By Edwin Vega
For the Fort Bend Star
As part of the Teen Academy and a new two-week program, local area students had the opportunity to practice what many have only seen on television.
The teens joined Sugar Land police in a crime scene investigation. The one-of-a-kind training experience was in collaboration with the Sugar Land Crime Prevention Unit and was developed to engage students in a variety of topics designed to foster relationships, trust and understanding between officers and teens. Participants had the opportunity to gain an understanding of police operations through specialized presentations and hands-on activities.
“It gives us a great opportunity to talk to them in a more relaxed situation,” said Lauren Stockholm, Sugar Land Police Crime Prevention Officer. “They get to see why we do the things we do, there’s a lot of mystery and misinformation about police officers. Our goal is to open up lines of communication, while teaching them the fundamentals of a crime scene investigation.”
Students conducted a crime scene investigation at a park under the supervision of law enforcement officers. Following a presentation on the work of crime scene investigators, a mock scene was staged and participants assisted the investigators to process the scene and solve the crime.
Upon arrival of the mock scene, investigators instructed participants to ask important questions such as: Did the crime occur in this room? Has any object been moved? Are there signs of a struggle? Questions meant to exercise their problem solving, critical thinking and communication skills. They were divided into two groups and took turns interacting and solving the crime.
Participants were instructed on how to properly photograph and make appropriate notes of the scene, how to identify evidence located within the scene and surrounding area, evaluate the condition of the evidence, determine if any additional equipment or personnel are needed, consult with officers to determine what potential evidence needs to be recorded and recovered and what processing will occur at the scene.
They also participated in the fingerprint analysis process, which includes collecting prints, analysis, evaluating and verification.
“I think it’s really fun, the whole finger printing system. It’s a good way to introduce people to forensics,” said Skyler Erlander, a student at Lamar Consolidated High School. “The officers have been really friendly and have really connected with us.”
The Sugar Land Police Department sponsored this event, not only to introduce participants to the crime scene investigation process, but also to help bridge the gap of trust between teens and law enforcement. Participants got the opportunity to work with law enforcement officers in a one-on-one situation, which helped strengthen the communication process.
When Ben Erlander found out about the hands-on program from his homeowners association, he knew it would be beneficial for his 15-year-old son Skyler to participate.
“It’s really important for Skyler to develop positive relationships with different members of our law enforcement community,” Erlander said. “So if they ever needed to interact with him, he would feel comfortable interacting with them.”
The Sugar Land Police Department plans to continue this program on a yearly basis in hopes of promoting positive interactions between teens and law enforcement.
“Anything that we can do to strengthen the communication with teens and young adults will cause positive relationships,” said Mike Richards, a lieutenant with the Sugar Land Crime Scene Unit. “They’re going to have a better understanding of how we do things.”
For more information about the Police Department Teen Academy, visit www.sugarlandtx.gov/1467/Police-Department-Teen-Academy.