Volume 11, Number 2 Summer 2003 Advanced Technologies
Langley Helps Nab Suspect
HAMPTON—Video images enhanced by NASA Langley Research Center helped police arrest a man Wednesday, July 16, 2003, accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl in a Target store in West Virginia.
“It was very helpful,” Joy Hartwell, spokeswoman for the
South Charleston Police Department, said of the enhanced images from Langley.
Hartwell said a detailed, out-of-state tip also led police to the
Police asked NASA Headquarters to sharpen a fuzzy security video that showed a man stalking the girl before leading her into two different areas and assaulting her at knifepoint. The images funneled their way through a secure Internet network to NASA Langley late Tuesday [July 15, 2003] afternoon.
Langley researcher Glenn Woodell said he used the same technology that NASA used to enhance images from the final launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia. The computer technology, called Retinex, increases the sharpness and contrast to make the suspect more identifiable, Woodell said. Police in Norfolk and Philadelphia have used Retinex to investigate bank robberies and pedophile cases.
Woodell worked on security images from the Target store that showed the suspect, but not the girl or the assault. Woodell had to create smaller, cropped images of video stills that focused on the suspect’s face. Woodell’s six-year-old daughter watched him work.
“I tried to use it as a lesson,” Woodell said. “I hope parents will be more aware of their children and where they are. Just because there are cameras around, doesn’t mean you’re secure.”
Woodell said he sent the images back to investigators about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday [July 15, 2003]. Within 24 hours, police had their suspect.
(This article originally appeared in the July 17, 2003 issue of the Daily Press of Hampton, VA. Reprinted with permission. Article written by Dave Schleck.)
For more information, contact Stuart Pendleton at NASA Langley Research Center, 757/864-2943, e-mail Stuart.E.Pendleton@nasa.gov. Please mention you read about it in Innovation.