Gathering evidence from a crime scene can take investigators days or even weeks, depending upon the seriousness of the incident, but the Montana Department of Justice now has a new tool that can do the job in a fraction of the time.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen told KGVO News about the new Leica RTC 360 that will allow prosecutors to present witnesses and juries with a complete 3-D image of the crime scene.

“This new scanner does all that with the push of a button and within a couple of minutes,” said Knudsen. “It takes basically full 3-D scans of an entire environment. We can use it inside. We can use it outside. We can use it in multiple rooms, and it builds a 3-D model of that crime scene that we can manipulate on a computer.”

Knudsen looked at the new 3-D scanner through the eyes of a prosecutor.

“Just as a former criminal prosecutor in Montana, this is going to be a huge tool for us to use in criminal prosecutions,” he said. “The ability to pull up a crime scene, put it up on a screen and be able to walk the jury through and say, ‘Okay, this is where this happened. This is where this person was standing. This is where this object was standing’, or to even refresh witness's memories when witnesses are testifying on the stand you could pull this up and have them look through it.”

The Leica RTC 360 with all its accessories cost the state approximately $148,000, but Knudsen said the costs savings will quickly make up the expense.

“This is just going to save us so much time on the labor side,” he said. “I mean the mapping of a crime scene can often take days literally by the time you take all the measurements and pictures and label everything. This is going to do all that in just a couple of minutes. Certainly it's going to have some expense on the front end, but with the time and money we are going to save, it's not going to take us long to pay for this device.”

Knudsen said since 2013, the number of homicides, rapes, robberies, and violent assaults in Montana has increased by 91 percent. Much of violent crime increase is due to the amount of methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs being trafficked into Montana from the nation’s southern border.

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