Arrest of serial rapist draws interest in art of montageHunched over a computer monitor, two police officers busily use a mouse to sketch the face of a suspect, doing and re-doing his features until they look familiar to a witness.
“Our database has 11,000 examples each for 10 facial features such as eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks and chin. Three hundred new montages are updated each year and about 10 percent of them lead to an actual arrest,” said Hong Beom-gi, the lieutenant in charge of the montage unit of the Korean Police Department of Scientific Investigation in Migeun-dong, Seoul.
Korean police have been using the “Montage Drawing System” software for years, but the technique grabbed the public’s attention recently when it helped to catch a notorious serial rapist nicknamed “Balbari,” which roughly translates as “a dog that runs around a lot.” The public was surprised that sketches of Balbari, who is accused of raping about 100 women, looked so similar to his photograph.
Balbari’s montage was drawn at the Scientific Investigation Bureau of South Chungcheong Provincial Police Agency last spring, based on descriptions by three female victims. He was finally arrested on Jan. 30. “His montage was somewhat different from his actual appearance, but his pointy chin and keen eyes were there, and it was a big help in catching him,” said Lieutenant Yang Seung-jin of the east police station of Daejeon.
The Korean Police Scientific Investigation Department and the Scientific Investigation Bureau of provincial police agencies are in charge of drawing montages based on descriptions by witnesses or victims. Three agents are responsible for drawing montages at the National Police Agency and one agent is assigned to the job at each provincial police department.
“Montages play an important role in resolving otherwise unsolved cases,” said a police officer dealing with felonies.
A suspect of 11 robberies and seven murders since 2003 was also caught recently thanks to montage ― a nearby resident notified the police after seeing the drawings.
In another case, a montage played a critical role in arresting someone suspected of kidnapping an actor. The sketch was produced from descriptions given by a taxi driver who had witnessed the abduction.
Sometimes witnesses are hypnotized when they cannot remember the crime scene correctly. In August 2005, the police drew an image of a suspect by hypnotizing a middle school student, who was the son of a victim and the only witness.
Drawing an accurate montage is difficult because as it is based entirely on a witness’ description. “Victims tend to be insecure and have limited memories, so it is virtually impossible to draw a montage that is identical to a criminal’s face,” said Yu In-seon, a police sergeant of South Chungcheong Provincial Police Agency. “A montage is just an image, not a portrait.”
by Kwon Ho