SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The hit series CSI has millions of viewers each and every week...but if you watch...do you really know what real crime scene investigators do?
Sixteen men and women make up Savannah Chatham Metro's forensics department.
They respond to nearly seven thousand calls a year and collect evidence anytime there is a shooting, burglary, stolen car, or anything that involves evidence collection.
The investigators say what they do is very different from what people see on television.
"People think it's glorious, but when they see us out on a scene working with a three day deceased person...it's not as fun as it looks on tv," Sergeant Donald Thompson said.
Sergeant Thompson has been with SCMPD for almost twenty five years.
"It sort of becomes a game to us. We're trying to beat the criminals at their game," Thompson said.
Little pieces of evidence that seem insignificant can end up being the pieces of the puzzle that solve the case and send the bad guys to jail.
"If you miss something...the defense attorneys notice. That's what they're looking for. They creat doubt...that's their job. I don't fault them for that...but you've got to minimize those situations," Sergeant G. Scott Coleman said.
The investigators say when their evidence turns into a conviction it's the feeling they enjoy most.
"We keep a running number of how many cases are solved. It's that commrodery that keeps us going together," Thompson said.
But the high of solving a crime also comes with the reality of the horror they're dealing with.
Investigators say cases that involve children are especially difficult.
A baby found in the trash a few months ago still haunts them.
"That child's death will be with me for the rest of my life. I was the sergeant on that scene and it was pretty difficult to deal with. You almost have to dislodge yourself from reality. You have to tell yourself...this is my job...and then deal with your emotions later," Sergeant Coleman said.
The investigators say leaning on their families is essential.
"Many times I come home and tell my daughter I need a hug. I just say I had an incident today and I need a hug," Sergeant Thompson said.
Even in the midst of chaos, the investigators say they have to remain human.
"Sometimes I just take a step back and pray over people. When you're at a scene you can quietly say a prayer to yourself for that person. For that soul who left the earth. No matter who they are...what their circumstances are...they have someone who loves them. Even the worst criminals in the world have someone who loves them," Sergeant Thompson said.
Michele Schiro is metro's only finger print examiner. For every crime, Schiro examines the prints and looks for a match.
"I love it because it's like solving a puzzle. And when you get the solution it feels really good. You're done. When you know it's a match, it's a match," Schiro said.
But the puzzle doesn't work exactly the way it does on CSI the tv show. Most of the investigators say they aren't even fans of the show because it gives people the wrong idea about what they do.
"It has really hurt us in the courtroom. Its hurt us because people think that is reality and it's not reality. What we do is much different. That's television. That's acting," Sgt. Thompson said.