Pinellas sheriff's new laser 'light's up' crime scenes

The Pinellas sheriff's office now uses a tracer laser to quickly examine crime scene evidence.

LARGO, Fla. -- The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has a new tool to help shine a light on crime. A laser light - so intense it could change the way they collect evidence.

The Tracer Laser system uses a portable light beam -- so intense -- it can uncover clues there's no way you'd see without it. 

“Any kind of trace evidence. We're talking about body fluids, we're talking about bone fragments, latent prints. Hair follicles, even gun residue, “said Sgt. Spencer Gross, a sheriff's office spokesman.

In a demonstration, posted on the agency's Facebook page, Deputy Anthony Anderson shows how the Tracer illuminates traces of body fluids, fibers, fingerprints and hand prints that would otherwise be invisible without it.

Evidence they can then put into a national database, said Gross, “Where they are more likely to make an identification.”

In the past, detectives might have to concentrate their attention on a section of the room, spray it down with the chemical like luminal, and hope an ultraviolet light turned up evidence.

With the Tracer, Gross says they can stand back 6 to 10 feet and light up the entire room. 

“They can go into this crime scene, not knowing anything more than I can see with the naked eye, and they can use this laser to detect things that we would've never known were there,” he said.

The Tracer is so bright it even works in daylight. It’s 15 times more intense than the old ultraviolet system. In fact, deputies say they had to tint the windows to their training room, because people who were looking in during practice sessions were getting temporarily blinded by it.

And at 45 pounds it works almost anywhere.

“Yes, it's very portable,” said Anderson. “It does have a battery pack that comes with it. So we could take this into a crime scene and use it.”

Pinellas deputies got the $47,500 Tracer in April with a grant from the National Institute of Justice, and the forensic department’s members are now fully trained on it.

It’s a powerful tool not just for the sheriff’s office, but ten other law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County for which PCSO’s forensic team provides crime-scene services.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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