McKeesport middle school students get taste of crime-scene investigations
McKeesport Area eighth-graders are applying their classroom skills to the science of crime-scene investigation.
Students in Founders’ Hall Middle School’s Academy in Math and Science program, known as AIMS, take part in weekly enrichment that includes an extra period of science. The work is extracurricular and challenges students to reach beyond their standard curriculum, watching science unfold in real-life applications.
The focus this year has been on forensic science.
“Students have collected evidence and fingerprints and performed stomach-content analysis,” teacher Amy Kastronis said. “They’re all under the impression, mostly from what they see on television, that everything can be solved in half an hour. I think they’re interested in seeing how this work is done in the real world.”
McKeesport Detective Joe Osinski visited the AIMS class Wednesday to speak about the investigative process and allow students to see the tools of the trade. He covered crime-scene preservation, and collecting and photographing evidence.
Osinski said the most important part of building a credible case is preserving evidence.
“Everybody leaves something at a crime scene, whether it’s DNA through skin cells and hair follicles or it’s a fingerprint or footprint,” he said. “There’s always evidence. The question is whether we can link it to a real suspect.”
Osinski showed students how to use tools such as a digital camera, evidence markers, crime scene tape, hinge lifters for fingerprints, Mikrosil casting putty to take impressions left by instruments of crime, and dental cast to mold footprints out of anything from mud to snow.
“The crime lab is able to tell us with 100-percent certainty that the marks on that door came from this screwdriver that was found in the bad guy’s pocket or that the wear pattern on this person’s shoe matches the footprint we found at a crime scene,” he said.
Eighth-grader Keli Popp, who has been interested in detective work for several years, said she was excited to see a portion of the job with her own eyes.
“I’m learning a lot today, because everything I’ve seen has been on TV,” she said. “It’s even more interesting to know that it’s not just what you see on TV. There are so many people and so many steps involved in being a detective and completing an investigation.”
Classmate Jekai King said he was excited to see what detectives in his community do on a daily basis. He learned about things he didn’t know were happening at the municipal-police level.
“They’re using these skills and this technology to keep our city safe and we can get more criminals off the streets and into jail,” Jekai said.
McKeesport police Chief Bryan J. Washowich said the police department is eager to work with the district as community-police partnerships are a top priority.
“We hope to build stronger relations with our youth, who are our future,” he said. “We thank the school district for the opportunity to demonstrate police procedures and expect some of these teens to explore job opportunities in law enforcement careers.”
AIMS students will continue their forensic science lessons as the course progresses, Kastronis said. They will cast footprints and conduct other experiments.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or [email protected].