Hello again. A lot of you wonderful citizens know me. For the ones that I have not had the pleasure of meeting, my name is Tonya Sonntag, I am a detective with the criminal investigation division of the Jacksonville Police Department.

My article is a continuation of the article that Det. Travis Cearley wrote on the ‘CSI Effect’.

As one may recall, television crime dramas have the luxuries of unlimited personnel, equipment and talent to solve any case in an hour’s time frame.

OK, first here is an example. For instance, on television, an entire crime scene unit is shown at the scene collecting all the evidence, photographs, fingerprints, which are always there, even on the smallest pieces of evidence.

The crime scene unit leaves the crime scene and within minutes they are calling the detectives with a match to the prints that they found on the crime scene.

OK, now for reality. A patrol officer is dispatched to the scene, then maybe a backup officer. If it is a small scene and only a couple of photos need to be taken or one print is found at the crime scene, due to the particular crime, the patrol officer, not a crime scene unit, collects the evidence. If it is something more than the patrol officer can handle, there is a detective on call. One detective, maybe two if it is a larger scene and a lot of evidence, will be called and will respond to the scene.

The only time that the entire criminal investigation division comes out is on a major case like murders, aggravated robberies, kidnappings, etc. On the norm, the detective that comes out collects all the evidence, goes back to the PD, logs all the evidence in, manually checks the prints and if a viable suspect is located then that detective will attempt to manually match the evidence to that suspect.

In real life, we at the Jacksonville Police Department have four officers assigned as detectives. The detectives are assigned specific cases. They work on these cases alone. We do not have partners, although the detectives do assist each other when needed. Most of the time, we work alone.

Each detective may work on 1,015 cases a week. This includes collecting evidence on new crimes, making initial contact with the victims, taking witness statements, locating witnesses which sometimes does not happen for weeks, typing the reports, showing photo lineups to victims, witnesses, locating the suspect(s), interviewing witnesses, victims, suspects, collecting enough probable cause, then writing up a complaint (which is the probable cause affidavit), presenting that complaint to the judge so a warrant can be issued.

Then the warrant is placed on the computer if it is a felony and can be seen by all agencies when the suspect is checked – for example for a traffic violation, suspicious person, etc. The first time an officer comes across the suspect after the warrant is issued, the suspect will be brought to jail. Then, if the suspect wants to give a statement, a detective will talk to the suspect. All of the above things may take a couple of days to months - maybe even longer. The real world of criminals does not take place an hour at a time.

On TV, in that hour, an entire crime scene unit will collect evidence and turn it over to an investigative unit (detectives) which as you can see on shows like Law and Order Criminal Intent or SVU, have between two to four maybe six detectives working on one case.

They also have an assistant district attorney assigned to their unit. While two detectives are locating the witness, who by the way always seem to be available, and the other two detectives are talking to the suspects, the ADA is back at the office getting search warrants and will have them for the detectives as soon as they say they need them. Plus, the unit can locate a suspect, talk to them, along with several other possible suspects, all within the hour. The one thing that is a total myth is that they can locate that condemning fingerprint or DNA and test it at the lab next door, identify a suspect, find the suspect, get a confession from the suspect and put the suspect in jail. On some shows they even have enough time to convict them in a court of law.

I hope some of this information will assist victims in learning the real world is not as glamorous as the TV shows we watch at night.

We officers at the Jacksonville Police Department would like to have the glorified benefits of a CSI television show. Our department would love to be notified of a crime, investigate the crime, interview witnesses and get suspect information, collect physical evidence and arrest the suspect all in one hour. However, that is a television fantasy.

What we do have are dedicated officers here to serve the public and keep them safe. Always remember we, as a department, will do our best to solve the crimes committed in our city. We only ask that you do your part to help us catch the criminal if you are a victim of a crime. This means getting a good suspect description, having all serial numbers and viable information for your property and watching out for one another as a neighborhood.

Just remember to be prepared and be safe.

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