MIAMI – Crime in South Florida is filled with savage stories, senseless pain, and unspeakable violence.
For 32 years, sketch artist Lois Gibson has been scratching out composite drawings of the very faces behind some similar brutal crimes. Her passion comes from her past. Years ago, she was brutally raped and her attacker got away.
"That's why I do this. I know how it feels to want justice so bad it takes your whole life over," she said.
Now, instead of waiting for one artist to complete one drawing at a time, there are computer programs that victims everywhere can use to help police identify criminals. Some charge a fee, but others are free. They allow a victim to create professional looking sketches all by themselves.
"I think it's really important for people to realize they, the public, can be empowered to solve their own crimes, " Greg Micek said.
Micek is the president of a company, IQ Biometrix, that sells the software that makes this all possible. His program is one of several that police agencies all over the world use.
"There's a database of 4,500 images of eyes, nose, ears that were hand-drawn, so when you build a sketch (it's) as a sketch artist would build it," he said.
On websites like Ultimate Flashface, a victim can simply select hair, eyes, a nose and chin from one side of their screen and construct a complete sketch on the other side in just minutes. It's all drop and drag.
"I think it's fantastic," said Ronnie ManKarious, from Crimestoppers.
ManKarious considers software like this invaluable in the war on crime.
"I think anything a victim can do or an eyewitness can do to help solve a crime is extremely important and I would say yes, use it," she said.
Even traditional sketch artists, like Gibson, said it can really help, especially if victims use it right after a crime.
"When the face is fresh just do a little mockup from a free computer program. I think that is an excellent idea," Gibson said.