SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Not long ago, it was the stuff of science fiction movies. Today, it's on the streets of some Utah cities. Local law enforcers are using cutting edge science and technology to fight crime.
A crime is committed. Police investigators respond to the scene to do a seemingly impossible job - find clues most of us can't even see.
"It's not some sixth or seventh or eighth sense,” says Mitch Pilkington, Supervising Crime Scene Investigator for the Layton Police Department. "Usually we depend upon the technology that's available to us."
And that technology is evolving at blinding speed. Computer programmers have found a fertile market in the law enforcement community. Programmers are designing programs that can re-create the scene of a crime in three dimensional imagery, enabling investigators to examine every inch of the room from every angle -- down to a drop of blood -- with the movement of a mouse.
Security camera video of a convenience store robbery -- until now, grainy and pixeled –- can be enhanced to reveal a clear picture of the bad guy’s face, even though he was standing fifty feet away.
More and more, investigators can see things they never could before.
"It can provide better results than older technology or if you don't have any technology available to you," says Pilkington.
He should know. Layton crime scene investigators are using space-aged flashlights to find traces of evidence invisible to the naked eye. A label from a grocery item, touched by a suspect in a crime would be unnoticeable until the investigator puts on special goggles with filtered lenses and shines the high-frequency colored light on it. Suddenly, a finger print appears.
"They have the instrumentation right now and they're going into crime scenes across the state," says Jim Lee of Foster & Freeman, Incorporated.
Salt Lake’s Unified Police Department is one of the first in the nation to employ a new kind of fingerprinting method. There’s no ink. An offender simply touches a glass tray and a computer system registers his print and identity. He touches the pad again, and within one second, his picture and identifying information appear on the computer monitor. It may be the fastest way yet to track bad guys.
"To be able to take those latents (finger prints) that they're gathering from crime scenes back to their agencies and immediately search their data base,” hails Don Logan of AFIX Technologies.
Thanks to high tech tools in the hands of police and crime scene investigators, it's getting a lot tougher to be a criminal in Utah.