The art of crime-fighting: How police come up with suspect sketches

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Sketch of sex assault suspect. Courtesy: Glendale PD Sketch of sex assault suspect. Courtesy: Glendale PD
GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Catching criminals is quite literally an art. Police departments are now being aided by technology to create suspect sketches. 

Some of them may look odd to us at times. No matter how they turn out, police say they work.

Glendale police recently released a sketch of a man wanted in connection with a sexual assault over the weekend. The victim told police he grabbed her by the hair, pulling her under a bridge where he allegedly assaulted her at gunpoint.

She was able to recall his face and helped police make an image of a bald man in his mid-50s with a memorable mustache.

“Some of these distinguishing features where the public looks at it and goes, ‘That just seems out of place,’ to a victim or a witness, that might be what sticks out to them, that might be what really sets them apart from somebody else,” said Sgt. Scott Waite with the Glendale Police Dept.

To make it, Glendale PD used a program called SketchCop FACETTE.

“It’s what the victim shows us,” said Waite. “The computer system is very interactive where they’re the ones who really take the lead and really develop these sketches themselves. And that’s what we want.”

Admittedly, Glendale’s images look slightly different from other cities, like Phoenix. That department still has an artist draw theirs by hand or with Photoshop.

"We don’t ever try and change what the victim or witnesses are describing to us, we take what they say and what they pick out, and that’s what we’ll push out,” said Waite.  

While some of them may look cartoonish, they seem to be working. “We’re getting tips and leads like we’ve never gotten before,” said Waite.  

Waite says using computers is a big timesaver too.

“Not only time but the resources. How often can you find somebody who's that good at composite sketches?”

Adding, not only are they more accurate, but they hold up better in court.  “The fewer people you have involved, the less chance there is for any bias, for any foul play." 

Glendale PD keeps the program on a laptop that officers bring with them to crime scenes.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

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Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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