Looking for trace evidence at a crime scene can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Stan Copeland said.
But technology has made finding that proverbial needle a lot easier through the use of lasers. And the DCSO is set to become the first law enforcement agency in Georgia to have the latest in forensic technology called the TracER Forensic Laser System.
The $50,743 system will be paid for by money from the Sheriff’s Office Asset Forfeiture Account. The Douglas County Board of Commissioners is expected to approve the purchase at its Tuesday voting meeting.
“It’s so powerful now that it can find fingerprints and trace evidence on places that we could just never imagine,” said Copeland.
Copeland said the FBI and military are using the system. No jurisdiction in Georgia has upgraded to the technology, which he said uses chemicals and different wavelengths to find evidence from hairs to finger prints to tissues to blood, sweat and other bodily fluids.
The old image many have from TV shows or movies of investigators coming in and dusting for finger prints is outdated, Copeland said. And the bad guy wearing gloves to keep from leaving prints behind is probably out of luck, too.
“I don’t care who you are,” Copeland said. “I don’t care how careful you are. If you’re walking along the sidewalk, you’re dropping trace evidence on the ground... This laser just allows us to be able to locate it.”
Additionally, the system has the ability to bring out old fingerprints that might have deteriorated over time and been undetectable by older technology.
Copeland said it can detect all sorts of evidence during a murder investigation.
“You don’t use it on a live body, but you can use it on a body and find all kinds of traces of evidence on a human body,” said Copeland.
Copeland said the laser system will also make it easier for the DCSO to collect DNA for the state’s DNA database known as Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
And ultimately it helps the crime scene investigators do their jobs better.
“Our crime scene guys, they go out and work real hard,” Copeland said. “When they’re able to collect a piece of evidence that leads to a suspect, that’s a big issue. What this will allow them do to is locate and collect that evidence more efficiently.”
Copeland said the Sheriff’s Office expects to have the unit, which is about the size of a small suitcase when packed up, within about 30 days and operating in the field within about 45 days.