Boston blasts create interest in UIndy lab


072_LEVA_DTMThe tragic, deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line alerted the world to the potential of forensic image analysis, with investigators calling for spectators to share their videos and photos to help identify suspects. The comprehensive “crowd-sourcing” approach to detective work had taken place just once before, in the investigation of the rioting and looting in Vancouver, British Columbia, in June 2011.

In that case, technicians from across North America spent two weeks at UIndy’s Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Lab, processing and cross-referencing thousands of hours of video to build evidence that led to hundreds of charges being filed. Although the UIndy lab was not called into service in the Boston case, its presence sparked curiosity from journalists around the world, as well as visits by TV crews from ABC and CBS, among other outlets.

The lab is operated by the Law Enforcement & Emergency Services Video Association, or LEVA, an international organization that provides training and certification in video analysis for police and fire agencies and other public safety professionals from across the globe. LEVA began offering its training sessions at UIndy in 2004, and in 2007 established the permanent lab, where 20 cutting-edge digital workstations can be used to examine video footage that could prove to be crucial criminal evidence. LEVA offers 10 to 12 courses at the lab in a typical year, said UIndy Assistant Professor Tom Christenberry, a former FBI agent who was instrumental in bringing the lab to the University.

In fact, some of the federal agents who were working the Boston case received their training at the UIndy lab, said LEVA instructor Grant Fredericks, one of the world’s leading authorities on forensic video analysis. Fredericks happened to be on campus teaching a course the week of the bombing and spent significant time fielding interview requests. Other news outlets mentioning the lab in their coverage included:; Boston Globe; The Atlantic; Bloomberg News; Marketplace American Public Media); Financial Times (UK); Postmedia News (Canada); WTHR; WRTV; WXIN; Indiana Public Radio

Photo: Grant Fredericks, an internationally known expert on forensic video, often leads the classes in the LEVA lab.