University of North Texas

UNT Insider | November 2013 issue | New crime scene investigator certificate offers real-world experience

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New crime scene investigator certificate offers real-world experience

From a UNT News Service press release

Students can delve into the reality version of CSI series in a new state-of-the-art crime scene investigations class offered by UNT's Professional Development Institute.

With more than 240 hours of instruction in five months, a tight-knit team of students will learn to dust for fingerprints with brushes and powders, give courtroom testimony in mock trials and find "invisible" bloodstains using BlueStar -- a chemical that glows blue in the presence of blood.

The class, which began in early October, is geared toward law enforcement professionals, students and others interested in helping solve crimes. Students in the class -- which is not for university course credit -- will receive a certificate and get the experience they need to make themselves more marketable in the highly competitive CSI career field, made popular by recent TV shows, says Andra Lewis, a lecturer of criminal justice in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service and a former crime scene investigator at the Dallas Police Department.

Students in the class explore:

  • Criminal investigation
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Basic fingerprint comparison techniques
  • A 10-print fingerprint course
  • Forensic photography
  • Trace evidence and impression evidence
  • Crime scene sketching
  • Forensic biology and sexual assault investigations
  • Death scene investigations
  • Firearms evidence analysis
  • Courtroom testimony

"We're moving away from crime scene investigators simply being 'baggers and taggers,'" Lewis says. "You need a higher level of understanding of how it really works. A crime scene investigator needs to know what the lab is capable of doing and its relevancy. This helps assure that the people who did the crimes are the ones in jail and not innocent people. When you're on the scene, you don't know at that moment in time if the evidence you find will be relevant and a piece of that puzzle."

Many of the classes are taught in a simulated community known as UNT's Crime Scene City -- which is used for UNT's criminalistics courses -- in Denton. Others are taught at facilities of local law enforcement agencies. Lewis partnered with several agencies for input into the structure of the class.

While crime scene investigations have been made popular by TV, Lewis warns that the reality doesn't necessarily match the small screen -- but the payoff is worth it.

"It's not about wearing stilettos and driving Hummers and chasing bad guys," Lewis says. "It's about giving back to the community."

Ellen Rossetti with UNT News Service can be reached at


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November 2013

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