Facial Forensics: Artists work remotely to help solve crimes

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Last week the Tallahassee Police Department said they found a man who had been shot to death in a field in Tallahassee. He had no identification on him and police had no leads on who he was.

TPD released a composite of the man and his identifying tattoos. The rendering was created by a company called FaceLogics, based out of St. Augustine. Within an hour, police said they had made a positive identification.

It is just one way that the technology can be used, said Vinnie Russo, who founded the company roughly five years ago along with his wife Amber.

"The way we actually do it is a trade secret with how it looks so real," he told WCTV's Katie Kaplan.

It is a method called 'facial forensics,' which has been growing in popularity, said Russo. The trained specialists work remotely to help law enforcement agencies solve many different types of crimes.

"We did have one in the past who was very good at her job," said Officer Kevin Bradshaw. "But, she retired and we lost that asset."

Bradshaw is referring to a hired sketch artist, who would do many of the skills that FaceLogics now offers.

"To find somebody that has the artistic skill to bring something like that up, that also has an interest in law enforcement, would be a unique individual," he added.

The department now is one of roughly 120 agencies that outsources to the digital company, Russo said, who added that it saves them resources like time and money. This is particularly vital to smaller agencies that do not have the budget for a forensics team. FaceLogics offers several different subscriptions at varying prices.

The company can do 3-D colored composites, video enhancements, or create unbiased suspect line ups, which is especially useful when an alleged perpetrator has a distinctive feature, like a face tattoo. It offers several other benefits too.

The virtual rendering was necessary for the Pecan Road murder victim because police could not share a picture of the body with the public. Two images were made, one which showed the man's face with eyes open, and another of the man's body with his tattoos and an additional enhancement of those tattoos. Within one hour TPD said someone reached out to them and within several hours a person had commented on the TPD Facebook post that he recognized the man's tattoos from his time in the military.

Russo points to another local success story from July 2018 when a Tallahassee man was wanted for several crimes in a different part of the state.

"He sexually assaulted two women, they completed a composite and they got him from the composite," said Russo.

Russo said he does not have statistics on the success rate of his company's work since many agencies do not follow up with him, but all it takes is a conversation with an LEO who has used it to know they are doing something right.

"It's absolutely a great, great service," said Bradshaw.

Russo said the Leon County Sheriff's Office and Florida State University Police Department are clients.

Here is a list of agencies who have used the company according to the FaceLogics website:

-Alachua County Sheriff’s Office
-Auburndale Police Department
-Bay Harbor Islands Police Department
-Cape Coral Police Department
-Clearwater Police Department
-Cocoa Police Department
-Collier County Sheriff’s Office
-Coral Springs Police Department
-Daytona Beach Police Department
-Fernandina Beach Police Department
-Gainesville Police Department
-Highlands County Sheriff’s Office
-Indian Harbour Police Department
-Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office
-Lady Lake Police Department
-Lake County Sheriff’s Office
-Lee County Sheriff’s Office
-Marion County Sheriff’s Office
-Miramar Police Department
-Neptune Beach Police Department
-Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office
-Pasco Sheriff’s Office
-Pinellas Park Police Department
-Plantation Police Department
-Port Richey Police Department
-Sanford Police Department
-Satellite Beach Police Department
-St. Augustine Beach Police Department
-St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office
-Starke Police Department
-Sunrise Police Department
-Tampa Police Department
-Union County Sheriff’s Office
-West Melbourne Police Department
-Winter Haven Police Department
-Atlantic Beach Police Department
-Bal Harbor Police Department
-Bradford County Sheriff’s Office
-Citrus County Sheriff’s Office
-Cocoa Beach Police Department
-Coconut Creek Police Department
-Columbia County Sheriff’s Office
-Dade City Police Department
-Desoto County Sheriff’s Office
-Flagler County Sheriff’s Office
-Fruitland Police Department
-Gulfport Police Department
-Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
-Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
-Kissimmee Police Department
-Lake City Police Department
-Lauderhill Police Department
-Leesburg Police Department
-Madison County Sheriff’s Office
-Miami Shores Police Department
-Nassau County Sheriff’s Office
-New Port Richey Police Department
-Osceola County Sheriff’s Department
-Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
-Plant City Police Department
-Polk County Sheriff’s Office
-Putnam County Sheriff’s Office
-Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office
-Seminole County Sheriff’s Office
-St. Augustine Police Department
-St. Petersburg Police Department
-Sumter County Sheriff’s Office
-Titusville Police Department
-Volusia County Sheriff’s Office
-Wildwood Police Department
-Zephyrhills Police Department

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