Criminal investigations are not something people normally associate with 4-H, but recently students from the area attended a camp where they learned how to solve crimes.
Last week, Davidson County 4-H hosted students from five other local counties for a three-day summer camp focusing on criminal investigations using science, technology, engineering and math.
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“The main thing is to introduce kids to forensic science and STEM education, but also teach them the potential criminal justice career fields they can go into. They can interview local professionals and learn what it takes to get into those positions,” said Matt Barber, 4-H and Youth Development agent for the NC Cooperative Extension of Davidson County.
The camp is for rising 6th, 7th and 8th graders and included students from Davidson, Alamance, Rockingham, Caswell and Forsyth.
According to Barber, on the first day of camp, students are given a mock homicide case and use various techniques, including fingerprinting, blood typing, DNA extraction and footprints to develop suspects. On the last day, they reveal their results and find out if they were correct.
During the second day of the camp, the students toured the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, the Davidson County Courthouse and the Davidson County Jail.
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In court, students learned from judges and lawyers about their role in prosecuting criminals. They also learned about each stage of a trial and the different laws for different crimes. The group also visited the county jail.
At the sheriff’s department, campers were able to learn how criminal evidence is collected, stored and examined. They also learned about the different equipment used by the sheriff’s office, including K9 units, motorcycle patrol, water rescue and the SWAT team.
Although the 4-H Explorers Camp has been held in other counties before, this is the first time Davidson County has hosted the event.
“I really, really, really love 4-H,” said camper Bella Hedrick. “You can learn all kinds of things. I never knew you could tell so much just from a person’s footprint or how much difference there is in fingerprints. If I can come back next year, I definitely will…It’s really fun.”
Another camper, Aiden Wilson, said he really enjoys learning about all the different departments in the sheriff’s office and the equipment they use.
“My favorite part was the motorbikes and the dogs. I also learned how to investigate crime,” Aiden said.
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Cpl. Chris Azleton with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Division said it’s important for local law enforcement to engage with the community, especially students.
“Most of the time when people think about law enforcement, they don’t think about science and math,” Azelton said. “So we like them to come here not only to see what we do, but to understand that there are many different aspects of the Sheriff’s Office…They see that we use computer labs and all kinds of things different; that there is a mathematical equation that you use for blood splatters. It just makes them realize that we solve crimes using science and math.”
Barber said the camp also teaches students that solving and prosecuting crimes is not what they see on television and requires a lot of technical and legal work. He said the ultimate goal is to show these students that math and science are integral to many different careers.
“STEM is the main focus of 4-H,” Barber said. “Forensics and all the science that goes into police investigation and the prosecution of crimes definitely aligns with STEM education.”
General news reporter Sharon Myers can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @LexDispatchSM.