RALEIGH — People who use digital pictures on a computer know they can add or erase just about anything with a few clicks of the mouse. TheCity-County Bureau of Identificationis dealing with that same dilemma in their crime scene photos.
The CCBI agents are trading in their 35-millimeter film for reusable memory cards. Aside from saving about $11,000 each year on film, agents can instantly check the quality and composition of their crime scene photos.
Instead of the hassle of developing film, digital pictures are loaded straight into the computer and burned onto compact discs.
"We can go in and click on any particular view that we want and bring it up larger," says Gary Knight of CCBI's photography division.
But the new cameras come with legal questions. Can digital crime scene photos be so easily manipulated by a computer that they compromise evidence in court?
"Today, the average high school kid with a P.C. in his bedroom can manipulate photos and make them perfect," he says.
Due to outside concerns, Knight says the CCBI has built in extra measures to protect the integrity of the photos.
"We have a security of where that CD is, who can get to it," he says.
Manipulation can mean clearer pictures. The computer adds needed contrast and light in seconds rather than days in the darkroom.
Knight downplays any worries about tampering. He does not know of a case across the country where a digital photograph was thrown out of court because it was digital.