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Published: Thursday, 2/9/2006

The CSI syndrome

ANYONE who thinks that after watching several episodes of crime-solving TV programs they can get away with a crime really doesn't have an IQ worthy of an evil genius. On the other hand, if crime-fighting investigators dislike the programs because they are so "unrealistic," why whine about their supposed effects?

The main legitimate objection may be that people on juries and those victimized by crimes too often expect their cases to be solved as quickly as on TV. But that's not the real world. Granted, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and similar TV programs have had a big influence on culture. Even schools have seen a growth in students interested in related areas of science and technology, which is good.

But the programs also mislead the public into thinking most crimes are solved quickly. On TV, DNA, toxicology, and other test results come back by the end of a commercial break. In reality, it may take months. Every police department doesn't have the high-tech equipment shown on the television programs. The public especially needs to understand that it can take a long time to get lab results, and that police labs are backed up with cases.

Criminals today are indeed more sophisticated than in the days of Al Capone. But don't put all the blame on television. Ours is an increasingly sophisticated society, where we must keep updating paper currency in an effort to stay a step ahead of the counterfeiters.

Conceivably criminals might learn a trick or two from these shows. Granted, Jermaine McKinney, who was indicted on a double-homicide in northeast Ohio, used bleach to try to cover his tracks, something inspired by what he saw on the crime shows.

But the tube didn't help him that much; after all, McKinney was caught and indicted. Real life is not like TV. And although it takes investigators longer than an hour to solve crimes, in most cases, sooner or later, they catch up with the bad guys.

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