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Investigators, prosecutors, archaeologists obtain CSI experience

MEDIA RELEASE

Anyone driving by an open field on the edge of downtown Hilo recently may have spotted several dozen people gathered around holes marked with yellow flags.

This was the field exercise for an Archaeological Violation Class sponsored by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD).

Combining two and a half days of classroom instruction, police officers from state and federal agencies, prosecutors and archaeologists participated in the field exercise to practice and test their crime scene investigation skills.

The class was taught by Archaeological Damage Investigation and Assessment, a Missoula, MT-based company.

Martin McAllister, the company’s principal and a former U.S. Forest Service archaeologist, explained that archaeological or antiquity crimes constitute a $7 billion dollar a year illegal industry in the United States.

“Most members of the American public think this is a low-level, casual type of situation,” McAllister said. “Interpol, the international police force, ranks it as one of the top five crimes in money that’s made every year and certainly there are artifacts here in Hawaii that would bring hundreds of thousands of dollars on the black market.”

SHPD Administrator Alan Downer added: “The most common archaeological crime in Hawaii is the looting of burial caves and historical sites. This class gives investigators and archaeologists the additional skills and knowledge to conduct thorough, scientifically sound investigations as part of a multi-prong effort that begins with awareness, followed by detection, investigation and ultimately prosecution.”

In addition to the field exercise, participants learned about the looting, collecting and trafficking network; about state and federal statues used to prosecute archaeological violation cases; and about the factors associated with archaeological crimes.

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