With the public’s appetite for forensic science whetted by television crime dramas like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” the courses that Norman Cetuk teaches at Centenary College in northwestern New Jersey have become increasingly popular, reports the Associated Press. Cetuk said the shows had little to do with reality. “These type of shows only highlight the glamorous aspects of the job,” said Cetuk, a retired arson investigator. “You don’t see the everyday frustrations, limitations of working within a budget, time constraints, handling 30 to 50 cases a month, the human tragedy that as an officer or investigator you also have to deal with at a crime scene.” His courses topics like processing crime scenes, examining dead bodies for signs of foul play, collecting tiny fiber evidence, and using fingerprint and DNA evidence in investigations and prosecutions.
Colleges, high schools, and even some grammar schools have seen a dramatic increase in the popularity of forensics courses since “CSI” made its debut. In Virginia, enrollment in Old Dominion University’s criminal justice program increased nearly 14 percent from 2002 to 2003. In Newport News, a middle school offered forensic science to seventh- and eighth-graders, and 100 immediately signed up. The class has a long waiting list, as do programs in Michigan, Montana and elsewhere. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences can also attest to the growing interest. Over three years, more than 5,000 parents and students have sought information and more than 1,000 teachers have asked about incorporating forensic science into their lesson plans.
One top: many fires don’t start quickly. When Cetuk drops a cigarette on a pile of clothing, nothing happens right away. Only 20 minutes later is there even a hint of smoke rising from it. A fire in a couch or bed can take four hours to really get going. “If someone says, ‘I dropped a cigarette on it, and it burst into flames,’ uh-uh,” he said.