October 28, 2013

CSI: Cedar Ridge

By Christopher Smith

— If Cedar Ridge Elementary student Tanisha Rodriquez has her way, she is going to be “a lot like that girl you might know named Nancy Drew.”

And now she knows a little bit more about how to be a real detective.

That’s thanks to Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office Detective Christopher Guay, who told Rodriquez and several students at the school about his profession last week.

“I loved how all the things work,” Rodriquez said. “I love how he showed us how to use the powder to find fingerprints.”

Guay said he uses specialized fine powder at crime scenes to see if a suspect has left fingerprints behind.

“Sometimes fingerprints are visible like with dirt, dust, blood, etc.,” he said. “Sometimes it’s invisible and that’s when we use the powder.”

Fingerprints are typically the best forensic evidence in most situations, Guay said. The unique patterns on each individual’s fingertips can leave impressions on different surfaces, telling police where someone has been. They are particularly useful in theft or murder cases because both often require the use of hands.

When suspicious prints are discovered, it takes a team of two from the sheriff’s office to analyze them, Guay said. The result is often submitted to state and national search engines, he said, to see if a person’s fingerprints have already been logged by other agencies throughout the country.

“If someone committed a crime in California and they commit a crime here, we search the database and we get a possible connection,” Guay said.

But getting reports back doesn’t happen as fast as it appears on popular TV crime shows like “CSI” or “Criminal Minds,” Guay said.

“Those shows are accurate (with the science),” he said. “But you can’t ship forensics evidence off and have reports come back in 30 minutes.”

Sometimes it can take months before a report is returned, Guay said.

Rodriquez said she wouldn’t mind waiting because she thinks she would enjoy being a detective enough to put up with the time it takes to do the job right.

“I love searching for mysteries — sometimes, like if someone steals something, I could figure out who does it,” she said.