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Mount Captures First Place in Robert Fram CSI Challenge

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Madeline Smith, C'20, who along with her teammates Giselle Tolentino, C'20, and Jūratė Reventas, C'20, took first place in the 16th annual Robert 'Bob' Fram CSI Challenge on March 23, succinctly summed up the event: “The CSI Challenge allows us the opportunity to learn new skills, bond with others and win one for the Mount.” Twenty-two teams from Mount St. Mary's University, Towson University, Montgomery College, and Guelph Humber University in Toronto, Canada, competed this year.

csi-photograph.jpgThe CSI Challenge, established to promote educational pursuits in the career fields of forensic science and criminal investigation, is organized and managed by the Mount’s Criminal Justice Student Association (CJSA) and co-sponsored by the Frederick Police Department. “The Mount has numerous alumni who serve in all segments of local, state and federal law enforcement as well as the intelligence community and are proud of those who have chosen this profession and strive to live a life of significance by serving others,” said Professor and CJSA Faculty Advisor Joseph J. Vince, Jr. "At the Mount the educational experience does not stop at the classroom. We strive to provide students with unique real-world understandings that make them professionally ready for the challenges they will face in law enforcement and intelligence careers.” 

Participating in the CSI Challenge as judges and witnesses are local crime scene technicians, other law enforcement officers and faculty members from the various universities who have had experience in crime scene investigations, forensics and anthropology.  This year students also had the opportunity to meet two FBI intelligence analysts to discuss how data assists law enforcement in solving crimes.

csi-prints.jpgStudent competitors are dispatched to a replicated crime scene of an actual case to fully investigate that crime. Team members are judged on their display of professionalism, expertise in crime scene evidence collection and preservation, written case preparation and interviewing witnesses, critical thinking and team coordination as they process their designated crime scene. Students are given 50 minutes at the crime scene and 40 minutes to write their reports, resulting in a grueling competition. 

During the 50-minute crime scene investigation, three-member teams process the crime scene by photographing, sketching, collecting DNA and fingerprints, preserving blood stains, gathering shell casings and accumulating other crime scene evidence. When the evidence is collected, it must be properly submitted and a crime narrative report prepared within 40 minutes. Teams are judged by detectives of the Frederick Police Department’s Criminal Investigative Unit, forensics and crime scene technicians.

In addition to providing first-hand experience, the CSI Challenge also provides participants with opportunities to meet with and interact with law enforcement officers and other professionals who work in the field. Frederick City Police Department Chief Edward Hargis said, “The interactions between students and law enforcement today is essential for helping guide these students on the path to one day working in the field of law enforcement.”

csi-measure.jpgThis year’s replicated crime scene was based on an actual murder investigation conducted by the Arlington County Police Department in Virginia. At the conclusion of the competition, students learned first-hand how the case was investigated and solved from the officers themselves. Officers Tara Crider and Bridget Meyer of the Arlington Police Department outlined the investigation step-by-step to its successful prosecution. The students learned that an estranged husband brutally murdered his ex-wife and staged a burglary to hide his nefarious deed. The forensic evidence uncovered at the scene proved pivotal in identifying the husband as the perpetrator as well as gaining a guilty verdict.

Officer Crider praised the students for their educational pursuits and expertise displayed in the CSI Challenge, noting that “the actual crime scene investigation took my team nine days to process, and I am amazed what you were able to accomplish in 50 minutes.”

Mount student Amani Jones, C'21, gained confidence by participating in the event. “Maybe I can do this for real," she said. "Maybe I can use these skills that I’m learning and the information that I gather and figure out how real things like this work."

csi-report.jpgMount seniors Colby Jews, Krysten Peterson and Drew Bonner of Team Alpha, who finised in fifth place, have competed for four years and are preparing for further study or employment. Peterson has been offered a position at Xcelerate Solutions, while Bonner will be entering a Ph.D. program in sociology at George Mason University. Jews recently interviewed at Xcelerate Solutions and is also considering options with local law encorcement agencies. 

The names, team members and scores for the top-finishing teams follow. The first-place team earned a $500 cash prize and the permanent engraving of their names on the CSI Excellence Cup. The second place team received $250 and the third place team $150. 

  1. They Shall Not Be Named – Madeline Smith, criminal justice major, Giselle Tolentino, biology major, and Jūratė Reventas, international studies major  – 155 points (Mount team)
  2. CRA – (Canadian Revenue Agency) - Ryan French, Amalea Witteveen and Caelyn Edwards – 152 points
  3. RCMP (Royal Canadian Maple Police) – Jennifer Rosa, Kody Li and Kiersten Lecor – 145 points
  4. Mystery Inc. – Rachael Mattio, Kelly Eustace and Hannah Burns – 144 Points (Mount team); DEA (Don’t Expect Anything) - Sarah Dennie, Joanne Change and Nicloas Di-Biase – 144 Points
  5. Team Alpha – Colby Jews, Krysten Peterson and Drew Bonner – 141 Points (Mount team)