What is a Virtual Crime Scene?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A virtual crime scene is a digital replica of an actual scene of a crime. This criminal investigation tool began to be adopted by police forces around the world in the late 1990s. While the abilities and applications of a virtual replica are a bit exaggerated in television dramas, they are certainly useful, and they are making up a larger part of criminal investigation as they become more sophisticated. Several companies specialize in producing software that is specifically designed for building digital crime scenes.

A virtual crime scene is a digital replica of an actual scene of a crime.
A virtual crime scene is a digital replica of an actual scene of a crime.

The concept arose from the age-old tradition of recreating parts of crime scenes to assist with criminal investigation. For several hundred years, investigators drew sketches and sometimes built models to assist their work, and with the introduction of the camera police, investigations started to include detailed photographs of the scene. This recorded data ensured that the facts of the scene would be accessible long after it was cleaned up, and this often proved useful.

Early virtual crime scenes were made in software that was not designed for the purpose, but investigators found these replications useful enough to continue using them. Software that is designed to recreate a crime scene allows investigators can enter parameters such as the dimensions of a room, locations of windows, and location of every single object in the room. The virtual replica is constructed with the assistance of photographs from the scene, along with measurements from tools used by architects and surveyors to ensure that the scene is to scale.

When a crime scene needs to be quickly cleaned up, using digital technology can be extremely useful, because investigators can continue to consider the scene for days or weeks. A virtual crime scene may also be used to test theories about the crime, or to consider whether or not witness statements are valid and useful. These recreations may also be used in court, as one side or the other presents a digital replica to support a point.

A virtual crime scene is only one object in a large library of tools that are used to solve crimes. Investigators still need to collect and analyze evidence, interview persons of interest, and physically visit the scene to look for things that they may have missed. The digital recreation is a valuable tool, however, especially since it can also be used in training so that inexperienced investigators do not inadvertently compromise a crime scene.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I agree, but it would be better if we find a solution to the real cause of crime. I hope we would not need this software then.


I think the technology they use is working and if they can make any advances then to do it to get the information they need quicker and more efficiently.


@SZapper - I imagine they will continue to make more advances in this kind of technology in the future. I bet eventually they will offer degrees in crime scene imaging or something like that!

I think it would be neat if they could eventually work out some kind of three dimensional technology for virtual crime scene creation. I bet that would be extremely helpful to investigators to be able to walk around a holographic replica of the crime scene.


I'm a little bit disappointed to learn that virtual crime scenes are exaggerated on television. There are a few crime shows I like the watch that have extremely sophisticated virtual crime scene technology. I think it looks so cool I was hoping it was close to the real thing.

Either way, even if virtual crime scene technology isn't as advanced as what they show on television, it sounds like it is very helpful in solving the case. I only hope they continue to make more advances in this technology in the future.

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