Vehicle Comparisons

FVS’ Sophisticated Vehicle Comparison Techniques Help Solve Serious Crime

Forensic Video Services (FVS), the leading forensic imagery and analysis experts, is helping to solve serious crimes using a series of sophisticated Vehicle Comparison techniques.

FVS managing director, Bill Platts, says: “Image comparison techniques are not limited to just people – they can be used to compare anything, and this includes vehicles.”

“Cars, vans, lorries and taxis all commonly feature in criminal activity, and it’s our job to assist with the ongoing investigation to establish whether a recovered vehicle is the same as the one used during the crime.”

“This process of analysis and comparison is a complex one. FVS analysts are often asked to determine between known vehicles and those which are in contention, and to identify unknown vehicles from imagery which is often of poor quality.”

The process by which FVS compares vehicles is very different to that used in facial analysis. “Vehicle comparisons differ from facial comparisons because vehicles are often not visibly unique,” explains Bill.

“Vehicles can be variously categorised by a number of factors — make (Ford, Honda); model (Fiesta, Civic); subcategories (Fiesta ST, Civic Type R); colour; configuration (hatchback, estate); Optional extras (body kits, styling trim); unique characteristics (damage, decals, rust or missing hub caps).

“If a vehicle is recovered, FVS will want to undertake a reconstruction exercise,” continues Bill. “The vehicle will be placed at the scene and recorded under similar lighting conditions and using the same CCTV camera. This will allow for a like-for-like comparison.

“In a recent case, the unique design features and characteristics specific to the TX2 London Taxi enabled us to eliminate other variants and models, and identify this particular taxi (below) out of many thousands of others in the Liverpool area.

“In this example (below) we can see a green-handled screwdriver is holding the tailgate of the tipper truck closed. Finding a corresponding green object on the unknown vehicle was the unique feature that allowed the recovered truck to be placed back at the crime scene.”

If no vehicle has been recovered, FVS research vehicles in its class and of similar shape in order to ascertain the most likely candidate based on its shape, styling, configuration and associated features.

Bill says: “In the images below, FVS conducted a transparency superimposition exercise between the contested vehicle and a stock image of a Vauxhall Vectra hatchback – which was considered to be the most likely candidate for the make and model.”

Even if the available imagery is very poor, there are still opportunities for FVS to make comparison and identification.

“We assisted with a witness appeal by analysing very poor imagery of a parked vehicle in Brighton (below),” says Bill. “From this imagery we were able to establish not only that the vehicle was a Ford Mondeo, but also that it was displaying features consistent with a taxi – namely a licence plate and roof-sign.”