A loud shot fired by an unknown person outside the classroom startled Pinellas Park Police Citizen’s Academy students Tuesday evening marking the beginning of a hands-on portrayal of a homicide investigation. Alerting students to a possible crime being committed, the stage had been set earlier in the evening by police personnel during week four of the Citizen’s Academy class focusing on Criminal Investigations.
Two Pinellas Park Police volunteers, Zandra Pearson and Dave Bench, first acted out an emotional portrayal of a couple with serious marital problems that would eventually lead to the death of one of the “actors.” Following the unexpected shot, class participants were escorted down a hallway past the faint smell of sulfurous gun powder to the lifelike “crime scene.”
Instructed to act as criminal investigators, they were asked to present visual clues as to how the crime occurred based on previous crime scene instruction by Detectives Mike Erwin and Mike Bingnear of the department’s 8-member Criminal Investigations Section. The students quickly began providing clues prompted by the creative coaching of Detectives Erwin and Bingnear. Within a few minutes, a probable explanation of the crime was uncovered attesting to an attentive class or excellent instruction…or both!
The Criminal Investigations Section (CIS) is responsible for conducting secondary investigation to felony crimes ranging from computer crime, fraud, burglary, theft and other normally non-violent crimes to the more violent child abuse, robbery, battery and homicide cases. In 2010, the CIS boasted a 76% closure rate with over 1,925 cases assigned for review and 428 assigned for further review.
The eleven-member class spent over an hour learning about property crimes and how best to inventory and protect personal property. Further discussion of pawn shop operations provided a valuable insight as to how stolen property is pawned, investigated and recovered.
The warmth and outgoing personality of Detective Erwin, a 17-year veteran of the Pinellas Park Police and Field Training Officer and his long-time partner, Detective Bingnear, also a 17-year veteran, continues to demonstrate the friendly and courteous relationship between Pinellas Park Police personnel and the community constantly encouraged by Chief Doreen Thomas along with sworn officers and volunteers.