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JCC CSI camp teaches crime investigations aren’t glamorous

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Unlike in the popular CSI television series, students at Jefferson Community College’s crime scene investigation camp this week learned that crimes cannot be solved in an hour.

On Wednesday, students from fifth through eighth grade used old-fashioned police identi-kits to create composite drawings of their favorite celebrities.

“It’s what the police officers used to use” with witnesses, said instructor Mark M. DeVito. “The new one is all on the computer, but this is the old one we do by hand.”

Mr. DeVito is a retired Jefferson County sheriff’s detective and currently is a detective sergeant with the Fort Drum police. He has used toned-down versions of crimes he investigated to create lesson plans for the past nine years the summer camp has run.

Right after the CSI series went on air, there would be up to 30 aspiring forensic scientists in the summer camp. There were nine students in the program this week. Mr. DeVito wanted to make sure they understand investigating a crime scene is not as glamorous as the show makes it seem.

According to 13-year-old Jillian R. DeFranco from Immaculate Heart Central, that was one of the many lessons she learned this week.

“The TV shows take no time to do it,” she said. “Doing it in real life takes more time.”

Another 13-year-old, Luke Marshall from Indian River Middle School, said he has learned a lot about laws and how to take care of an investigation.

“It’s fun,” he said. “We mainly have long talks, then do an activity.”

By the end of Wednesday’s class, student groups put their composite drawings of celebrities, some of which represented rapper Eminem and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, on an overhead projector. Students identified who the celebrity was by matching up the nose, lips or jaw line.

“The main thing about a composite drawing is that they’re not photographs,” said Mr. DeVito. The students “have to look for specific features.”

Throughout the week, the students have made plaster casts of footprints and tire tracks in the mud, dusted for fingerprints and learned how to observe forensic details. When the camp ended Friday, Mr. DeVito set up a basic crime scene for the students to figure out using all the skills they had attained.

“The final conclusion is that, if you ask them,” they’ll say it’s not like TV, he said. “TV is entertainment. It’s not realistic.”

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