2 Stamford cops fight crime with art

STAMFORD - The Stamford police department has harnessed the creativity of two officers to help turn eyewitness descriptions into arrests.

Detective Mike Wagner, who has an artistic background, and officer Andy Pernicaro, who used to draw cartoons in his spare time, teamed up to train as professional forensic sketchers.

With more than 40 years on the force between them, the two men understand the importance of details in every case.

?A lot of cases can be dead ends because there are no mug shots of the people you're talking about,? says Wagner.

The artistic duo uses FBI techniques to help witnesses distinguish facial features ? from eyes to the shape of a person's head. Wagner explains that their job is to produce the likeness of a suspect based on his or her image in the eyewitness?s memory.

?It's kind of amazing because you're basing it on what you're pulling out of an interview,? Wagner says.

Wagner and Pernicaro are not only working to solve crimes in Stamford. They are also collaborating with other police departments throughout southwestern Connecticut.

Stamford is the only department in southwestern Connecticut that has trained officers doing forensic sketching. Some police departments have replaced sketch artists with computer-generated pictures, while others use civilian artists to compile a suspect's description.

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