Roanoke PD unveils FARO laser-imaging technology

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The Roanoke Police Department has unveiled a top-of-the-line 3-D laser imager, which could give the group an edge in keeping the city safe.

FARO (pronounced ‘pharaoh’) is about the size of a desktop computer, but could have an outsized impact in courtrooms, with hyper-accurate renderings of homicides, car crashes, and more.

3-D rendering of “Officer Down” statue outside Roanoke Police Station. Courtesy: Roanoke Police Department.

“The jury- until they understand what the scene looks like, they’re just imagining in their own minds. So this puts everybody on the same sheet of music at one time, so it’s going to be very beneficial,” said Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Don Caldwell, who agreed that – aside from actually bringing a jury to a scene – FARO is the best there is.

FARO, through a series of laser scans, makes a three-dimensional rendering of a scene that’s accurate to 1/32nd of an inch by using hundreds of millions of data points.

“The simplest way to describe how this looks is playing a video game, I think. You put yourself in the video game, you turn in a circle, you see what you’ve got,” said Officer Chris Levering, one of seven RPD officers trained in the technology.

Levering demonstrated FARO’s power with a WFXR vehicle, taking about an hour to perform 13 scans.

He said the rendering would be even more clear with every additional scan, and that he can take 60 scans or more at larger scenes. Microscopic evidence, like human hairs, can be photographed separately and incorporated into the final rendering.

FARO has not yet been used as evidence in Roanoke, but has taken scans of 18 offenses since RPD got it in February 2019.

Courtesy: Roanoke Police Department

“It’s a matter of whenever a homicide or fatality we use it on goes to trial, then we’ll use it,” Levering said.

He stressed that FARO is a supplement to other evidence-gathering and likely will not solve crimes on its own, but is a night-and-day difference from what the department had before.

Courtesy: Roanoke Police Department

Levering said Roanoke City is the first department in the valley to get this technology, and that the $57,000 required to purchase it comes from asset forfeiture money.


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