investigators who want great diagrams. It is easy to learn and use because it has many unique features that are specifically for drawing crime and crash scenes. It’s NOT for engineers or architects or someone drawing a house floor plan. The Crime Zone is ONLY for drawing crime scenes.
Everyone wants to finish diagrams faster, without sacrificing quality. A great way to reduce drawing and editing time is to use the program’s two-letter shortcut commands. Nearly every command in the drawing program has an associated two-letter shortcut which you can use to start the command instead of selecting it from a toolbar or pull-down menu. It can really save time when you don’t have to search for a command icon or hunt around on the menus. For example to invoke the Linear Copy command, you can type CO (or of course start it from the menu or toolbar). Most of the two-letter commands are mnemonic in nature, so they are easy to remember, such as ZA for Zoom All or RD for Redraw.
Detective Dan Reigstad, of the Longview, Texas, Police Department has been a loyal user of The Crime Zone for more than 13 years. He first started using Crime Zone version 3.1 to create his crime scene diagrams and he has continued using Crime Zone as new versions were introduced. Detective Reigstad comments “I like the many features that Crime Zone provides and the technical support that goes with it. I have tried many CAD programs over the years but, in my opinion, none compare to Crime Zone. I use Crime Zone almost every day in my job, and I always
recommend it to anyone asking me about CAD software.”
Crime Zone is a Must for Court
Crime Zone is ideal for investigators who need to prepare materials for a courtroom presentation. Detective Reigstad explains, ” I use the Body Poser to place bodies in the correct position, as they were found at the scene. You can use it to give the judge and jury the best visual impact of what the victim’s condition really was at the scene, short of showing them an actual photograph.” The Crime Zone’s Body Poser is a powerful, but easy-to-use, tool for visually posing a body in 3D.
Not too many years ago, Sgt. John Naccarato of the Clackamas County (OR), Sheriff’s Department was using a 25-foot tape measure and a notepad to measure and record data at a crime or crime scene. “It was really time consuming,” Sgt. Naccarato recalls. “It took a couple of guys to get the measurements and it took a great deal of time.”
Once he had the measurements, Sgt. Naccarato used a software program that is specifically for creating crime and crime scene diagrams, called The Crime Zone™, from The CAD Zone, Inc, of Beaverton, Oregon. The Crime Zone has all the tools one needs to draw accurate, detailed diagrams of the scene, both in 2D and 3D. Crime Zone is highly accurate and has multiple ways for the user to draw to their exact measurements, ensuring that the final diagram is a factual representation of the scene.
If you’ve ever wondered if it’s worth the additional expense to upgrade your crime scene diagramming software, one expert responds, “Absolutely.” That expert is Bobby Jones of Bobby Jones Reconstruction of Knoxville, Tenn. For more than 25 years, Jones has been a trained crime reconstructionist and crime scene investigator, providing his expertise to private law firms, insurance and government agencies, County Sheriffs, the State of Tennessee, and to prosecution and criminal defense clients.
The Crime Zone Includes Easy-to-Use Animation Tools
A major reason that Jones suggests upgrading your diagramming software is to get the animation features now offered in some software. Jones has been a longtime user of The Crime Zone, diagramming software from The CAD Zone, Inc. ( www.cadzone.com ) of Beaverton, Oregon. The Crime Zone is widely used among law enforcement professionals and crime scene investigators. It allows users to create realistic 2D and 3D diagrams of scenes. The latest version of The Crime Zone also features the ability to quickly create 2D and 3D animations of objects that are based on your exact measurements.
As an investigator, you may often be called upon to present your findings in the courtroom in front of a skeptical jury and an attorney who would just love to prove you wrong. Your diagrams of the scene are an important part of your investigation and you want to make sure you can prove they are completely accurate. So, what are some rules to follow for ensuring that your methodology for preparing a diagram and diagramming the scene itself will be credible enough to withstand courtroom scrutiny?
Document and Measure Carefully, Photograph Everything
“The first thing I can tell every investigator to do is document, document, and document some more,” says John Howell, CEO of John Howell & Associates, a crash and crime scene investigation firm based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Howell, a former reconstructionist for Washoe County Sheriff’s Office in Reno, and for the Nevada Highway Patrol, always starts his documentation by making a field sketch—what he calls the “first level” of documentation. The sketch should be complete, clear and easily understandable, and as accurate as you can make it. The field sketch, he notes, is basically notes, measurements, and information. “Very seldom will it be seen,” Howell explains, “but if you don’t have a firm base from which to start preparing a diagram, you’re going to wind up with problems, and with a diagram that is not a proper view or reconstruction of the scene. If this happens just once, your reputation suffers greatly.” For diagramming, Howell uses The Crime Zone, crash and crime scene diagramming software from The CAD Zone, Inc.
Traditionally, 3D animations, or movies, of the events surrounding a crime were recognized as a powerful tool to help present a case in court. However, they were so expensive to produce that they were only feasible for high-profile cases where big budgets were involved. Recently, the development of easy-to-use, accurate, software for creating animations has changed all that. It is now possible for every investigator to produce animations of bullet trajectories or other events, based on the evidence they found at the scene.
Just ask Bobby Jones, Assistant Chief of the Knox County-Knoxville, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, and a trained Crash Reconstructionist and crime scene investigator. Jones feels that animations are an important part of his courtroom presentations. Says Jones, “We’ll always need to have a static diagram to show measurements and details. However, a jury these days can comprehend animation, and the retention is significantly higher than words and diagrams.” Also, Jones adds, “Anytime we can illustrate in motion, we capture the attention of the jury because juries are typically inclined to want to see technology.”
There is plenty for the investigator to do at the scene of a major crime, not the least which involves taking many precise measurements of the location of bodies, blood spatter, bullet hole locations, and other evidence. These measurements are critical in reconstructing the crime and creating the detailed diagrams of the scene that may become part of a courtroom presentation. In years past, taking and recording all the necessary measurements could require multiple officers and take hours of time.
One advantage investigators have today is the availability of laser measurement systems and total stations that can streamline the process of taking these measurements. The Pocket Zone™, data collection software, is used by the officer to capture all the measurements at the scene. Back at the office, the 3D point coordinates are uploaded into The Crime Zone™,crime scene drawing software, where the final diagram is completed. This technology greatly speeds up the process of mapping a crime and diagramming the scene. Some equipment can even be operated by a single officer.
If you are a Crime Scene Investigator, chances are you have better things to do with your time than spend hours and hours creating drawings of crime scenes. One way to really save on drawing time is to use pre-drawn symbols for commonly found objects. Instead of trying to draw that body or weapon found at the scene, just select the pre-drawn symbol and drag it into place.
General purpose drawing programs may have pre-drawn symbols of furniture or trees, but they will not have many items found at a crime scene, such as bodies, clothing, vehicles, or weapons. To get these types of symbols, you need a software program that is specifically for drawing crime scenes.
Neal Trantham, owner of Nebraska Accident Reconstruction, tried different diagramming software programs before deciding which one to use in the accident reconstruction classes he teaches and in his investigation firm. Trantham, who also is a Trooper with the State of Nebraska, says students in his classes span a broad spectrum of talents and skills from young officers just beginning their careers to officers about to retire.
“My biggest challenge is making these classes interesting and keeping them flowing so people at both ends of the spectrum don’t feel the class is going too fast or too slow,” Trantham said. To maintain this ‘flow’ of instruction, Trantham chose The Crash Zone. This program, published by The CAD Zone, Inc. (www.cadzone.com ), is essentially the same as The Crime Zone. Both programs are ideal for drawing Crime Scenes and Crash Scenes.