Students from Northern West Virginia Community College work at mock crime scene in downtown Wheeling | News, Sports, Jobs

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Photos by Eric Ayres Officer RJ Faldowski of the Wheeling Police Department helps West Virginia Northern Community College criminal justice students process a mock crime scene Monday on campus outside the B&O building.

WHEELING – Students in the West Virginia Northern Community College Criminal Justice Program walked through the yellow stripe of the crime scene and got down to work collecting evidence as part of their classes.

With the help of officers from the Wheeling Police Department – as well as a bullet-riddled dummy on a bench outside the B&O building, students in the Criminal Investigation and Identification class had the chance take practical training on campus outside of the classroom.

“Kids love the hands-on experience,” said instructor John Lantz, director of the criminal justice program at WVNCC. “Here at college, we really try to instill that. This is just one facet of the learning they get here at college. It is a step towards their career. “

Lantz noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, the unique practical opportunities offered by scenarios like the simulated crime scene have not been possible over the past year and a half. With in-person classes and police officers able to participate now, Monday’s mock crime scene – along with unusually pleasant fall weather for the season – provided a perfect opportunity to train for the management tasks that a future crime scene investigator would perform on the job.

“It’s a great experience for the students,” said David Barnhardt, director of communications and student recruitment at WVNCC. “They can learn a lot in the classroom, but once you’re in the field and gain some hands-on experience, it’s invaluable.

For students who cannot attend classes in person, however, Norther’s Criminal Justice Program classes are available online. Currently, over 50 students are enrolled in the program.

“It’s a good program,” said Moundsville freshman Cooper Curto, one of six students in the Criminal Investigation and Identification class. “I like what I’m doing so far. With what we’re doing today, you can see just how much is being invested in investigative work. It’s intense – even more attention to detail than you might think.

The students donned rubber gloves and carefully combed the crime scene around the victim in teams, placing evidence labels on every object moved in the area – from cigarette butts to coffee mug lids, and even bullet casings have been found. The students eventually found a fake weapon that Lantz and the officers planted in a nearby trash can early in the morning while setting up the mock crime scene.

Wheeling Police Department WVNCC campus officer RJ Faldowski was also on hand to help students gather evidence, as well as recruiting officers who work closely with the college’s criminal justice program.

“The officers really like to build a relationship with the students here at the college,” Lantz said.

Once the evidence was noted, the students returned to collect it in evidence bags, recording each item and signing the chain of custody. The items have been taken back to the education building crime lab on campus, and next week they will learn how to collect the item’s fingerprints. Lantz said the grant received about a year ago helped WVNCC build the crime lab to use as part of their courses related to criminal investigations.

The program also works with a criminal justice advisory committee made up of local law enforcement professionals, who note that graduates entering their organizations for the first time really benefit from previous hands-on training that complements the education. in class.

“That kind of breaks the monotony a bit,” Lantz said of the mock crime scene training. “Let’s step out into the fresh air and actually enjoy the real life experience a law enforcement officer would get. “

WVNCC offers two-year criminal justice programs that focus on everything from private investigations to law enforcement, corrections and criminal law. Graduates of the associate’s program often enroll in the police academy or transfer to a four-year institution to complete their bachelor’s degree in a related field of study.

For more information on Northern’s criminal justice programs, visit www.wvncc.edu.

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