The latest version of a 3D scan station from Leica can create a virtual image of the area around it - in less than two minutes.
"Our last few scenes, we've been completing them in about 20 minutes to finish our scans, which would've taken us hours in the past," said Santa Ana police investigator Weston Hadley.
Before Santa Ana PD began using the new machine in the last month, they used a theodolite, marking data points as they went. It's a slow and meticulous process that typically took several hours. Now, the department says it's the first law enforcement agency in Orange County to use this latest model of 3D scanner to gather information from scenes.
"Collects data that maybe we didn't even identify initially as evidence so it gets the entire scene, not just the specific things that we identify at the moment that we're doing our investigation," said Hadley.
Investigators can then take the information and plug it into their computers, where they can see HD photos, move to different parts of the scene, recreate witness vantage points and even measure distances.
"The center optic here is spinning at such a high rate," said Sam Elsaid from Leica Geosystems. "It's capturing, emitting a laser, and that laser that is capturing two million data points per second."
There are other companies that make tools like this, but the Santa Ana PD is now one of several agencies worldwide to use this specific model.
"Homeland security, the FBI, the FAA, Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol," said Elsaid.
Santa Ana PD is leasing the $78,000 scan station. The department says it's a small price to pay, because they can process scenes quicker and get officers back on patrols and open roads sooner.
"We shut roads down for three, four, five hours at times," said Hadley. "Now, we can get them opened up in half the time, relieve congestion, make a better environment for people in our city."