A Lesson In Crime

Where there's smoke there's fire and criminal justice students at USM Gulf Park will use some real hands on experience to decide why it's there. Getting a chance to apply the knowledge out in the field is an opportunity that will put them way ahead of other students that can only read about it. Tom Payne is a professor at the campus and an instructor for the arson class and says, "They'll use the techniques that they've been learning in the classroom more practically here on this scene and investigate just what happened; they'll be required to tell us what burned where and what caused it."

In an open field there will be three vehicles and two make shift structures that will each be set on fire and represent a fire started by an arsonist. The fires will burn now and then the next day the 30 students taking the advanced arson class will be on the scene to break down the how's, why's and where's.

Payne says, "As arson investigators they work in the dirt and the grime and the fire, they have to be able to smell it and live it and that's what we're trying to expose them to here."

With the five different crime scenes simulated in the open area; including, a fire to cover up a homicide, and a fire started by a drug lab inside a vehicle, it's an exercise that has real life possibilities for the students that will investigate each scene.

Payne says, "It's a practical thing they can use and they'll be able to put it to work just as soon as they graduate, and they'll be putting it to work here in South Mississippi." And, Payne adds that this kind of training makes them more marketable as investigators as they're getting chances a lot of criminal justice majors would never be exposed to until it's for real.