Firefighters on the scene last year. FILE PHOTO

Fighting crime in 3D

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By Imran Khan

It has been over a year since the Empress Hotel at the corner of Yonge and Gould streets caught fire. While the site remains vacant, an ongoing police investigation has come up empty in finding the individual(s) responsible for the arson of the former heritage building.

The only lead that the police have is images that were taken by a nearby security camera of an individual circling a pile of garbage bags and lighting them on fire. Police are now taking the investigation into new territory by implementing 3D imagery technology.

The software will provide new angles and perspectives for officers investigating the case by offering new crime scene 3D imagery reconstruction. By doing this, police will be able to have a virtual tour of the scene and be able to deduce the height and weight of the individual from the security camera images.

“The technology is really interesting in recreating scenes and offering new ways of viewing a case,” said Constable Wendy Drummond. “It’s another tool we can use in finding new leads and evidence.”

The software has already been used in analyses for car accidents, and more recently for the G20 events that took place in Toronto during the summer of 2010 to eliminate and confirm suspects.

The Empress Hotel building was constructed in 1888, and the city of Toronto declared it a heritage-building site that must be maintained a few months before the three-alarm fire occurred. It’s been documented that owners of the building had an application to demolish it months before the fire, however, they were denied by the City of Toronto.

Current plans for the area are still not concrete, as owners of the site have not come to an agreement for its future.

Plans for Ryerson to potentially acquire the land to complement the development of the new Student Learning Centre have not been explored due to a lack of finances. President Sheldon Levy has been in talks with the TTC regarding the vacant lot as the subway platform ends right under where the Empress Hotel once stood.

“We are hoping the TTC seriously considers that site as an entrance and exit to the subway,” says Levy. “We are going to need more access to the Subway at Yonge and Dundas, and that’s an ideal location.”


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