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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

R.I. State Crime Laboratory awarded $109,650 federal grant to help police fight domestic violence
Lab to provide departments with digital cameras, computers

KINGSTON, R.I. -- Feb. 5, 2001 -- The Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory at the University of Rhode Island has been awarded $109,650 from the federal Violence Against Women Act to provide more advanced equipment and training in the battle against domestic violence.

The grant, administered by the Rhode Island Justice Commission, will equip the state's 38 municipal departments, the State Police (2 units), the State Fire Marshal's Office the Department of the Attorney General and the State Crime Laboratory with digital cameras, high-speed computers and photo-quality color printers.

The equipment will replace Polaroid cameras that departments now use to capture evidence of bruises, cuts and other injuries suffered by victims of domestic violence.

Dennis Hilliard, director of the state crime laboratory and co-director of the URI Forensic Partnership, said the equipment will allow law enforcement agencies to review the quality of images captured, to make copies of photographs quickly and easily, to transfer images faster and to better archive images for future use in court.

"We want to give each department the ability to take digital images, so they can make them readily available for court cases," Hilliard said.

Each department and agency will be provided with:

o An 866 Mhz Pentium III computer: $1,450

o A photo-quality color printer: $250

o A Kodak zoom weatherproof DC5000 digital camera, which is built for mountain climbers, engineers, and construction managers: $545.

o Cables, memory cards, rechargeable batteries and camera case: $205.

o Training in the use of the equipment: $100.

Training is scheduled for the week of March 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the College of Pharmacy's Smart Media facility in Fogarty Hall on URI's Kingston Campus.

Hilliard said each of the computers would have the ability to create custom compact discs with the captured images of domestic crimes and the ability to copy these images to other CDs. The CDs will be used to archive the images, because the images take up large amounts of space on the hard drive.

"For archival purposes, the CD is easier to store and maintain than photo prints," Hilliard said. "They have a relatively long shelf life and are less susceptible to aging and environmental impacts when stored properly."

He said the crime lab is purchasing Kodak Gold Series CDs that are expected to have a 100-year shelf life. Each disc can also have a built in viewing program, so that the photos can be viewed regardless of the availability of image software on a user's computer.

"The technology to capture digital images from just a few years ago has improved dramatically," Hilliard said. "In fact there is no visible difference between a digital image and one that has been scanned from an actual print when viewed side-by-side on a computer monitor."

Each digital camera will hold a compact flash card, which can store the equivalent of four rolls of film, Hilliard said.

"Like a Polaroid photo, you can see the results of your photography immediately with the digital camera," Hilliard said. "The cameras are simple to use; we want officers to be able to just point and shoot.

"But there is also an ease of copying that doesn't exist with photo prints. You can download these images to any computer, and you can transmit by email, floppy disc and even super disc."

Hilliard said such ease in transmitting and copying digital images would be helpful in serial victim cases. As part of the training and equipment package, officers will be trained in and encouraged to use the internet for information sharing. The University will supply internet connections for those departments that do not already have one.

For security purposes, Hilliard said he will recommend that the information be shared on the internet only by modem rather than a LAN or cable connection. He said each department will be responsible for securing their own information.

In addition, the College of Pharmacy, through a gift from American Power Conversion in South Kingstown, will donate 43 Power Managers to the departments receiving the computer equipment. The Power Managers will provide each computer and printer with surge protection.

"This is a bonus and not part of the grant award," Hilliard said.

During the training in March, each department and or agency will send two officers to learn how to set up the computer and printer, how to use the digital camera and how to store the images on the computer, create their own compact discs for image storage and print pictures in different sizes and resolutions.

Hilliard said the program will give police the ability to capture as much evidence of injury and trauma as effectively and efficiently as possible. "You want to capture as much of the evidence as you can, because evidence in a domestic case disappears over time. A trial might not occur for several months to a year and by that time the victim has healed, the defendant is sitting there in a suit, and it is hard for the jury to visualize the violence if they can't see the pictures," Hilliard said.

"Victims should know that this equipment is available, and if it is not used during an investigation, they should ask for it. We would encourage victims of domestic violence to report incidents, so that police can fully document them. "One of the most valuable pieces of evidence is a photograph," Hilliard said.

For Information: Dennis Hilliard 401-874-2893, Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116

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Page last revised on Saturday, February 24, 2001 .