In the high-tech world of crime solving, there are still some old-fashioned tools that deputies say can't be replaced.
Those tools - a pencil, paper and a highly trained deputy - can be used to come up with a sketch of a suspect, which may be the only thing deputies have to catch a criminal in cases where there were no cameras.
Whether or not someone realizes it, a brain is constantly recording the faces they see. Deputies say when paired with a traumatic event, a face can be forever burned into memory.
"We can ask a witness 'do you think you could identify that person if you saw them again?' and if they say yes, I feel confident enough to do a composite," said Todd Caron, a sketch artist who works with the Anderson County Sheriff's Office.
Caron usually focuses on identifying suspects using their fingerprints, but from time to time, he is called on to put down the computer mouse and pick up a pencil.
"I am only as good as the witnesses' memory," said Caron. "I try not to think about how good the drawing is because it's basically their drawing, I am just putting that image on paper from them."
Caron says he has always had a passion for drawing, a passion equaled only by his love for law enforcement.
To pair the two, Caron received extensive training. He event spent time at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, to hone his skills.
Most law enforcement departments don't have a sketch artist on staff and often have to rely on state law enforcement for help.
Caron says he begins a sketch by letting the witness look though books of different facial features. Then over a period of several hours, Caron says all the features begin coming together.
After some touching up, he says the results can be shocking even to the witness.
"Had many victims start crying when I get a good likeness - hate to say you like to see someone crying, but it tells me we are on the right track," said Caron. "I've had them get cold chills."
Recently, several of Caron's sketches received attention after a pair was accused of holding up a jewelry store in Anderson along with another sketch of someone leaving a botched home invasion in Anderson County.
Both sets of sketches led to tips but no arrests. Caron says the sketches are tools to help identify someone, but no matter how much someone looks like one of his sketches, investigators still have to put a photo lineup together to see if the witness or victim can pick the person out.
Caron says he doesn't see success and failure associated with his sketches, but instead views each of them as an opportunity to help bring justice for a victim.
"I enjoy being able to do multiple things, match fingerprints, collect evidence, it all has the same result, which is getting the bad guy off the street," said Caron.
If anyone recognizes someone in one of Caron's sketches, they are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 888-CRIME-SC.
Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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