There were 11,817 violent crimes reported in New Mexico in 2011, and crime scene investigators helped to solve many of these cases. Eighty such scientists were employed in New Mexico in 2012 with an average salary of $51,450. The state’s Department of Workforce Solutions has estimated that their ranks will increase by 20% by 2021.
A number of these forensic scientists are specialists in analyzing crime scenes and collecting physical evidence for further analysis. Such crime scene investigators (CSIs) are brought onto the scene as soon as police have secured it. Crime scene investigators perform the following activities:
- Documenting the crime scene
- Collecting physical evidence
- Blood patterns
- Shoe and tire impressions
- Bodily fluids that might contain DNA
- Weapon fragments
- Documenting their findings in writing
- Testifying in court
New Mexico Crime Scene Investigation Units
Nationally 90% of CSIs work for state and local governments. In New Mexico, some of the agencies that employ crime scene investigators include:
- Albuquerque Police Department
- Farmington Police Department Crime Lab
- New Mexico State Police
- Crime Scene Unit
The New Mexico State Police have six specialized crime scene units in Santa Fe, Roswell, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces among other places. These units process about 250 crime scenes a year.
Types of CSI Jobs Found in New Mexico
Some departments employed civilians as specialized crime scene technicians or field evidence technicians, while others train sworn officers in CSI techniques.
The depiction of CSIs in the popular media has created a groundswell of interest in such careers, making the field competitive to get into. To become a civilian CSI in New Mexico, at least an associate’s degree in criminal justice or a related field is generally required. Most CSIs have at least a bachelor’s degree with some having graduate degrees. Many criminal justice programs offer a specialty in CSI.
Prospective students can obtain degrees in criminal justice from schools located in New Mexico or from online schools that offer such degrees. Students should also take as many hard science classes as they can to prepare themselves to do forensic work.
Some departments have special investigators who are sworn officers carrying out their CSI work. Generally the base educational requirement to become a law enforcement official in New Mexico is a high school diploma or GED. Applicants can enhance their chances of being accepted by obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Generally officers who are chosen to perform forensic work have several years of experience and have distinguished themselves in the field.
Both types of CSIs continue their education throughout their employment. Forensic technology evolves rapidly and continuing course work can help to keep up with the changes.
CSI Certification in New Mexico
Once individuals have become established as CSIs in New Mexico’s various law enforcement organizations, many choose to join the International Association of Identification. This group of forensic scientists provides training and certification to those who are highly skilled in their field. This recognition can prove invaluable when CSIs are called to testify in court as this professional acknowledgement adds credibility.