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Forensic Sketches

On demand digital forensic sketches by our team of artists

How much does it cost to get a sketch?

A black and white sketch is $250 and a color sketch is $350. There is no additional charge if video surveillance is used in the process.

As you can imagine, every case is unique when it comes to postmortem or facial reconstruction sketches. This means the artists, all current or former detectives themselves, will need to know a little bit more about the evidence they will have to work with before setting a price. All postmortems start at $350 and all facial reconstructions start at $750, but please email sketches@leadsonline.com for a quote on your specific case.

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What kind of sketches do you provide?

  • Composite drawing - This is the most common type of forensic art. The artist interviews the victim or witness, and together, they create the best possible representation of the suspect based on the victim or witness's memory.
  • Composite drawing with surveillance video / photo assistance - In some cases, surveillance video of the suspect may be available, and while grainy and insufficient for identification, it can serve as a powerful tool to refresh the victim or witness's memory. Working with copies of the surveillance video, the forensic artist and witness are able to develop an extremely accurate sketch of the suspect.
  • Identifying deceased victims: postmortem drawings and facial reconstruction - Sometimes a victim is badly wounded or decayed beyond the point of recognition. In these cases, photographs of the victim's remains are not suited for public distribution. This is where the skilled forensic artists at LeadsOnline Sketches are able to create postmortem drawing or do a facial reconstruction of the victim's skull so that the resulting sketch can be released to the public for identification purposes. For more information on how LeadsOnline Sketches can assist with such cases, please email sketches@leadsonline.com.

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What is the turnaround time for a sketch?

Everything we do is digital, so our sketches typically take less 90 minutes to complete. Click here to read more about the benefits of digital forensic art.

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How can a composite drawing help my investigation?

  • Identifying and eliminating possible suspects
  • Generate leads; capture the attention of media viewers
  • Uncover additional details and information
  • Identify possible deception from victims or witnesses
  • Improve public relations and the public's perception of your department
  • Empower victims and witnesses
  • Use as a power interrogation aid

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Could an innocent person be arrested or convicted based on a drawing?

An innocent person cannot be convicted on the basis of a composite drawing. A composite drawing is nothing more than an investigative aid. It is a representation of the witnesses' memory and has no evidentiary value by itself. Additional evidence is always needed to make an arrest.

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How do you know if a witness's memory is good enough to do a drawing?

Ask your witness if they would recognize the suspect if they saw him again. If the witness says yes, they have sufficient memory to help an artist complete a sketch.

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How soon after a crime should the composite drawing be done?

  • The sooner the better: Academic studies have shown that if a sketch is completed within 24 hours, it significantly improves the accuracy of the image, and dramatically increases the chance that the suspect will be identified.
  • Trauma needs time – the exception: Typically, severely traumatized victims need some time to recover before being interviewed. In fact, traumatized victims may have difficulty remembering details immediately after an incident, and their memories will improve if given a little time to process the experience and regain their bearings.
  • The long interval: In some cases, due to the traumatic nature of the event, the image of the suspect's face is firmly imprinted on the memory of the witness or victim. Occasionally in such cases, composite drawings that were done years, or even decades after a crime, resulted in a positive identification.

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How long does it take to get a drawing?

Because we've eliminated all the logistical hurdles, you can usually contact an artist in minutes and have a sketch in hand in an hour or two.

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What does the drawing process entail? Can I be present during the interview?

The drawing process is much easier than you might expect. After completing an initial interview that includes a verbal description of the suspect, the lighting, the viewing distance and time, etc., the witness views a catalog from which they recognize and choose features. It's the most natural of human experiences—like seeing someone in a crowd and thinking "he reminds me of someone I know." Recognizing familiar faces and features happens to all of us, we just use the process to help witnesses describe suspects.

Investigators are welcome, even encouraged to attend the interview.

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What are the advantages of a digital drawing compared to a traditional paper and pencil drawing?

  • Time: A traditional paper and pencil drawing typically takes 2 to 3 hours, but first you must get the artist and witness together in the same location. This frequently slows down the process by days. Our digital drawings can take less than an hour, and typically less than 90 minutes. All that's needed is an internet connection—location is irrelevant.
  • Affordability: Because digital drawing tools make the process faster, and artists are not forced to travel, we can create better drawings more efficiently and still charge less than many artists.
  • Immediate distribution: Because our sketches are already digital, they're ready for immediate electronic distribution. That means your drawing can be in the hands of patrol officers, detectives, surrounding agencies, the media, etc. while the suspect is still in the area.
  • Better accuracy: When witnesses see how quick and easy it is to make corrections or adjustments to a digital drawing, they are more willing to request those changes. The result is a drawing that more accurately represents their best memory of the suspect.
  • Excellent quality: Any police department can have access to a highly trained forensic artist with years of experience. Additionally, because digital drawings do not need to be scanned or photographed before publishing, there is no reduction in quality when they are reproduced.
  • Color: Color can greatly increase the chances of identification, but it is difficult and time consuming to create a color drawing using traditional art materials—paints, pastels, colored pencils, etc. Digital drawing tools make feasible the rapid addition of color.
  • Flexibility: It is much easier and faster, using digital drawing tools, to create multiple versions of the same drawing that include hats, glasses, facial hair, etc. Those versions can be displayed and published side by side, creating a better chance that the Suspect will be identified.

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What do I do with the drawing once I have it? How do I distribute / publish a drawing?

Common Sense is Still Your Best Friend. Nobody knows your investigation like you do; however, from years of experience, we have learned how to get the most out of a composite drawing. Obviously, a drawing will do no good at all if nobody sees it. Conversely, the more people who see the drawing—especially those that have a high likelihood to know the Suspect—the better chance you have to get a good ID. Consider the following ideas:

  • Law enforcement only distribution: If for any reason you believe it would be unwise to immediately distribute your drawing to the general public, consider a law enforcement only distribution via e-mail or fax bulletin. Nobody knows the bad guys like the men and women who deal with them every day. Experience has shown that more tips come from law enforcement than the general public. It's not uncommon for many of the tips to come from your own officers, or those of neighboring jurisdictions. Do not forget to send your bulletin to any local jails, prisons, probation and parole offices. Correction Officers are a great resource when it comes to identifying criminals.
  • Targeted Distribution: If your witness described the Suspect as a construction worker or street person, etc., distribute your drawing to construction sites and homeless shelters, etc.
  • Local Distribution: Community members who live or work near the scene of the crime will show greater concern about the crime and have an interest in the apprehension of the Suspect. Distributing the drawing to businesses, schools, and homes nearby will generally assure good leads. You may also reach people who might miss a general distribution in the media.
  • Mass Publication: If there is no reason to withhold the image of the Suspect, mass publication may be the best option. Put your PIO to work. Send the image and story to every news outlet that you can think of. Make sure you include as many contact options as possible—tip line, e-mail address, etc. Note: Just because you distribute the drawing via the media, doesn't mean you shouldn't target the other groups mentioned above. It's very possible that they may not see the story in the media.

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Does working on a composite drawing contaminate the witness's memory in any way prior to viewing a photo line-up?

The short answer is "no." We all see hundreds of faces every day—whether on the street or in the media—but that doesn't prevent us from recognizing someone we met recently.

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What kind of equipment do I need to do a composite drawing?

We utilize video conferencing software that is compatible with just about any computer that is connected to the internet. It is also compatible with iPhones, iPads, and anything running the Droid operating system.

  • Audio: If your computer does not have a microphone, the interview will be conducted by phone as the witness watches the drawing take shape on the computer.
  • Video: Video is preferable, but not mandatory. Your computer does not need a camera. You will still be able to see the artist and the drawing as he works on it.

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