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ABCs of CSI Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Jun 18 2011 12:00 PM

Someone just screamed bloody murder.

Now it's up to crime scene investigators to find out whodunit.

That's the puzzle forensic specialists at the Chula Vista Police Department are showing participants how to solve, using the application of science to the law.

Tuesday, the Chula Vista Police Department became the first law enforcement agency in the county to offer public classes on the inner workings of a crime laboratory.

Inside CSI is a 10-week course that exposes citizens to various forensic concepts and methods used to solve crimes.

Last year, amidst painful budget cuts, crime lab professionals in the department began brainstorming ideas to bring money into the city.

They decided to use the popularity of the TV show "CSI" to create a course that would educate students on crime and simultaneously deter layoffs.

"We had no product to sell, but we thought that we could sell our knowledge," said Chula Vista Police Department crime lab manager Craig Ogino.

For three hours every Tuesday, participants will view actual, uncensored crime scenes. During the final class, participants will process their own mock crime scene and present their findings to a "jury" of their peers.

"Most students in college don't know what they want to do, especially those in forensic science," Ogino said.

"This course will give them insight into the real world. If students cannot handle seeing gory photographs, this job is not for them."

Ogino said that being able to help solve crimes and bring closure to victims' families is extremely gratifying.

He said if those taking the course could take away one thing, he wants them to know how to handle evidence properly.

"That's the most important thing to remember," he said. "If they aren't careful, the evidence won't be allowed in court."

"Crime scene investigators have to be physically fit to do this job," Ogino said. "Sometimes they work two or three days straight because once you leave a crime scene you can never go back."

Gregory Wideman has been a Chula Vista resident for 12 years. A retired cross-country trucker for seven years, Wideman said crime scene investigation has always been intriguing to him.

Wideman's sister was murdered in LA in 1981 and the crime was never solved. He said that event is another reason he became interested in the subject. He also wants to help the community.

Last year, Wideman was a participant in the police department's police academy course, which teaches people the ins and outs of police work. He is also a Community Emergency Response Team member for the city.

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