WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – On Wednesday morning in West Haven, a group of high school students was on the trail of a killer. It’s all part of a crime scene investigation summer camp. The crimes may be made up, but it is run by very real instructors from the University of New Haven.
In the living room of a house on Rockdale Road, it looks like a game of cards turned deadly. Now, it’s up to a team of crime scene investigators to document all the evidence.
“They’ve got a report from first responders who located a deceased person in here and they are taking it from there,” explained Daniel Maxwell, a University of New Haven lecturer, and a retired police officer.
“They” are all high school students, and the action is all part of the Crime Scene Investigation Academy at the University of New Haven. It’s been going on for about 15 years: A summer camp for teens thinking about a future in solving crimes. Teens like Paige Twohill, a 17-year-old from Wallingford.
“I like that there is so much detail going into it,” Twohill said. “There are so many steps, and the fact that you have to have a system to be able to solve a crime and make sure it’s the right person you’re looking for.”
One of the biggest challenges for the instructors is overcoming what kids pick up from watching TV shows. In real life, nobody ever walks into a room where a murder happened and just stumbles on the clue that breaks open a case. The investigations also take a lot longer than they do on TV.
“Cases don’t get solved in an hour including commercials and they have the best of equipment,” Maxwell said. “It’s a lot of hard work, it’s a long day.”
The university bought an entire house just for staging crime scenes. There’s also a lab section of the course.
“And half the class is overdoing lab things now,” said Maxwell. “We have two days of this when we split the class in half. They’re doing fingerprints, they’re doing footwear impressions, they’re doing some other things.”
They are all learning that being methodical and paying attention to details are what solve crimes.
“From the moment you step onto the scene and how aware you have to be about your surroundings, and just how much goes into making sure each step is perfectly done to be able to get the job done right,” said Twohill.
The knowledge she is learning now could make her great at doing this for real someday.