MOULTRIE — Moultrie police investigators told seven residents all about what they do on a daily basis and showed off some of the equipment they use at the Citizen’s Police Academy Thursday. The investigators also let the residents get some hands-on experience of investigative work through a fingerprinting exercise.

Sgt. Roger Lindsay, commander of the Moultrie Police Criminal Investigations Unit (CIU), said the primary job of the four-man CIU team is to investigate all felony cases. Lindsay assigns each investigator a felony case and any coinciding misdemeanor cases related to the felony and any evidence collected by the reporting officer.

“Everything from point A to point Z goes to the investigator,” Lindsay said.

Once an investigator is assigned a case, Lindsay said he must try to make contact with the victim to follow up the initial report. The attempt to contact the victim, whether successful or not, is added to a report.

CIU has been very fortunate when it comes to arrests related to homicides, Lindsay said. They investigated two homicides in 2005, and both were cleared by an arrest. Moultrie has had only one or two homicides not cleared in at least 15 years, he said.

Lindsay said CIU and the Moultrie Police Department had a busy year in 2005, with 23,983 calls for service from the Colquitt County 911 Center. CIU investigated an average of 4.5 felonies per day based on their roughly 1,600 cases in 2005, with each investigator assigned an average of 30 cases each week.

Despite the massive load handled by investigators, Lindsay said CIU was able to clear a majority of their cases. CIU had a clearance rate of about 62 percent of all of the felony cases they investigated, meaning the case status was listed as “exceptionally cleared,” “closed” or “cleared by arrest.”

Lindsay said the primary goal of CIU is to make an arrest of an individual that leads to a conviction in court, either by a jury or through a guilty plea.

“Everything we do is extremely important,” Lindsay said. “If we do our homework, we don’t have to go to a trial, but our ultimate goal is a conviction.”

Moultrie Police Investigator Cpl. Jerry Walters told the academy every police officer is equipped to begin an investigation. Each patrol car has a fingerprint gathering case to lift any fingerprints from a crime scene.

Whenever an investigator is called to the scene of a crime, Walters said their main duty is to provide assistance to the officers. An investigator assists by conducting interviews or helping the officers to gather any evidence found at the crime scene.

Any officer or investigator at a crime scene has to ensure they are there legally before doing an investigation, Walters said. An officer is there legally if he or she witnesses an illegal activity taking place, gets a consent to search the premises by the occupant or obtains a search warrant from a magistrate judge.

Walters said an investigator begins by taking notes and doing a sketch of the crime scene and taking pictures and a video. Any removable evidence found is first marked, then documented, collected, bagged, sealed and sent for an analysis.

Non-removable items, such as walls, are dusted for fingerprints, and Walters said any trace evidence, such as hair, fibers, skin cells or body fluids, collected, bagged and sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab for analysis. Wet body fluids are collected using a sterilized swab, and the crime lab is called to a scene to help investigators collect any dried blood or search for any blood using special dyes and lighting.

Walters said fingerprinting has become an important part of investigations, especially in recent years with advanced computer equipment. Fingerprinting was started in the late 1800s by Britain’s Scotland Yard; the Federal Bureau of Investigation began to use it in the 1920s. Now law enforcement can use the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to match fingerprints.

AFIS was developed in the 1990s to make the search for fingerprints easier and faster, but Walters said there is still some human work done. AFIS uses a minutiae point system to examine special features of each fingerprint, and finds all matches to those features. The AFIS operator, however, must be the one to make the final determination of the print and to whom it belongs.

All law enforcement officers and those charged with crimes have their fingerprints in the AFIS system, Walters said. Military personnel are also fingerprinted but not all are included in the system.

Fingerprinting is a useful method to find a person possibly involved in a crime because no two fingerprints are exactly alike, Walters said. Investigators use black volcanic ash and a duster to find any fingerprints at a crime scene, but some surfaces do not easily provide useful fingerprints.

The students in the academy were then given the chance to dust for fingerprints on a variety of items provided to the class. Everyone learned that it is not always easy to get a good fingerprint from many surfaces, despite how television makes evidence gathering look easy.

Walters said the police department is looking to obtain grants so it can get its own crime scene investigation vehicle. Walters will serve as the crime scene technician once the vehicle is obtained and stocked with crime scene tools.

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