Student - September 29, 2011

‘You are thrown in the deep end'

A role play gives students of Forensic Sciences at VHL Leeuwarden a chance to find out what it takes to solve a real crime. A report from the scene of the crime.

Friday morning, quarter to nine. A bunch of youths armed with claw hammers and clubs set upon a parked blue Peugeot. Their attack, on the square outside Van Hall Larenstein does not last more than a minute. Curious staff members watch through their windows as windscreens shatter, and then the youths scatter in all directions. ‘I've got two photos', says a shocked lady among the bystanders. The police arrive shortly, and two Friesland Police officers cordon off the scene of the crime with red and white ribbon. A joke? No, a role play for third-year Forensic Sciences students taking the module Crime Society.
The role play is the brainchild of teachers Jos Krabbe and Mark Ros. The students have ten weeks to figure out who the culprits are. Krabbe gave the ‘vandals' instructions this morning. ‘You can flatten the car completely', he said, as he handed out escape routes. ‘We don't know how the public will react, so don't get into any skirmishes. The emergency services and the VHL management have been informed.'
Pumps
The Forensic Sciences programme has been running for six years and about 250 students are on it. The aim of the role play is to teach students to think critically, explains Krabbe. ‘We want to teach them a way of thinking. Look for solutions creatively, be inquisitive and don't take things for granted.' The third-years knew that something was about to happen, but not what. They had allocated roles among themselves, including those of tactical and technical detectives, a team leader, a chief of police, a public prosecutor and a mayor. After the commotion had died down, team leader Fleur Douna (blond ponytail, black skirt and pumps) paced nervously up and down. ‘I want to be sure everyone knows what they are supposed to do', she says. Then a group of students pull on white coats and plastic gloves. The items left behind by the criminals, including a scarf and some heaps of glass, are photographed. Other students question the eye-witnesses. ‘What sort of clothes were they wearing', one asks teacher Erik de Groot, who plays a journalist. ‘Dark ones. One of them had a sort of mask on.' The student detective asks about the pamphlet distributed the day before. ‘You will read about that in the paper tomorrow', answers De Groot. To his surprise, the investigator accepts that. ‘I would have pursued it a bit further', he says when asked. Students dressed in orange tunics stand guard on the corner near the scene of the crime. Which is out of bounds.
Cool
Around eleven o'clock, hairnets and blue socks are handed out to the forensic detectives. Their task is to ‘secure' any traces of evidence on the car. Yellow cards with numbers are placed and fingerprints are sought. Organic traces such as hairs are carefully placed in paper bags. Student Lisa Pruijmboom coordinates the forensic team. ‘Really cool, this', she says enthusiastically. ‘As third-years you think you already know a fair bit, but now you are thrown in at the deep end.' At a press conference ‘mayor' Martin Baar professionally pacifies agitated journalists, played by teachers. No, there is no current threat at the college. ‘It is safe. The investigation is in full swing', he says with a calm smile. ‘And no, in the interests of the investigation we will be issuing no further statements.'

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