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South Dakota College Students Solving Crimes

February 19, 2010, 5:50 PM by Cherlene Richards

SIOUX FALLS, SD - Dusting for fingerprints, packing evidence and solving crimes sound like a day in the life of a crime scene investigator.  But they're also assignments at one South Dakota school.

Students are not only earning a grade, they're hoping to defend their title at a national competition.

Identifying finger prints is about as hands-on as you can get when it comes to getting an education.

And it's what pulled Senior Cassy Baumgaertner toward the field.

“I love science and math, and the criminal justice field, just fascinates me, so I just kinda got into it,” Baumgaertner said. 

That led to working in a forensics lab at the Colorado Technical University. But she hopes to some day solve real crimes with a Criminal Justice degree.

"I pretty much like all of it, being able to do fingerprinting, processing scenes.  It's just pretty amazing,” Baumgaertner said.

She's getting experience to break into the business. Baumgaertner is one of 8 students heading to San Diego next week for a national competition. They'll work together to solve mock crime scenes, complete with evidence and a murder victim.  The team she went with last year took first place.

"You go in and you take pictures of the scene, take video, and then you collect the evidence, in the sense of where is the evidence positioned in the room,” Baumgaertner said.

This is a crime scene re-creation room on campus but when students get out to the competition, they'll be re-creating crimes in a hotel room.

"We'll prepare them as much as we possibly can, but you don't know what circumstances, you’re gonna come across in the real life,” Colorado Technical University Professor Michelle Nichol said.

Whether it's in life, the classroom or a competition, instructors hope their students achieve their goals.

Instructors say the interest in criminal justice and investigations is growing.

Colorado Tech is holding a CSI day Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the university to show people their program.  It's free and open to everyone.

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