Bayco’s Nightstick NPS1164 illuminating a CA-processed soda bottle.
Photo Paul R. Laska
The Scout 395-nm (blue) unit is strong and well-built, with an MSRP of less than $100.
Photo courtesy FoxFury
The Hammerhead (470-nm blue shown here) provides several times greater intensity light than its sibling the Scout. Photo courtesy FoxFury
FEATURED IN INDUSTRY NEWS
The economy has been a stressor at all levels of law enforcement. The good news: Technological advances are offsetting some of the fiscal challenges. When the first forensic lasers appeared in the mid-1980s, they weighed 100 lbs. or more, illuminated half of a square-inch at a time and cost $50,000 and up. Since then, research and new technology have joined to introduce high-end, tunable forensic light sources, powerful handheld single-wavelength units, and most recently, and importantly, highly affordable LED units.
Several years ago Bayco, a longtime producer of industrial lighting, introduced the Nightstick. This line recently incorporated blue and ultraviolet LEDs, providing tools for criminalistics application.
The Bayco NSP1164 Nightstick two-in-one is approximately 11 inches long and about 1 ½ inches wide. A 150-lumen LED spotlight is located on one end of its two oval ends. The side panel floodlight is powered by 60 blue LEDs, with an output of 120 lumens. The white spotlight can be turned on momentarily or constantly. The blue light, controlled by a second button on the back, may be full- or half-power and used in flashing/strobe pattern for emergencies or signaling. Its black polycarbonate shell has a rubbery feel and it’s heavily patterned with dimples to ensure a good hold.
The exact wavelength of the blue LEDs isn’t specified. However, in use with a variety of florescent latent fingerprint powders, using both a pair of orange forensic viewing goggles and an orange photo filter, it excited the powder and visualized test latents. While these materials fluoresce from the light alone, the use of the orange filter increases contrast, making both search and photo documentation much easier. Neither filter goggles nor photo filters are expensive, and any officer using forensic lights needs to have them (see sidebar, pg. 60).
To momentarily digress, blue and ultraviolet (UV) forensic light sources are often used to visualize latent fingerprints. Some have been found to luminescene inherently. Others will be fumed with cyanoacrylates (CA) (superglue) and then either processed with a fluorescent powder or with one of several liquid chemicals which will adhere to the CA-processed latents and fluoresce under an appropriate light source—generally either in the blue or UV spectrum. Hairs, fibers, a variety of body fluids, some drugs and some other chemicals will either fluoresce or conversely absorb and appear as black or dark images under these light wavelengths.
Bayco also offers the NSP9408B four-LED multi-function light with strobe. This is a small unit, about one-quarter the size of a cigarette pack. Its holding head contains a 25-lumen white LED, and one blue, red and UV four-lumen LED. A slide switch on the head permits selection of color. The pushbutton on one side of the head powers the light on/off, while a pushbutton on the other side selects continuous or a slow strobe function.
The unit features a steel spring clip for attachment. The head will fold back to 90 degrees, or swing up and forward through an arc to about 45 degrees below level to the front.
This isn’t a powerful unit. Used as a blue or UV source to photo document a latent print, a very long exposure—in the range of up to 30 seconds—was required. Nor does it put out a wide field of light. At a working distance of a few inches, the area lit is less than an inch.
But its appeal is its convenience. The UV provides a convenient tool when inspecting various documents for hidden UV florescent verification materials, which are found in a growing number of licenses, identification cards, etc. As a multipurpose tool, blue light is an aid when following a blood trail. The red light aids in preserving night vision when reading. Further, the 25-lumen white light is good for lighting up a small area.
The Nightstick Pro NSP1164 has an MSRP under $40; and the NSP9408B under $30, putting each within the budget of any officer desiring improved forensic abilities. Powered by four AA cells, the NSP1164’s spotlight will run for 10 hours, while the blue panel will last four hours at full power or eight hours at half power. The pocketable NSP9408B, powered by three AAA batteries, will run for seven hours.
• Tough, slip-resistant construction
• Many lighting options
• Reasonably priced
Approximate street price:
• Extremely portable
• Reasonably priced
• Weaker light output
Approximate street price:
FoxFury appeared on the market several years ago and has been developing itself as a serious niche manufacturer. It has delved deeply into forensic applications for its units, and marketed several specifically for those applications. In doing so, FoxFury has adopted the most popular wavelengths for each color to provide the practitioner with a known standard. I tested both the 470-nm (blue) and 395-nm (UV) units, generally the two most common and useful colors for field applications.
FoxFury’s Scout-series forensic advanced light source combines convenience and power. At first observation, the black polycarbonate unit is small—the size of a cigarette pack. It also features a convenient attachment clip for carry.
Like FoxFury’s other products, the unit is fire-resistant and waterproof to 20 feet. No, I don’t intend to work any underwater crime scenes. However, CSI equipment may need to be decontaminated. With the FoxFury, drop it into the pail of decontamination solution, rinse it off and it’s ready to go back onto the truck.
Many small units feature one or two low-power LEDs. Not the Scout. It features a full 10 high-output LEDs, providing impressive illumination. This brings versatility. Like the earliest laser units, small low-power units must be used in closed, dark areas. The Scout, however, is capable of effectively lighting several square feet of scene at a time, significantly cutting the time needed to scan a scene or process evidence. Further, high power means photo documentation is conducted in shorter exposures.
The Scout series provides numerous advantages. Obviously, its power output makes it simple to use in any lighting conditions. It’s strong and well built, able to endure the rigors faced with routine use. Powered by three AA batteries, it will provide up to 100 hours of light between battery replacements. With an MSRP of less than $100, it’s an affordable tool for the individual officer who wishes to improve their capabilities. It also suits an agency that needs to better equip patrol officers who have less technical support.
A more rugged, more powerful unit with a more conventional appearance is the FoxFury Hammerhead series. These units feature a cylindrical handle with a rectangular head. Like the other FoxFury lights, they’re waterproof to 20 feet and fire resistant.
However, they feature an aluminum alloy body for maximum strength.
For this evaluation, FoxFury provided two Hammerheads: one in 470-nm (blue) and another in 395-nm (UV). My first impression of each was—wow! Although only about six inches long and powered by three CR 123 batteries in series, it was immediately obvious that these are tough and versatile tools. A pushbutton, tail-cap switch is easily cycled through half power and full. A cleverly designed rear bezel prevents accidental cycling of the switch. Holes in the bezel also permit attachment of a strap or lanyard.
The Hammerhead provides several times greater intensity light than its sibling the Scout. Although evidence search, documentation and recovery will still be conducted within five feet, the greater output continues to improve its practicality in well-lit situations, as well as aid in photo documentation.
The Hammerhead series will provide from two to eight hours of use, per set of batteries, depending upon intensity selected. Designed for use by professional forensic investigators, its MSRP of $450 is a step up from the other lights reviewed here. But this might be money well spent considering the time saved and the durability of the product, especially for agencies looking to improve criminalistics units.
The economy has placed serious constraints on an agency’s approach to evidence response. At the same time, the continuing nature of the recession is beginning to see increases in property crimes, as well as violence often prompted by personal stress. These forensic lights provide officers, agencies and taxpayers with options to meet the growing need for forensic evidence detection—at nearly any budget.
Scout & Hammerhead series
• Tough construction
• Powerful forensic lighting options
• Reasonably priced
Approximate street price:
About $100 and $450, respectively