The paperless office has long been an ideal for corporate America. It's a way of reducing waste, saving money, and enhancing efficiency. But certain professions have been resistant to the paperless concept, including crime scene investigation. Now, thanks to the tablet computer, the smartphone, and especially a software product called CrimePad from Visionation, the paperless crime scene is becoming a possibility.
CrimePad, an app for the Apple iPad, was developed by a team of crime scene investigators, software authors, and graphic designers, but the co-creators of the tool were two veteran forensic specialists Jeff Gurvis and Jane M. Homeyer, Ph.D. "CrimePad was started based on real-world experience," says Gurvis.
Back in 2010 when Apple first launched the iPad, the creators of CrimePad realized very quickly that the versatile tablet computer could make an excellent tool for crime scene work. Gurvis says a tablet is much more useful in the field for CSIs and detectives than a laptop. "You can't take a laptop into a crime scene because doing so might introduce contamination when you set it down to work. A tablet doesn't have to be set down, and it allows you to be truly mobile," he explains.
CrimePad takes full advantage of the iPad's capabilities. The app can be used to record voice, capture video, and take non-evidentiary photos.
The app not only helps users capture evidence, it also lets them document how the evidence was obtained, note the techniques that were performed in the field or the lab, track the evidence through the forensic analysis process, and organize all information about the evidence. There are multiple entry screens for the recording of data, says Gurvis.
One of the most powerful features of CrimePad, according to Gurvis, is its ability to facilitate collaboration. "Typically, every investigation involves more than one person," he explains. "When you have a mixture of duties and a mix of people doing different things at different times information doesn't flow very well. That's especially true if everybody is writing things down and they have to go back to the department and enter it into the system, then write up a report, and exchange that information. CrimePad facilitates real-time collaboration among all of the key members of an investigation."
Gurvis is still a working crime scene specialist, and he gives this example of how CrimePad's collaborative features are used in the field. "Recently, we were out on a task force operation where there were multiple sites responded to by the team. There was a command center coordinating the operation, and in the middle of the command center, we put up a CrimePad dashboard. On that dashboard we were able to see what was happening at the individual scenes as people were taking photos. They shot photos of the people at the scenes and their IDs, and the personnel in the command center were able to do background checks on these people. Traditionally, it would probably have taken a few hours before all of that information would have come back to the command center."
CrimePad is available on the Apple iTunes app store. Agencies can download the test version for free and try it out on two cases. If they like it, they can purchase a subscription. Gurvis says the subscription per user is about the same as an individual cellphone bill. Currently, CrimePad is only available for Apple iOS devices, but the company is working on Windows and Android versions. Users can also access CrimePad on desktop and laptop computers via Web browser.