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Technology in investigations
As we are seeing in the bombing investigation, police are using much different methods to crack crimes now compared to just a few years ago, whether it's at the federal level, or even in your home town.
Technology has changed the landscape of terrorism investigations -- and even police work around here. Cameras are in focus, cell phone records are called up, and computers put all the pieces together.
"If you think about the old days they used to draw these with rulers and pencils and graph paper," said Rick Mathews, Director of the National Center for Security and Preparedness. Mathews trains everyone up to the department of homeland security to use them.
"By positioning the evidence exactly using GPS technology you can get a pretty good map of a crime scene and the whole area that's going to be very exact -- it's going to be helpful not just in the investigation but also in the prosecution later on," Mathews said.
Mathews says that's what authorities are doing now behind the scenes in Boston. "If they can pinpoint where the devices were, finding additional debris, that helps them to determine how big the blast really was, maybe the direction the explosive detonation went," Mathews said.
3D imagery, photos, and phones help in reconstructing a scene to examine what is seen and heard. "By looking at records in that area, looking at people calling in the rapid time they were they get timestamps from the videos and all there's a possibility of finding out who else may be involved, or at least where the calls went," Mathews said.
More cities are thinking of installing cameras to deter or investigate other kinds of crime. Troy suspects six more are on the way. They'll go downtown to deter crime but can be played back if anything else happened. "This is technology at its best, top of the line," said Captain John Cooney. "20 megapixel lenses. The manufacturer has promised us we will be able to capture both license plates and facial recognition from approximately one-half a city block."
Facial recognition technology can make the break in the case. From airports to DMV records, your picture is in more places than you may think. Many of these cameras have ample storage capabilities so police can play them back, whether it's the bombing in Boston or a drug bust elsewhere.
Old-fashioned police work is still the most important thing. Intuition gives investigators a direction to take, people see things they found unusual, they can describe something like an explosion with what they hear and see. They may also have videos on their cell phones. If a building or a municipality doesn't have cameras positioned in many places, someone may have taken their own pictures and they may have been at a unique angle. That can be critical for an investigation.