PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Community News Network

December 31, 2013

Amid technology, police still drawn to the sketch

As two women walked into a wooded area in late October, a man followed them. He sexually assaulted one and robbed them both at gunpoint. Minutes later and yards away, he did it again, robbing a group of three teenagers near Northwestern High School in Prince George's County, Md., and sexually assaulting a teenage girl.

With no cameras to record the crime in Chillum and few leads, police turned to a seemingly anachronistic investigative tool — the composite sketch.

Police crime analyst and forensic artist Joyce Conlon spent nearly four hours with each of the assault victims, piecing together their memories to produce a picture of a suspect. The result: a black-and-white sketch of a man with a square head, long ears and a gaunt face. Two months later, a suspect was caught in Montgomery County, thanks in part to Conlon's sketch.

"There's not always going to be a camera," Conlon said. "Until we start getting to [an] age where computers are everywhere and Big Brother is watching you, for now the sketch artist is watching you."

In a world saturated with surveillance videos, cellphone cameras and other recording devices that can capture crimes in real time, many police departments across the country still rely on the composite sketch to help solve crimes. And while many police departments have cut back on traditional paper-and-pencil sketches as newer technologies emerge, local forensic artists and police detectives are fighting to make sure hand-drawn sketches don't die out as an investigative tool.

Indeed, many local police officials insist composite sketches are still important to the crime-fighting process when newer technologies can't help. They offer their services to neighboring law enforcement agencies that can't afford a police artist. They invest in training with agencies such as the FBI to improve their skills. And they give regular presentations to detectives within their own departments, pitching composites as an option when they're stumped on certain cases.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO: Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 22, 2014

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014

  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 21, 2014

  • Do White Castle prices tell us anything about the minimum wage?

    The paper looked at how many delicious steamed sliders the minimum wage has been able to purchase over time. The point is that as it notes, in 1981, the $3.35 minimum could buy a whole dozen. Today, at $7.25, it could purchase just 10.

    April 21, 2014

  • VIDEO: Moose charges snowmobile, flees after warning shot

    While snowmobiling in New England, Bob and Janis Powell of Maine were charged by a moose and caught the entire attack on camera.

    April 21, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 21, 2014

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014