The crime in Metropolitan Houston is savage stories filled with senseless violence and unspeakable pain. But now there's a brand new tool that victims of crime everywhere can use to actually help bring their attackers to justice. Computer software packages, marketed under different names with different features, all do basically the same thing -- allow you to create a professional-looking sketch of the criminal who wronged you.
"I think it's really important for people to realize they can be empowered to solve their own crimes," said Greg Micek, the owner of a company that sells Faces, one of the best known computer sketch programs.
Users simply pick facial features from a database of more than 4,500 eyes, ears, noses, hairlines, jaws and other features.
You pick the feature that best matches the criminals face from a selection of facial features on the left side, click on that feature and move it to the right side of the screen to create the composite sketch.
"Faces" is sold by IQ Biometrix and is available on the internet for sale.
A private individual may purchase the kit for right around $100 but it is also available to police agencies in a more advanced form and at a higher price.
There are other programs for creating computerized sketches that are available for free. "Ultimate Flash Face," for example, is simple to use and costs nothing.
Rania Mankarious, with Houston Crime Stoppers, calls the new software programs invaluable in helping to fight crime.
"I think anything a victim can do, or an eyewitness to crime can do to help solve a crime is extremely important, and I would say, 'Yes, use it,'" Mankarious said.
Currently, Faces is being used by more than 5,000 police agencies around the world.