The popularity of the show CSI has never been more apparent than it was this week as its fans gathered to watch the series finale and say goodbye to the original crime solving drama. However, its legacy lives on in an endless array of copycat crime solving shows. Many bare the name CSI, while others simply copy the case of the week formula that helped to popularize other shows like X Files. However, while shows like these may have done much to popularize crime scene investigations and may even have drawn some to pursue a career in the field, the world they portray is not always entirely accurate.
Many crime dramas portray the process of crime scene investigation as a genius driven Sherlock Holmes-esque battle of intuition. Through a mixture of luck and wit, an investigator with a personality is able to notice some lost clue that would otherwise not have been seen. They then piggyback off of the glazed over process of evidence gathering and eventually put criminals behind bars.
However, it is the actual gathering of evidence that is the primary responsibility of a crime scene investigator, and it contributes just as much to capturing criminals as savvy detective work does. However, it doesn’t do so through intuition, but rather through hard work and dedication.
Investigators master a variety of different techniques for combing a crime scene for evidence. A field needs a different touch than a house fire does. Collecting the impressions from a bullet hole and sweeping for powder in an apartment may require a different approach than analyzing bullet fragments in the brick wall of an alleyway. Crime scene investigators, through hard work and dedication, solve crimes that can seem too fantastic for television.