The inventors: Developers and inventors of the new infrared camera: Oliver Schnitzke, Maikel Stiefel and Andreas Nick (from left)
Murder investigation leads to "KTvisio"
Oliver Schnitzke, Maikel Stiefel and Andreas Nick - these are the developers of the new infrared cameras for the North Rhine-Westphalian police. The new devices make it easier to visualize traces of blood and gunshot residue at crime scenes.
Streife editorial team

A human body wrapped in several bags was found in the basement of an apartment building. A mission for Detective Superintendent Maikel Stiefel (30), Detective Chief Superintendent Andreas Nick (47) and government employee Oliver Schnitzke (44). At the crime scene, the dark brown sofa in the victim's apartment proved to be a major challenge. Possible traces of blood were difficult to see with the naked eye. However, the use of the chemical substance luminol could possibly have destroyed important traces of DNA. The three forensic scientists agreed on this. With an infrared camera, on the other hand, it would have been easy to document the traces of blood. A situation that the three were no longer willing to accept - also in their own interests. This joint homicide investigation in 2017 thus became the birth of "KTvisio".

The three Düsseldorfers developed the innovative infrared camera "KTvisio" in their spare time. They built their first prototypes from commercially available components and open source software and even produced them themselves in their in-house 3D printer. And as is so often the case when developing new technologies, the first attempts were sobering. Gradually, however, a solution was always found and the three technology enthusiasts continued to tinker and were rewarded for their efforts.

They still remember September 20, 2018 very well. They presented their infrared camera to colleagues as part of an international seminar on forensic technology - and the camera passed the practical test. The consistently positive and constructive feedback confirmed Stiefel, Nick and Schnitzke. The long road from idea to product entered the home straight. They submitted their development as a suggestion for improvement to Ideas Management NRW. The Central Office for Forensic Science at the State Office of Criminal Investigation was also immediately convinced and rated "KTvisio" as a technically suitable infrared trace visualization system.

Together with the LKA and the "Special Development Department" at the LZPD, the technical development and implementation were tackled. The result: a small gray box reminiscent of an old Polaroid camera, but capable of much more. The handy device has a large display in the middle, weighs just 900 grams and has a powerful battery. Another advantage: operating the infrared camera is child's play. With this camera, the three inventors had found their solution for the search for clues. They were certain that the entire police force could benefit from this in their investigative work. The cost per camera is around 1,000 euros. This makes the in-house development significantly cheaper than other products on the market, which cost between 12,000 and 35,000 euros and are nowhere near as suitable for police work as "KTvisio".

Who are the three Düsseldorfers? Maikel Stiefel is an expert in shoe and tire marks and the visualization of removed embossed marks. "I developed an enthusiasm for technology at an early age. In my youth, I was involved in model making and CAD design. I am particularly fascinated by 3D development, which opens up almost unlimited design, construction and visualization possibilities," he says, describing his passion for all things technical. Andreas Nick is also an expert for shoe and tire tracks at PP Düsseldorf. "I've been interested in finding my own solutions to technical problems for a long time," he says. It started with model making and continued with repairing motorcycles. Nick on his job: "The entire work in the Forensic Investigation Unit is characterized by learning new investigation techniques and adapting known techniques to new situations." Oliver Schnitzke is with the LKA. At the age of six, he was given a C64 computer as a present and has been fascinated by technology and IT ever since. "This enthusiasm has remained and never ceases to fascinate me."

So now this camera. After four years of development - in June 2021 - the time had come. The first of a total of 100 "KTvisio" devices were distributed to the forensic investigation centers. This means that the North Rhine-Westphalian police are now even better equipped to search for evidence throughout the state. The end of the success story is not yet in sight: there have long been requests for the infrared cameras from other federal states

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