Kids’ take on forensics

Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Measuring: Azana Carr measures a handgun in the mock crime scene of an armed robbery at a bank at the Junior Forensic Camp Wednesday. Carr and other camp attendees worked together to investigate the scene, collect the evidence and decide what they believed happened at the scene.

After evaluating the scene and taking note of the evidence, crime scene investigator Seth Erpko is sure someone was robbed at this bank.

The most overwhelming piece of evidence, he said, was a piece of paper on the ground, scribbled with the words “Give me all of your money!”

As Seth sat down to sketch the scene of the crime, he consulted with his team’s note-taker, Qurante Budd, to ensure every detail of the scene was documented perfectly so their work wouldn’t be challenged in court.

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They performed their jobs just as they were instructed in the teaching portion of the Junior Forensics Camp, which is hosted by the Suffolk Forensic Unit. The three-day camp started Tuesday.

Seth and Qurante are two of 22 students who signed up for this year’s camp.

The camp, which has been held for six years, is an opportunity for rising seventh- and eighth-graders to learn about crime scene investigation by learning and applying lessons professional CSI technicians use every day.

“We just try to teach them the basics,” said Joan Jones, who heads up the unit. “Everything we have in our brains, we try to teach them in three days.”

Jones, who came up with the idea for the camp, said the forensic team tries to simplify the nine weeks of material they were required to learn for their jobs for these students.

From that, she said, they instill one mantra that is at the basis of all crime scene investigation: Photos, notes, sketches.

During the camp, the attendees learned the ins and outs of these investigation techniques. They learned how to measure out a scene and everything in it to put in your notes. They also discover the different distances from which they have to take photos – overall, mid-range and close-up.

“We told them you can never take enough photos,” Jones said.

After instruction, the students broke into groups to investigate mock crime scenes and decide what happened using the evidence and their knowledge.

In Seth and Qurante’s crime scene, Azana Carr took Jones’ advice and snapped as many photos as she could of every inch of the setting.

She captured various photos of the gun, a stray boot, a black T-shirt and a bullet casing that were scattered about the scene.

As she snapped pictures to add to their evidence, Azana said this is exactly why she signed up for the camp.

“I wanted to learn how they figure out mysteries,” she said. “You really have to search for clues, and it’s not what you expect.”

Azana’s team leader Derrick Thore attended the camp last year. He liked solving the mysteries so much he came back.

“I really like these classes,” he said. “I find it interesting.”

After they had collected and sealed the evidence, Derrick’s team had to put their heads together to decide exactly what happened. The group will present its findings to the other campers and parents at the camp’s reception Thursday.

Jones said she thinks the forensic camp has been a great success, and she hopes to add another session next summer.