"You have to be gentle so you don't smear the finger prints. You have to just lightly touch it," explains Criminal Justice student Brandon Dove as he attempts to lift fingerprints off a soda bottle.
He's hard at work, investigating a mock crime scene developed by Harrisonburg Police Officer D.L. Rothwell. It's an activity second year criminal justice students at Harrisonburg's Massanutten Technical Center do each spring.
Sarah Dove, another criminal justice student, explains the scenario.
"We've started to take pictures, photographs and measurements of the crime scene," she says.
It's a hands-on project instructor Dr. Renee Douglas says prepares these students for the real world.
"At the end of two years, when the students leave here, they have some very valuable skills," she says.
But Officer Rothwell warns, solving crimes is more demanding than it appears on TV shows like CSI.
"It's a lot of time consuming work, a lot of paper work, a lot of meticulous record keeping," he says.
The students understand that and plan to be state troopers and forensic investigators.
Officer Rothwell says the cutting-edge techniques the students are learning are the same ones that help him to solve crimes in the local area.
"It can either exonerate someone or incriminate someone. It can go either way," he says.
He says physical evidence like DNA and shoe prints are more valuable than ever.
"When people commit crimes they leave all kinds of evidence they don't even realize they've left," Sarah Dove explains. "And once someone finds it, they're right off to solving the crime."
Learning that will allow these students to go from the classroom to real crime scenes.