Don’t call them ‘CSI: Gilpin:’ Police form forensics ID unit
GILPIN — CSI solves a crime in an hour — two hours if it’s a special two-part episode.
In Gilpin Township, where local police now have the resources to gather physical evidence at the scene of a crime just like the TV crime scene investigators in Las Vegas and Miami, it may take a little longer.
Just don’t call us “CSI Gilpin” when we do, police said.
“That’s totally unrealistic,” Gilpin Township police officer Todd Harbaugh said. “CSI frustrates me.
“That’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get to the scene and collect the evidence as quickly as we can.”
Gilpin, in fact, has become the first and only municipality in Armstrong County to have a police department with a forensics identification unit.
Police in Gilpin have recently purchased the necessary scientific crime-solving equipment. Meanwhile, forensics specialist Harbaugh has been doing extensive training in the art of detecting fingerprints, footprints, tire tracks, hair, blood, fibers and tool marks — any and all clues left behind by criminals.
Harbaugh can use a forensic ultraviolet light system that sees prints and fluid stains invisible to the naked eye. Powders and chemicals are included in the unit’s fingerprint lifting kit.
Whenever a theft, burglary, stolen car, assault, sexual assault, shooting or murder occurs in the township or nearby, Gilpin Township police can be on the scene.
Not long ago Harbaugh investigated a burglary at a business.
“It was a simple scene, one small room, but it took four hours to process,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve seen scenes where they investigated from head to toe, anything that looked like it had a print on it, on their hands and knees for days. Sometimes that’s what it takes.”
Police chief Dan Clark said the need for a crime scene investigation unit came as a result of a string of burglaries in the township.
“State police (who have a forensics unit) don’t always have the manpower,” Clark said. “We thought, we can collect our own evidence.”
“We were finding out a lot of the evidence was gone by the time we got there,” added Harbaugh.
Clark said when police explained to local businesses how quickly they could get to a scene and possibly recover evidence before it disappeared, many offered financial support. To date, $3,000 has been donated by businesses and the county, according to Clark. Police are presently in need of a camera with a macro lens and a telescope lens, Clark said.
A number of establishments in the township donated including Kalmar Motors, West Wind Motors, First Commonwealth Bank, Leechburg IGA, Earl’s Jewelers, Stan’s Auto, Bonello’s Restaurant, Quarato’s Plumbing, Valley Plumbing, Leechburg Rotary, Spark Technologies, Lower Kiski EMS, Howard Insurance, Hunt’s Hilltop Service Station and the Leechburg School District.
The Armstrong County Coroner and District Attorney offices also donated funds.
“The nice thing about this is we’re not using county tax dollars,” District Attorney Scott Andreassi said. ‘This is money that has been forfeited through drug arrests. The bad guys are paying for this.”
Andreassi said he sees Gilpin’s forensic unit as a good law enforcement tool and useful in prosecuting crimes.
Forensic science can be used in drug cases to identify a substance, take prints off bags, residue or paraphernalia and off money used in transactions, he said.
“If we can tie the money into the drug transaction, we get to keep it,” Andreassi said. “I look forward to any resource that gives us a better chance for a conviction.
“We’re 100 percent behind this,”