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University construction crews are working to build the crime scene rooms in a space in Academic Hall. | Photo by Stephanie R. Jackson
Above: Work continues on the new crime scene house in Academic Hall. Below: Construction plans
show how the rooms and classroom space will be laid out.

Students arriving on the fifth floor of Academic Hall for fall term 2010 may be startled to see what appears to be the front entrance of a home.

Crime scene tape around the front door will suggest this isn't your typical Point Park classroom. Instead, it will be the latest part of the University's one-of-a-kind National Security Training Center, an innovative and exciting teaching facility for students in the criminal justice and intelligence studies majors.

"This crime scene house will be utilized to see if students can put what they have been taught in the classroom into action," said Gregory Rogers, associate professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Intelligence Studies.

The plans for the crime scene rooms show three work areas, plus classroom space for instruction. | Photo by Stephanie JacksonIn addition to the crime scene rooms, the new center includes a forensics lab, where students learn to analyze evidence such as hair, blood spatters and gunshot residue, and a computer lab with the most recent intelligence software so students can train for jobs as intelligence analysts.

The center is being created with help from grant money, including a $95,000 Congressionally-directed Award the University received with support from U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. That grant will go toward technology upgrades, including equipment.

Point Park also received a $25,000 grant from the Remmel Foundation through the PNC Charitable Trust Grant Review Committee for equipment and renovation, and another $10,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development with the support of state Rep. Paul Costa.

Both the forensics lab and the computer lab are up and running, leaving the crime scene house as the final piece of the NSTC to be implemented.

The crime scene rooms are being built, furnished and decorated during summer 2010 to be ready for classes starting fall term 2010, which begins in late August.

The three rooms will be furnished and decorated to re-create distinct areas of a house -- a living room, a home office and bedroom. Each room will have ample space for instructors to teach and observe students as they investigate crime scenarios as part of their course work.

The students majoring in intelligence and national security, criminal justice and forensic science will be the primary users of the center, but students in other programs may also use the facility. For example, photojournalism majors could gain experience photographing a crime scene, while student journalists report on the crime, and theatre majors act in a scene of the crime occurring.

"If we could eventually incorporate actors, media, journalism and sciences, this could be a very educational and entertaining experience," said Edward Strimlan, a Point Park adjunct professor who is chief forensic investigator for Allegheny County's Office of Medical Examiner.

The NSTC will help train students to be an emergency first responder, to process a crime scene, to recognize and analyze evidence, and process the evidence for a court trial.

Beyond classes for Point Park students, the National Security Training Center could be used by other law enforcement and criminal justice agencies in southwestern Pennsylvania to train their personnel and keep up with new techniques and procedures.

Renee Demus, a senior majoring in criminal justice and photography, looks forward to the addition of the crime scene rooms. "Being in this major has allowed a lot of hands-on experience," she said. "The professors really make sure you are learning the full process as you go along."

Photos by Stephanie Jackson, photojournalism major
Article by Megan Nicholson, advertising and PR major