CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sketch artists

From The New York Times:

Driven by budget constraints and the ubiquity of surveillance video, many police departments have scaled back on the practice. In Los Angeles, sketches are done by an artist on contract. The Chicago Police Department has not had a staff sketch artist since 1993. Two full-time forensic artists in Philadelphia do fewer sketches and more odd jobs, like putting decals on squad cars.

“Last year, we only did 14,” said Lt. John Rauchut, who heads the Philadelphia Police Department’s Graphic Arts Unit. “Ten years ago, we did 147 sketches and it’s been declining ever since.”

But not so in New York City.

. . .

In a technology-obsessed department actively pursuing futuristic tools — like a scanner to detect hidden guns or robust facial recognition software — the sketches still hold sway for the simple reason that, despite their seeming imprecision, detectives still use them to catch suspects.

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