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Local Agency Provides Critical Crime Scene Work

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RALEIGH — Every Thursday night, millions of people watch the show "CSI" on CBS, a program whichprofiles crime scene investigators. In Wake County, there is a wholeagency dedicated to finding the cluesthat solve thousands of case. It is called the City-County Bureau ofIdentification, or CCBI.

The CCBI processes evidence at hundreds of Wake County crime scenes everymonth.

These are not beat officers, or detectives. They are field agents like Mike Galloway. Galloway is one of 13 agents in the CCBI.

"It's like putting together a puzzle," he says of his job.

One of Galloway's first calls on this night is a strong-arm robbery.

When Galloway interviews the victim, she tells him that "[the suspect] picked up a book, and was flipping through it. That's when I said, can I help you?"

He learns the suspect may have touched a doorknob. He dusts it, sees afingerprint, puts clear tape on it,and then fixes the tape to a card for safekeeping.

Even though he is working a crime scene, Galloway still finds time forhumor. As he gets fingerprints from the store manager, he says, "and weneed the toes, too."

"Do ya? you silly thing!" laughs the manager.

"I try to use a little bit of humor when I deal with people, becausethey are having the worst day of their lives when they meet me," Gallowaysays.

An hour later, Galloway gets sent to a Raleigh day care center, where a five monthgirl has died. It is his job to take the pictures.

"What we're looking for is any type of trauma, blood, bruises," he says.

Galloway believes the child died from natural causes, but must treat it asif it is suspicious.

Later on, Galloway has to check out a burglary where the thieves stolecash from a baby's bank. His main objective here is to find fingerprints.

"Yeah you can tell that's definitely on the outside," he says, looking atfingerprints on a sliding glass door. "It's probably where somebody's[pushed] the door," he says.

Back at CCBI headquarters, evidence technicians like Anita Smith preservethe prints. Smith saves the prints on a gun by applying a substancesimilar to superglue, and heating it.

Lab partner Valerie Durham makes fingerprints appear like magic on aforged check, dipping it in a chemical called Ninhydrin.

The prints then go down the hall to CCBI fingerprint expert JohnnyLeonard. He has a statewide database with millions offingerprints at his disposal.

"This is without a doubt the best crime fighting tool that I've beeninvolved with," says Leonard.

Supervisor Mike Grissom says the tools the CCBI uses serve 46 differentlaw enforcement agencies.

"You can go back and look at the unsolved homicides in Wake County, and itis probably lower than it is in a lot of other places, and that's mainlybecause of [how we]collect evidence," says Grissom.

The problem is that CCBI says it cannot keep up with its workload. Rightnow agents here handle 10,000 cases a year, but there are thousands more they arenotable to handle.

"Most of the time, we only have probably three to four agents at the mostworking on any given shift. We do the best we can with what we'vegot," says Grissom.

The CCBI says it needs at least six more people like Galloway. The agencyhas no idea if it will actually get themoney to fund them, however.

The people from CCBI say there is one major difference between them andthe investigators portrayed on the program CSI.The Wake County agents say unlike the actors on the show, they do notactually question suspects.


Len Besthoff, Reporter
Richard Adkins, Photographer
Julian King, Web Editor

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