06/12/08 — WCC adds crime scene investigation to criminal justice program

View Archive

WCC adds crime scene investigation to criminal justice program

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 12, 2008 1:46 PM

The criminal justice department at Wayne Community College will expand in three areas this fall.

WCC is adding a CSI-type (Crime Scene Investigation) forensics degree, an online program geared to law-enforcement workers, and a dual enrollment arrangement with a four-year college.

Duane Everhart, instructor of public and human services, said it's an invigorating time for the program.

Probably the most exciting addition, he said, is the latent evidence program -- crime scene processing.

The self-contained program will feature 23 courses, culminating in a degree in criminal justice technology/latent evidence.

It's taken nearly a year to develop the program, he said.

Not many colleges offer it, although Mount Olive College and East Carolina University "jumped on the bandwagon" early, Everhart said. Johnston Community College, Fayetteville State University and Nash Community College are also offering similar courses of study.

"We have geared this to our own needs," Everhart said.

The popularity of the TV show "CSI" has sparked an interest that hopefully will generate future enrollments, he said.

"It's been well thought out -- the time is right," he said. "From what we have studied, it's going to be one of the fastest-growing fields."

Uncertain how plentiful jobs will be locally, Everhart said he tells students interested in the program they may be seeking employment opportunities outside of Wayne County.

In addition to the basic college curriculum, latent evidence focuses on crime scene processing and studying such areas as trace evidence and investigative principles.

"They're going to get some hands on experience in forensic biology. They'll get to go into a laboratory and see how the lab technicians would process evidence," he said.

"They'll do crime scene processing -- take measurements, identify evidence, search for evidence. We'll teach students to be able to study fingerprints, palm prints and other evidence."

Seven of the classes offered will have a lab component, he said. Typical class size will be 10 to 15 students and everything will be contained at Wayne Community College, and the program can be completed in two years.

Currently, efforts are being made to acquire additional staff for the program, as well as state of the art equipment.

"We just ordered a 'blue MAXX' which, if you watch CSI, you'll recognize as the blue lights they use," Everhart said. "That and the us of a special chemical will allow investigators to see evidence that's not visible to the naked eye."

So far, recruitment for students is being done by word of mouth -- tour groups and law enforcement agencies interested in additional training. Even some of the college's graduates have expressed interest in returning for the degree, Everhart said.

"I'm excited about this. I have fun. I teach the investigative principles class, which I have taught as a real general course," he said. "This will take it into specifics."

Another program geared to criminal justice professionals interested in completing their associate's degree will now be offered entirely online.

Criminal Justice Technology Online for Police/Corrections Services, or COPS, can be completed in less than two years. Divided into courses every eight weeks, it is set up for officers to work at their own pace and around their own schedule.

"With constantly changing shifts, it's really difficult for them to come in to the classes," Everhart said.

While it's not restricted to those already in law enforcement, most of those enrolled are working on advancing their professional degrees.

Although students in the program work independently, the online aspect does include discussion boards and opportunities to interact with other students.

"Online classes are actually a little harder than if they were to come and sit in the classroom," Everhart said. "It requires more work to make sure that we know they're getting the material, much more rigor and requires them to spend probably as much time on the computer as if they were in the classroom."

Those interested in continuing their criminal justice studies will also be able to take advantage of a dual- enrollment arrangement with Fayetteville State University (FSU).

Everhart said the agreement at this point is solely with the associate degree in criminal justice, and not applicable for college transfer students.

It's "very unique," he said.

"Students will be enrolled both here and at FSU and can take classes either place," he explained. "For a student who lives in Wayne County, they could take classes with us. If there's a class that they need that we weren't offering at the time, though, they could take it with FSU and still get credit."

The biggest advantage, however, is that WCC graduates can make a smooth transition to completing their bachelor's degree at FSU.

"We have been actually encouraging some students looking at going to a four-year school to consider going to Fayetteville State," Everhart said. "We have had a good relationship for some time. This will make it even easier for them."

For more information on any of the criminal justice programs, contact Everhart at 735-5151, ext. 726 or visit the college Web site at www.waynecc.edu.