Forensic Science Program to Stage Crimes in Local House

A crime will be committed in a house on University Drive this semester.

But, even with advance knowledge, local police aren’t the least bit concerned. In fact, what happens in the house may ultimately benefit them.

That’s because Eastern Kentucky University’s Forensic Science Program has obtained use of a University-owned house on the northern periphery of campus in order to stage crime scenes and better prepare their students for real-life scenarios.

“While our forensics program curriculum completely covers essentials to prepare a student for a lab career in either forensic chemistry or forensic biology, we had not focused on assistance at crime scenes in the past,” said Barbara Wheeler, who teaches in the program. “In reality, some forensic labs do respond to crime scenes when necessary. Because of this, providing the instruction on crime scene actions (scene documentation, processing, correct collection and packaging of evidence, and writing crime scene reports) will help prepare the student who may be required to respond to a scene in the future. While it is easy to lecture about the necessary steps to take at a scene, it is better to teach this area with examples. Having a house will allow us to provide this type of instruction.”

The idea, Wheeler, is to provide EKU students with a “complete forensic experience, taking them from the very beginning of an investigation, at the scene and all the way through evidence testing and testimony. Students have learned how to collect evidence, but to detect and correctly collect and package takes skill. Documentation is also something that requires a lot of critical thinking and detail. This will give them the opportunity to develop those skills.”

Faculty plan to equip two living rooms, two offices, one bedroom and one kitchen, so that almost any type of indoors crime will be possible. Additional rooms will be used for blood spatter interpretation and materials storage. Dummies will be used as victims.

The first crime scenes are planned for mid-March, Wheeler said.

 Scenes will be staged during only daylight hours and “designed in a way that they are safe for students so neighbors shouldn’t have a concern for safety,” Wheeler said. “All events will be staged with non-hazardous materials and require very limited chemical use, since all analysis will be conducted in the New Science Building. No controlled substances or weapons will be used as evidence or stored in the house.

“Since it is harder to set up and control outside scenes, we don’t plan on doing any right now,” Wheeler added, “so neighbors’ view of things will be very limited.”

Established in 1974, EKU’s Forensic Science Program is one of the oldest in the nation, and one of only 18 undergraduate programs in the U.S. accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Its forensic science chemistry option is also nationally accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, and the University will likely apply for accreditation for the newer biology option in 2016, Wheeler said.

For more information about the program, visit www.forensicscience.eku.edu.

Published on March 09, 2015

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