The CSI Effect

Have you heard of such a thing as the CSI Effect? According to Wikipedia the

“CSI Effect is a phenomenon related to the popularity of television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Forensic Files and Law & Order. The effect has caused viewers, victims and jury members to have unrealistic expectations of forensic evidence, DNA testing and extensive investigations at crime scenes, similar to those seen on these programs. This has changed the way many investigations and trials are presented today.”

There are more television shows dealing with investigators and the law then I care to count. They seem to be everywhere these days! There are three starting with “CSI” alone. Has there been another genre with such a following as this? I don’t think so.

The effect that these shows have on viewers is astounding. People take what they see on these shows literally – and have taken some matters into their own hands.

A story published in The Hamilton Spectator in Ontorio, Canada on September 29th said:

It was a "perfect" fingerprint.

The Hamilton businessman was way ahead of the police.

While waiting for officers to respond to the break-in, the owner used packing tape to lift the burglar's print.

He boasted of his fine job.

He learned his technique from watching CSI, he said.

Problem is, you can't lift prints that way. He'd destroyed the print, making it useless for the real CSI officers.

Viewers actually believe that they are learning how to become an investigator from these shows. What they don’t understand is that these television programs aren’t “reality shows.” They are, after all, fiction and dramatized for excitement and written to fit in their time slot.

The AP State and Local Wire from Des Moines ran a story on October 20th saying:

A popular television show - "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" - has glamorized crime laboratories and is making forensic science an attractive field for would-be crime fighters, said forensic experts in Iowa.

A recent opening at Ankeny's crime lab attracted 124 applicants - proof of the field's sudden popularity.

"Everybody and their dog wants to work here," said Sandy Stoltenow, supervisor at the Ankeny lab.

Why both of these stories are out of Des Moines is beyond me. While doing a Lexis-Nexis search the most related articles were all published in Canadian newspapers. I couldn't find ANY coverage in any New York news sources.

According to a segment on on November 4th (again, Des Moines) lawyers now want to know if jurors are fans of these crime-investigation dramas. They report that “shows like CSI are giving jurors unrealistic expectations of how forensic science works.”

Does there need to be a disclaimer at the beginning of these shows? I'm wondering how long it will take for one of these CSI-fans to get in trouble with the law and blame their actions on one of these television shows.

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