The Charger Blog

High School Students Become Crime Scene Investigators at University’s Summer Academy

Known for its criminal justice and forensic science programs, the University of New Haven extends its educational opportunities to high school students through a summer camp that enables them to step into the world of crime scene investigation.

August 21, 2019

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of summer camp
High school students explored crime scene investigation at the University’s summer camp.

Joe Clancy recently dusted for fingerprints and packaged evidence at a crime scene, as other "investigators" nearby took pictures and notes. Clancy, who is 17 years old, was one of the high school students who explored criminal justice and forensic science this summer as part of the University’s Crime Scene Investigation Academy.

Image of summer camp
Joe Clancy packaging evidence.

Clancy credits an earlier visit to University of New Haven with piquing his curiosity in forensic science.

"Seeing the Henry C. Lee Institute got me interested," said Clancy, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. "Just being there is exciting. I have enjoyed learning about the tools that real investigators use. This entire experience has been incredible."

The nearly 60 students enrolled in the two weeklong sessions learned about the history of policing and investigations, while gaining hands-on experience. Led by University of New Haven faculty members, the program enabled students to work in a laboratory and collaborate on an investigation of their own by processing a mock crime scene at the University’s crime scene house.

Madelyn Oller, 16, a Bridgeport, Connecticut native, took pictures and processed evidence in the backyard.

"This entire experience has been incredible."Joe Clancy

"I’ve always been interested in criminology, especially in how and why people commit crimes and how those crimes are solved," she said. "The University of New Haven is my top school, and I looked forward to the Crime Scene Investigation Academy because I wanted to explore what this work was like. I love everything about it."

Image of summer camp
Orly Baum enjoyed being an investigator during the weeklong camp.

Students recorded blood spatter, dusted weapons for fingerprints, and collected samples of drugs – all of it fake. Still, the scene was staged to look as real as possible, similar to, as one student put it, "a house party gone very wrong." Faculty members wanted students to gain a more realistic idea of what crime scene investigation entails – something that TV shows and movies don’t always portray accurately.

"I love everything about it."Madelyn Oller, 16
Image of summer camp
Students conducted a mock investigation at the University’s crime scene house.

"I was struck by how different investigating a crime scene is from what you see on TV," said Nate Barczak, 16, of Branford, Connecticut. "It is much more in depth from what I had expected, and it fascinates me."

Although it was a mock crime scene, the cutting-edge equipment that students used in their investigation was real. Peter Massey and Daniel Maxwell, the faculty members who led the program, say that students increasingly want to be out in the field – rather than in a laboratory – and the field is headed in that direction.

Image of summer camp
Nate Barczak takes photos at the crime scene house.

Equipment, they say, is becoming increasingly portable, enabling investigators to use it in the field, and to get results faster. Students used such tools in their investigations, including a "vampire," a stand-alone – and portable – automated fingerprint identification system that enables investigators to compare prints.

For students like Orly Baum, a 15-year-old from New Haven, becoming an investigator for the week was exciting – and eye-opening.

"I came here not knowing much about crime scene investigation, but I am leaving knowing a lot," said Baum. "I learned that when investigating a crime scene, one must be very attentive and careful."