NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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 | Photo Reprints
Community News Network

Offbeat
NDN Video
Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid" Kate and Will Land in Oz O’Reilly Launches Preemptive Strike Against CBS Pixar Unveils Easter Eggs From its Biggest Movies Baby Sloths Squeak for Their Cuddle Partners in Adorable Video
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans