Mobile technology helps students work in field research

Jessica MacIntosh

Due to come out this spring and with the help of some federal grants, the criminal justice department will be receiving a mobile crime lab.

“The mobile crime lab is a crime scene investigation vehicle,” said Wayne Thomason, assistant professor and director of the law enforcement academy.

“It’s really like a mobile crime scene laboratory.”

Thomason said it takes between five and seven months to build and retrofit the vehicle to the proper specifications.

He said the mobile crime lab has all the necessary equipment to process a crime scene from homicide investigation to sexual assault.

“It is really a very comprehensive vehicle that will allow you to go out in the field and really be self-sufficient in processing a crime scene,” he said.

The mobile crime lab is equipped with different types of fingerprinting tools.

“[It has the] type of equipment from different types of powders that you can use at a crime scene to hinge lifters to rubber lifters to handle different types of fingerprints that you might have to deal with,” Thomason said.

The vehicle also has a photographic deck with equipment.

“It would allow you to get on top of the vehicle and take photographs,” he said, “and observe for other physical evidence.”

Thomason said the vehicle has the items to package and collect evidence “to preserve the chain of custody.”

“It is totally set up,” he said.

Along with all the equipment necessary to process a crime scene, it is also heated and air-conditioned. Thomason said one can go to the back of the vehicle to examine evidence and file reports.

“It comes with supplemental lighting and full generators,” he said.

Thomason said there is a “high level” of interest in the area of crime scene investigation. He said the students will be able to see exactly how it is being done in the field.

“It is critical for us at Missouri Southern to be on the cutting edge of technology and to be able to provide to our students state-of-the-art equipment,” he said. “When they graduate and go out into the field, [they] have had experience working with the type of equipment that they will see in the various departments.”

Thomason said the hope is to take the mobile crime scene vehicle to crime scenes.

“We will be an asset to the community,” he said.

The vehicle will be used in the criminal justice classes.

“It will also be available for our academy students when they study crime scene investigation,” Thomason said. “We plan to put it to its fullest use and get as many students involved with the program as possible.”

He said the faculty in the department is “enthusiastic” about the crime scene vehicle.

Derek Ladd, sophomore criminal justice major, said it is beneficial for criminal justice majors and others who are interested in the class.

“It’s a technique and another tool for gathering information in the field,” Ladd said.

Thomason said this is an “excellent” example of a cooperative agreement with the school of technology.

“It’s a great example of the school of technology, the criminal justice and the University working together to provide the finest equipment available for Missouri Southern students,” he said.