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CSI : Between Drama & Reality

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation montage.
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Without realizing, it has been a decade since the CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) series were aired. This production which was started in 2000 had already attracted millions of viewers from all over the world. In fact, in 2008, the series has recorded to be watched by 84 million of viewers and became the most popular television program in the world.

Characters such as Grissom, Catherine, Nick and Sara Sidle play the most important roles in promoting the series. Adding to that, the forensic investigation technique that applies in the drama makes the plot more interesting.

Anybody will be impressed if a crime could be solved within a short period of time using the most magnificent investigation techniques. The forensic scientist or the team in the drama were pictured as an incredible personnel/s. He could even identify a fibre from the crime scene and collect it. The fibre itself is used to make a link with the perpetrator and eventually solve the crime.

Was it so easy to solve a crime? Is the single fibre of hair could really be linked and identify the true criminal?

This is what they call a fiction. It was created from magnificent ideas of investigation in order to attract the viewer to watch and belief in what they were presented with.

Most of the time, they were succeed. People always forget that the reality is not like what they see in drama. If they ask themselves; how often they clean their house from all the dust and micro domestic waste such as hair? Do they know how often hair falls from their heads? And how many of them actually live in that place?

With all the questions arose, will there any chances that mistake could occur due to contamination of hair contributors? Yes. Is the single evident useful in identifying the criminal? Also yes. However, the investigation officer needs other information too to catch the criminal.

There will be more to discuss if all the questions were considered. However, such discussion is important to give a good understanding to the community about forensic investigations. It is also to portray the real picture of the applications of forensic science in criminal investigations.

A Gold Mining

A house production will always consider the profits from their productions. To gain such profits, the work of art has to be genuine and attractive to the spectator. To do so, the idea should be fresh and interesting.

As usual, that is what the CSI series is all about. They create the great characters and equipped them with modern and high technology instruments in crime fighting fiction. In addition, they make use of the special effect created by computerize graphic image (CGI) to make the audience glued to their chairs. The CGI also makes the drama seems like a reality.

Therefore, by nailing the fans in front of the television during the show, CSI series has become a very profitable gold mine. Then again, several investigative drama series were created with the same concept to equally enjoy the luxuries permitted by the audience.

Without realizing it, people who have been affected by this fiction believe in most of the plot displayed. It gives a lot of impact on the development of forensic investigation in Malaysia. Indirectly, we educate our society with modern investigative technology so that they will understand the principles of the new investigation techniques. It is a good development; however, there are also negative influences.

Adding to that, more public and private universities offer courses related to forensics. A few universities are also offering Forensic Science Program. In fact, lots of programs such as computer forensics, forensic accounting and others began to focus on the graduates.

This situation is a good sign to the development of the country. Malaysian society is showing their interest in learning science and its application. More professionals are trained in the field of forensic to serve the country. It is in line with the Vision 2020.

The Vision 2020 highlighting nine challenges and one of it is concerning about the development of the civilization society equipped with scientific knowledge and modern technology (Mohamad, 2008). The sixth challenge is apparently almost succeeded in increasing public awareness about the application of modern technologies in life.

The reality is more excellent than the report (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

In real situation, the forensic personnel are very much different from that shown on television. They do not have a luxury car like a Humvee or a sports car but driving a national car mostly. They are not dress up like a model with thick make-up for a modelling session but they dress decently as a government servant.

In the government forensic analysis laboratories, they also use modern analytical equipment and instruments but not as advanced as that shown in the drama. They apply the same principles of analysis in accordance with the current technology but with limitation in the proportion to the budget approved by the government.

Among the analytical tools used for analysis in the government forensic laboratories in Malaysia. Source: Makmal Perubatan Forensik, Hospital Sg Buloh.

In a day to day working hour, they need to attend more than one case depending on how many cases are referred to their department on that day. Crime happens all the time. Therefore, their workload is high.

Under a normal investigation, it takes up to two months or more to get results. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of samples waiting to be tested. With the requirements for screening and confirmation, they work around the clock to analyse all the samples.

It is good to know that samples when placed in the analysing equipment will not automatically produce the desired results. It does not happen that way. It is different from that shown in the CSI series. There are many processes before, during and after the analysis that need to be performed. Results of the analysis are not entirely dependent on equipment but also to the interpretation of the analyst.

It is may be due to a limited period of time to plot every steps of analysis. Therefore, they are only focusing on the interesting parts of the story. However, because of the summarized processes, it can mislead the spectator’s understanding from the actual work process.

Gives Negative Implication

CSI drama in one direction is not only beneficial to the forensics development but it also gives negative implications too. The police began to deal with criminals who know the scope of forensic investigation. On top of that, the criminals know how to conceal the evident to escape from being caught.

When a criminal commits a crime, he already knows the principle of the police investigation and their tasks. He learnt almost everything from dramas like CSI’s investigation. The series show techniques to get rid of fingerprints and to eliminate the DNA evidence at the scene of crime. He could learn the technique to crack safe deposits efficiently. To make it worst, this kind of series also show steps to make bomb.

Therefore, the police will always facing with difficulties in tracking criminals and need a lengthy time to solve such cases. However, if they want to extend the investigation process; they will invite the public ire.

Examples of organized crime where the criminal eliminate the evident that makes it difficult to investigate the murder.
Source: http://berita-harian-online.com/bukti-dalam-lumpur/

When the society has knowledge about the process of investigation, they began to make comparisons between investigative techniques they watched on television with the actual investigation of the crime. Terms such as deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA testing have been discussed in all walks of life. Although they do not know in detail the DNA probe method, but they think they understand it sufficiently.

Members of the community put high expectations on the police investigative officer to solve a crime. Such high expectations sometimes influence the process of investigation. Criminal cases are openly discussed in the media and public. They sometimes condemn the steps taken by the police in investigation as they seem to know the criminal investigations better.

Lately, crime is becoming ruthless. To eliminate the evidence, a rape victim is usually murdered and burned. Criminals have learned that the victim’s testimony may be contradicted, but the evidence found on the victim (semen, saliva, blood – the source of DNA) is undeniable in court (Department of Chemistry Malaysia, 2004).

They also know the type of evidence needed by the police. So they take the easy despite brutal action to escape from being caught.

Thus, the relevant authorities such as the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Home Affairs and others, must take proactive measures to decide whether to allow such investigative drama to be aired in Malaysia. We do not want such drama affects the harmony in the society. Such brutalize crime need to be stopped by any means.


  1. Jabatan Kimia Malaysia. (2004). Laman Web Rasmi Jabatan Kimia Malaysia. Retrieved 0620, 2013, from http://www.kimia.gov.my:
  2. Mahathir, M. (2008). Official Website Prime Minister Office of Malaysia. Retrieved 0620, 2013, from http://www.pmo.gov.my: http://www.pmo.gov.my/?menu=page&page=1904
  3. tv.com (n.d) tv.com. Retrieved 0619, 2013, from http://www.tv.com/shows/csi-crimescene-investigation
  4. http://pantomineandfarces.files.wordpress.com
  5. http://berita-harian-online.com/bukti-dalam-lumpur/
Last Reviewed : 17 October 2013
Writer : Khairul Adli b. Nikman
Accreditor : Khoo Lay See