Process used to ID Boston bombing suspects identical to methods employed at NYSP Crime Lab daily

Posted at: 04/23/2013 5:45 PM | Updated at: 04/23/2013 6:26 PM
By: Abigail Bleck

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ALBANY--The FBI knew what the Boston bombing suspects looked like long before they asked the public to help them determine who they were.  A digital detail as small as matching remnants from the backpack that housed the bomb to a person in the crowd carrying that same brand of bag is crucial.

"The average person looks at visual data quite differently than law enforcement.  There is not a case that goes by that we can't glean something from that case no matter how poor the visual data is," explains James Kennedy, the manager of forensic video analysis for the New York State Police.

According to Kennedy, there is rarely a smoking gun in a digital manhunt.  Clues are sometimes garnered miles and hours from the actual crime. 

In fact, in a case that the New York State Police recently investigated an assault in Southern Saratoga County was caught on tape.  But when forensic video analysts rewound the video further they learned the attacked had actually scoped out the scene hours earlier and "A-ha!" a better face shot surfaced.  A similar method was utilized in Boston. 

"Everyone has seen the images from Boston and has seen the images of those two suspects walking down the street.  But we would like to find out where they were 1,2,3 blocks from there (the explosion site)," explains Kennedy.

Visual data is used immediately to ID a suspect.  But after an arrest, experts process even more images in order to prepare a case.

"That second phase,which is equally important when you are poring over thousands of hours of videotape, is so you can accurately put together that timeline," adds Kennedy.

In addition to his State Police work, Kennedy is a member of the National Forensic Video Response Team and is currently on stand-by to assist in the Boston Marathon investigation.  

The prevalence of digital data helps law enforcement immensely.  According to Kennedy, New Yorkers are captured on video an average of 35 times a day.

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