Monday, August 27, 2012

Pencils to Processors

Data Collection at Crime Scene

Part Two “The Future is Here”

The Future

The basics of crime scene investigation in the field of law enforcement have remained largely unchanged over the years. There will never be a replacement for the experience and knowledge of a savvy investigator and his/her observational and intuitive skills. What has changed in the field of investigation is the advent of different kinds of evidence collected, and the methodology for documenting and preserving it. (Schecter, 2011)   

Advanced Response Concepts Corp has developed and deployed a tablet based solution to assist investigators in electronically documenting evidence found in the field.  The solution known as Condor™ facilitates the identification, labeling, and tracking of evidence while keeping precise attendance records at the scene.  Designed with interoperability with the U.S. Department of Justice NIEM (National Information Exchange Model) compliance system in mind Condor™ is the logical extension of the simplicity and efficacy of paper‐based notes and forms. Advanced Response Concepts has developed a twenty first century alternative allowing users to apply the same intuitive skills. Condor™ is specifically designed to enhance and augment an investigator or crime scene technician’s skill set, by creating an intuitive, user‐friendly process and workflow to improve the field based collection of data required to properly document and investigate a crime scene.

CONDOR ™ supports this process through the use of tablet data collection devices, used to enter all of the information and facts typically gathered through the observation and interview process, and typically managed on paper while in the field. The user enters relevant event data into the system where it is recorded, aggregated, and able to be used to produce detailed agency‐configurable reports to completely document investigative activities, including the collection and tracking of physical evidence artifacts.  CONDOR ™ is intended to address a number of identified needs in the forensic and law enforcement communities, including several of those identified recently in the comprehensive report published by the National Academy of Sciences;  Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States, A Path Forward. (Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community, National Research Council, 2009)  These issues include: improving and strengthening the chain of custody, better field documentation, improved scene management and access control all of which are specifically targeted by CONDOR ™.

CONDOR ™ is a scalable and robust combination of task specific hardware and software that is designed from the user up.  This approach has allowed our development team and subject matter experts (criminal investigative practitioners) to focus on creating a tool that fits the user and requires minimal changes to their operational process or existing work flow.  This user centric focus is the key to creating a tool that “fits” the end user to the greatest extent possible, eliminating the frustrations of trying to adapt to new technologies while still maintaining a consistent, technically correct and systematic approach to processing a crime scene.

The system consists of multiple options for tablet devices used to gather, collect, record and manage information. CONDOR ™ is not bound to any specific type of hardware for user input, allowing for continued migration to newer handheld technologies as they emerge offering greater flexibility to field users.


When the phrase “Use tablet computers to record crime scene information” is entered into a Google search engine the top five responses say a lot about the future of enterprise computing at crime scenes.  Result one and three focus on the article quoted in this paper referencing iPad purchases in Tennessee.  The number two result is a news article highlighting Advanced Response Concepts Condor System being deployed in Delaware.  The fourth is a website for rugged computing solutions.  What is interesting is that as you work your way down the list the links all begin to point overseas, to academic institutions, solutions in place, and ground breaking strides forward in the use of technology.  Why is US Law Enforcement failing to keep up with the times or the rest of the world in this area?

A study conducted in Great Britain by the University of Birmingham found in a side by side comparison, no discernible difference in content or quailty between reports handwritten at the crime scene and those generated using tablet computers.  They did find a significant time savings and noted users found using tablets to be easier to work with.  Tablet technology in the crime scene environment is a force multiplier.
Computers at the scene of a crime allow for instant capture of sound, video, and still images.  They allow for voice to text conversion and handwriting recognition.  Information captured can be forwarded in real time to colleagues on the street and fusion centers.  American Law enforcement has embraced technology in offensive and defensive weaponry, surveillance tools, records and laboratory management systems, everywhere it seems but where it all starts, at the scene of the crime.  Every officer on the street is seeing increasing caseloads and longer waits for court dates. In an era of ever increasing budget shortfalls and staffing cuts it would seem as though the force multiplier capability of crime scene computing is a tool whose time has come.  

In the immortal words of Sgt Joe Friday:  “This is the city. Every 24 hours a little bit of everything happens. Two million people make a lot of history in one day. They write it all down and file it away. Some of it's important, some of it isn't. Business, industry, government - you buy a three-cent stamp or an oil well - they keep records of it. Progress, money, success... and failure. A complete history of every day; some of it's public, some personal. It's all written down. In my job we catalog trouble. I'm a cop.


Works Cited

Byrd, M. (2010-2012). Written Documentation at a Crime Scene. Retrieved May 7, 2012, from Crime Scene Investigator Network:

Carrier, B., & Spafford, E. H. (2003). Getting Physical with the Digital Investigation Process. Purdue University, Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security – CERIAS. Utica: International Journal of Digital Evidence.

Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community, National Research Council. (2009). Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States, A Path Forward. National Academy of Sciences, National Institute of Justice. Washington DC: National Academies Press.

Daigneau, E. (2011, March). Tablets: Government's Newest Tool. (E-Republic) Retrieved May 7, 2012, from Governing the States and Localities:

Katims, L. (2011, January 12). IPads Helping Tenn. Police Fight Crimes on the Go . Retrieved May 7, 2012, from Government Technology Magizine:

Lee, H. C., Palmbach, T., & Miller, M. T. (2001). Henry Lee's Crime Scene Handbook. San Diego, California: Elsevier Academic Press.

Mechling, J. (2011, March 9). Will the iPad, and competing tablet computers, help us manage information overload or add to the distractions? (e-Republic) Retrieved May 7, 2012, from Governing the States and Localities:

Schecter, P. (2011). Crime Scene Management, Evidence Tracking System Overview and Summary. Fairfax VA: Advanced Response Concepts Corporation.

Sung, T. (1248, 1981). The Washing Away of Wrongs: Forensic Medicine in Thirteenth-Century China (Science, Medicine, and Technology in East Asia) (1981 ed.). (B. McKnight, Ed., & B. McKnight, Trans.) Center for Chinease Studies.

Taylor, S. (2012). The History of Crime Scene Investigation. Retrieved May 7, 2012, from E-How:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments specific to the topic. Requests for a specific topic can be emailed to