University and police investigate merits of crime-scene technology

"This is a really exciting project to improve how we view and present our forensic findings to detectives in real time."

BSc(Hons) Forensic Science graduate Kayleigh Sheppard.

Forensics experts at Staffordshire University and Staffordshire Police have joined forces to investigate the potential of digital imaging technology in solving crimes.

The Spheron-VR Sceneworks technology consists of 360 degree camera and associated software which allows a visual file of a crime-scene to be uploaded and stored on a remote server where it can be accessed by authorised personnel working on the case.

It also allows for the addition of ‘hotspots’ which can point investigating officers to detailed physical evidence such as laboratory analysis of fingerprints and blood spatters; detailed photographs and even witness statements which can all be stored on the system.

Professor John Cassella said: “This technology has been described as a game-changer and I’m inclined to agree. It can be accessed by people with a role in an investigation from any computer and functions as a one-stop shop for all evidence.”

Although the technology is already used extensively in Germany, other countries have been slower to catch on to its potential.

Professor Casella said: “We are one of the first Universities to be looking at this technology and we’re delighted to be doing so in partnership with Staffordshire Police Forensics Department which is working with one of our graduates to assess its operational use.”

“It will also be used in our undergraduate teaching as part of our activity in the University’s crime scene house and in the classroom.”

BSc(Hons) Forensic Science graduate Kayleigh Sheppard, 21, said she felt privileged to have been selected for placement with Staffordshire Police Forensics Department.

“The nature of the project I undertook gave me the opportunity to gain real world experience working with Forensic Investigators, where I could put my knowledge from University into practice. I thoroughly enjoyed my placement and cannot thank Staffordshire Police enough for giving me this brilliant opportunity - one that won’t come around very often. “

Following on from the pilot study, Kayleigh will now be supported by the University to continue the project by undertaking a PhD.

She added: “This PhD research will allow me to further test the efficiency of this type of technology within Police forces with the hope of implementation to aid in crime scene management and presentation.”

John Beckwith, Head of Forensics, Staffordshire Police, said: "This is a really exciting project to improve how we view and present our forensic findings to detectives in real time. Right through to court, viewing evidence in this way will help everybody to understand more clearly what’s important in cases. Simplifying sometimes complex findings will assist in bringing criminals to justice more quickly and help protect our communities."

"Again we are seeing great opportunities from our partnership work with Staffordshire University to deliver service improvements in serious and complex investigations.

”We are now looking to extend this even further, building on the successes of these projects to deliver an outstanding service for Staffordshire. Kayleigh and the other students bring new ideas, tremendous enthusiasm and skills help us to introduce these improvements today rather than many months or years down the line. This gives front line Forensics teams the very best tools to do their job.”

Peter Taylor, UK Technical Business Manager,  SpheronVR,  added: “We’re very pleased to see the next generation of scientists and forensic science professionals utilise our equipment to both benefit their education process and also help set new methods for future crime forensic recordings.”

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