An ambitious project at the University of New Haven hopes to put the popular crime television program “America’s Most Wanted” out of business.
This past Thursday, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and officials at the University of New Haven announced $2 million in federal funding for the creation of a new National Crime Scene Training Center at the university.
The main goal of the center’s organizers is to standardize the procedure for collecting and analyzing evidence from crime scenes. Officials at the University of New Haven said the center, which is scheduled to open in January, is the first of its kind in the nation.
“There is no uniform or standard procedure around the country that involves the trail of evidence from the crime scene to the crime laboratory to the courtroom,” said University of New Haven Director of Public Affairs Rick Eaton.
Officials at the center hope the standardization of such evidence collection and analysis will help solve cases that would otherwise be unsolvable due to incorrect evidence collection or the simple overlooking of evidence.
“The outcomes of some of the most notorious crimes of the country were altered because of the improper handling of evidence,” Eaton said, referring to such famous examples as the O.J. Simpson case, the Chandra Levy case, and the JonBenet Ramsey case.
“We’ve had so many major cases that are unsolvable or improperly solved because of failures of crime scene personnel to properly recognize, preserve, and collect evidence at the scene,” said Dr. Albert Harper, Director of the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science. “Pick a big case, and you’ll find something wrong at the crime scene. The evidence is not properly collected.”
The Henry C. Lee Institute is part of the University of New Haven and will serve as headquarters for the National Crime Scene Training Center. Lee is a world-renowned forensics scientist and teaches at the University of New Haven.
Harper, who will also be the director of the new center, said its aim will be to teach professionals that already work in crime laboratories. However, officials also plan to offer training to people in other professions that deal with evidence at crime scenes.
“It could cut across all professions ranging from the police officer to the prosecutor to judges,” Eaton said.
The training costs for students will be fully subsidized by the federal funds, Harper said.
The center will offer three weeklong introductory courses each month, in addition to a large number of monthly specialty courses, Harper said.
Harper said the three introductory courses will cover what happens at a crime scene, evidence collection procedures, and forensic evidence and science. These three courses will lead into the more advanced specialty courses.
The $2 million in federal funds will be distributed over a two-year project grant period, Harper said. Half of the funds will subsidize the tuition and other expenses of the students, while $500,000 will fund new equipment, $250,000 will renovate a classroom building and laboratories and another $250,000 will pay for personnel, Harper said.
Harper said he expects 500 people to participate in the programs offered at the center.
Eaton said people can begin registering for the classes now.