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The Calvert County Sheriff’s Office now has a new, ultra-violet alternative light source camera lens and stabilizer to assist with investigations of domestic violence and strangulation.

The KrimeSite Imager was donated to the sheriff’s office by Safe Harbor Inc., the “fundraising arm” of the Safe Harbor shelter, which is a shelter for female victims of domestic violence and their children, said Safe Harbor Inc. board member Ed Apple.

Board treasurer Linda Kelley said when cases of domestic violence have gone to court in the past, “it’s ‘he said, she said’ because there is no forensic evidence.” The KrimeSite Imager will “change that dramatically” and is an important tool, she said, because it is capable of capturing images of subdural bruising.

“We’re very proud to have been able to provide this,” Kelley said of the piece of equipment, which cost about $15,000.

David Gale, director of the Crisis Intervention Center, said he was approached about a year ago by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence to be the second county in Maryland to have “a strangulation team” to investigate strangulation cases, with a focus on ways to enforce enhanced penalties.

He said he met with officials in Baltimore County, which was the first county in Maryland to have such a team and to have an “advanced system” such as the KrimeSite Imager. The Baltimore officials explained the advantages of having such a system.

Then, Gale said, he approached Safe Harbor Inc., “and they got behind us 100 percent, and now here we are, a year later.”

Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans (R) said having a tool like the KrimeSite Imager to help prosecute cases better and provide faster service for citizens is important for the sheriff’s office to have.

“I’m sure we’re going to make good use of this,” Evans said of the tool. “I wish we wouldn’t have to use it at all for strangulation, but it’s not going to stop any time soon. … We’re going to keep having issues with [domestic violence].”

Crime scene technician Greg Crump said the new imager is similar to the old piece of equipment the sheriff’s office used to document domestic violence injuries; “it’s just smaller and a whole lot better.” He said the new imager will capture clear pictures of strangulation injuries underneath skin and “fluoresce bodily fluids.”

Calvert County State’s Attorney Laura Martin said the old equipment used to get markings on the neck of a victim in a strangulation case would result in images of “smudgy blurs.”

“Now, it’s going to be clear, crisp photographs of bruising, and, if we’re lucky … we’ll actually be able to see the finger marks,” she said.

Crump said during an investigation, the ultra-violet light is turned on and the lens and scope “blocks out all your white light and only picks up the UV light” and captures the images. Although the darker it is the easier it is to see through the scope, the imager can be used in natural light, he said.

“You can see why Safe Harbor shelter was interested in this piece of equipment for our victims,” Apple said. “They go through enough and it’s difficult enough to get prosecution in a ‘he said, she said’ situation, so we thought it was important enough for us to invest in this type of equipment.”

Victims of domestic violence often change their minds within several days of having been assaulted, Martin said. The equipment will aid in the prosecution of cases because the imager can be taken to the initial scene and get photographs of the victim even though bruising hasn’t become visible, she said.

“We [will] still have those initial photographs that still show where the damage was done to the neck” if the victim changes their mind about prosecuting their attacker, Martin said. “That’s really, in my mind, why this was just so necessary. I am so grateful to Safe Harbor.”

Although the main reason the KrimeSite Imager was purchased was to aid in prosecution of domestic violence cases, it can be used for gathering forensic evidence from cases involving a “recovered stolen vehicle to a homicide,” Crump said. The lens of the imager can also hook up to a digital camera, he said. If a clear image of a fingerprint is picked up from a scene, it can be uploaded onto the computer and compared to fingerprints in the sheriff’s office database.

“This is going to be a huge help on crime scenes because right now, if I were to go to a house for a burglary, I could pretty much tell where the suspect’s been but I’ve got to throw black powder everywhere to try and find fingerprints. With this, the fingerprints will actually fluoresce, so I can see exactly where they are,” Crump said.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com