CSI camp piques students’ interest

Published 10:56 pm Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It seemed like a standard police investigation — black gloves, fingerprint powder and brush, and a recovered stolen vehicle.

The only difference is that the investigators were middle-schoolers, and the vehicle has never really been stolen. The inspection of the vehicle was part of the Suffolk Police Department’s annual CSI camp.

“I think they did really, really well,” Joan Jones, supervisor of the police department’s forensic unit, said. “They’ve enjoyed themselves.”

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The camp drew 28 children in sixth through eighth grades this year. The camp was co-sponsored by the Suffolk Education Foundation, which provided funding and other support.

The campers spent Tuesday in a room at the Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad, where they learned about what crime scene technicians do on a daily basis.

Wednesday, the children split into groups and spent the day investigating mock crime scenes — a robbery, burglary, kidnapping and recovered stolen vehicle.

“We had to work together as a team,” Shavontae Stokes, 13, said. In each team, campers were assigned to be captain, co-captain, collector, sketcher, note taker and lab analyst.

Derrick Thorne, 11, was assigned to be the sketcher for his team. Shavontae and Derrick worked on the case of the stolen vehicle.

“I like to draw, so I drew the crime scene,” Derrick said. “I had to draw the whole area and put everything exactly where it was.”

As Derrick was drawing, Shavontae was taking an impression of a shoe print found near the recovered vehicle.

Derrick’s favorite part of the camp, he said, was “getting to meet new people and learning more about CSI.”

Even though the campers learned a lot, Jones said, she tried to prevent them from learning too much.

“Some of them did ask about decomposing bodies,” she said. “They’re too young to discuss that.”

The children did have many questions about what types of surfaces DNA can be recovered from and other aspects of her work, Jones said.

At the end of the second day of camp, two children already had told her they had changed their career aspirations. One mentioned that he wanted to be a firefighter, but the camp had “piqued his interest.” Another said he wanted to be a crime scene investigator when he grew up.

A graduation for the program is being held today. Jones hopes to continue the program next year.