As the last frontier, Alaska offers challenges to law enforcement officials who seek to solve crimes in the state. In 2010, there were 31 murders and 533 rapes reported in Alaska. The rate of rape is particularly high in the state. It is over 2.7 times that for the U.S. as a whole.
One of the first steps in solving such crimes is to secure the crime scene. Crime scene investigators are then brought onto the site. They are specialized in applying forensic science techniques in the field to examine the evidence and preserve it for further analysis back in the lab. In contrast to what is frequently described in the popular media, it can take up to a week to analyze the scene of a crime.
Crime scene investigators perform the following tasks:
- Photograph and sketch the crime scene and evidence
- Make notes in writing
- Collect physical evidence such as:
- Bodily fluids
- Tracks of shoes or tires
Properly cataloging this evidence is vital to the integrity of investigations.
Alaska Crime Scene Investigation Units
The field of crime scene investigation is projected to grow 18.5% from 2010 to 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of the jobs available in the field are with law enforcement organizations. Frequently, Alaskan crime scene investigators have formal law enforcement training and have augmented their skills by taking courses in crime scene analysis.
Agencies that employ crime scene investigators in Alaska include:
- The Anchorage Police Department
- The Alaska Bureau of Investigation
In Anchorage, the Police Department has a $410,000 38 foot long vehicle that is dedicated to crime scene investigations. The vehicle has its own server to be able to stay connected to headquarters even in remote locations. Storage is given a high priority, since investigators can collect up to 200 pieces of evidence at a crime scene.
Forensic Quality Services, Inc (FQS) recently accorded accreditation to the Anchorage Police Department, formally recognizing the skill of its crime scene investigators.
The Alaska Bureau of Investigation (ABI) provides crime scene instructors to teach these techniques to law enforcement officials throughout the state.
Education and Training to Become a CSI in Alaska
To become a CSI in Alaska typically requires certification as a law enforcement official. This entails formal academy training. Officers who are skilled investigators can get additional training in forensics and specialize in crime scene analysis.
Given the interest in becoming a CSI, there is a lot of competition to join the ranks of these forensic specialists. Candidates can distinguish themselves by having obtained formal training in the techniques of crime scene analysis.
One way to do this is to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Such programs frequently offer a specialty in crime scene investigation. Getting a strong grounding in science can also help prepare aspiring candidates to join the ranks of crime scene investigators.
Residents of Alaska can obtain an education in criminal justice at schools in Anchorage, Fairbanks, or Wasilla. An option to commuting to classes is to take part in the online criminal justice schools that are offered by a number of accredited institutions.
Once individuals have become crime scene investigators, they will need to continually update their skills. This can be done by taking additional college classes or by training from the ABI.
CSI Certification in Alaska
Forensic specialists such as CSIs may want to join the Pacific Northwest Division of the International Association for Identification. This Division of the IAI offers conferences on the techniques of crime scene analysis and certification for various forensic specialties, such as:
- Fingerprint analysis (latent and tenprint)
- Bloodstain pattern analysis
- Forensic photography, art, and video
- Footwear analysis